There's truly nothing new under or over the basketball rims. Initially, freshman DeAndre Liggins' refusal to re-enter Kentucky's game against Kansas State on Nov. 28 seemed stunning. Also surprising was UK Coach Billy Gillispie playing Liggins 27 minutes the next night.
However, a bit of research unearthed several examples of players defying the coach and the coach not going ballistic.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Lexington Herald-Leader
To borrow a term currently in vogue, here are a few "plaxidents" (or, if you prefer, examples of athletes behaving unwisely, a la Plaxico Burress) to ponder:
■ UK freshman Rashaad Carruth protests lack of playing time by refusing to shoot (or even look at the rim) in a 2001-02 game against Kentucky State. Three days later, then UK Coach Tubby Smith plays Carruth 21 minutes against No. 1 Duke. Carruth has the best game of his one-season UK career.
This comes relatively close to mirroring the Liggins plaxident.
"You know how players are," Steve Smith said at the time. Smith coached Carruth at Oak Hill Academy. "They can think funny. Sometimes that's how you get minutes. We'll see."
Steve Smith attributed Carruth's behavior to the typical difficulty a former high school star can have adjusting to being a college role player. Carruth had been a Parade and McDonald's All-American at Oak Hill. He once famously made three-point shots on eight straight possessions.
"I think he's thinking, 'If somebody else is not making shots, I should be in there,'" Steve Smith said.
As Michael Porter struggled against Kansas State's pressure, did Liggins think he should be playing more?
■ In a 2001-02 season filled with off-court problems, Tubby Smith draws a metaphorical line in the sand by seeming to say the next plaxident by any player will lead to dismissal. Then four days later, police charge starting guard Gerald Fitch and valuable reserve Erik Daniels with using fake identification to gain entry in a Lexington nightclub. In addition to the charge, a misdemeanor, Fitch and Daniels violated the team's midnight curfew.
Smith's patience for inappropriate behavior had apparently reached its limit earlier in the week. After suspending Fitch and Cory Sears for scuffling on a team's return trip from Georgia, the UK coach said: "I told (all UK players), the next one is gone. I mean, I hate to say it publicly, but I'm not going to tolerate another disruption."
Asked to define the consequences, the UK coach said: "They're not going to be part of the team. Suspension for the year, or whether it's find another program."
Then Smith suspended Fitch and Daniels for two games and told reporters that he did not mean to suggest the next infraction would lead to dismissal from the team.
■ Senior Donatas Zavackas does not play the final eight minutes of Pitt's 77-74 loss to Marquette in the 2003 NCAA Midwest Region. He takes his shoes off in an act of defiance, does not join team huddles during timeouts and argues with Coach Ben Howland on the bench.
Afterward, Howland says Zavackas was "pouting" because he came out of the game.
"He's very emotional," Howland said afterward. "That's one of the things that makes him a good player. But I'm not going to play that game. I said I'm not going to play him anymore."
Upon returning to Pittsbugh, Howland added, "I'm sure he's got to be feeling some chagrin over how he made a bad decision. Kids make bad decisions. We've all been there.
"He had a great career here," Howland said. "I'm not going to let this incident tarnish or diminish what he's helped to build and develop here. I have nothing against Donatas."
However, Pitt publicist Greg Hotchkiss said last week that one teammate refused to talk to Zavackas for several months and another, Brandin Knight, would not look at him.
Zavackas, a native of Lithuania, never apologized or offered any explanation.
■ After being pulled from a pre-season exhibition game, Syracuse player Otis Hill proceeds to walk right past Coach Jim Boeheim and into the locker room. He leaves the Carrier Dome without explanation.
Hill didn't start Syracuse's opening game, but he did play. He had 14 points and six rebounds in 19 minutes of an 87-63 win over Lafayette.
Hill started every game the rest of a highly successful season that ended with Syracuse losing to Kentucky in the 1996 NCAA championship game. He scored seven points and grabbed 10 rebounds against the Cats.
Here's a few second, third and fourth thoughts on DeAndre Liggins refusing to re-enter the game in the second half against Kansas State:
■ ESPN analyst Jay Bilas applauded UK Coach Billy Gillispie's restraint.
"Since he is a freshman and a young kid, I think it is good that Gillispie is giving him a chance to redeem himself," Bilas wrote in an e-mail. "The kid made a bad judgment error and did not react well to adversity. But he can learn from it. ... He needs to understand what a selfish move that was."
■ Former North Carolina coach Dean Smith used to ask players if they wanted to play the final minute or so of a game already decided. That avoided any embarrassment or rebellion.
■ UK has been treating Liggins carefully and tried to be alert to any criticism directed his way. With guards Alex Legion and Derrick Jasper transferring in Gillispie's first year on the job, rival recruiters surely are using that against UK.
■ Tennessee Coach Bruce Pearl tempered justice with mercy when confronted with a plaxident last season. Early in a hotly competitive game at Alabama, guard JaJuan Smith foolishly tried to embellish a breakaway score by throwing a pass to himself off the backboard.
Smith didn't see the hustling Alabama player who intercepted the backboard pass.
Pearl did not bench Smith, who late in the game made two clutch three-pointers that won the game for Tennessee.
■ After playing Kansas State, UK distributed post-game notes to the media. Those notes included this sunny-side-of-the-street observation gleaned from the first half:
"DeAndre Liggins was the first sub off the bench for Kentucky."
Dentist Roy Holsclaw, a member of former UK Coach Joe B. Hall's Lunch Bunch, believes assists should be recognized by the Rupp Arena public address announcer. "It can be a motivational thing for the players," he said.
When the P.A. man no longer announced assists, Holsclaw protested by writing a letter and dropping it off at the UK basketball office.
Apparently, the P.A. man has the discretion to credit assists or to ignore them.
(We'll table the side issue of the nebulous nature of assists. One man's assist is another's routine pass. The NCAA did not consider assists as an official annual statistic until the 1980s. By the way, future ESPN commentator Doug Gottlieb led the nation in assists — 8.79 per game — for Oklahoma State in 1998-99.)
Patrick Whitmar, the Rupp P.A. man the last two seasons, chooses not to announce assists.
"I only announce things I can verify from the official scorer," he said. "So I can be as accurate as possible."
Whitmar's predecessor, Doug Bruce, used his discretionary power.
"I usually attempted to get it in when the score had a touch of drama attached to it," he wrote in an e-mail. "Or if the assist was more difficult than the score."
Announcing assists had its controversial moment.
"I got some negative reaction from visiting SIDs because I wouldn't announce their assists on a more consistent basis," Bruce said. "I didn't mind that criticism much because of the home-court advantage I tried, within certain boundaries, to encourage."
Bruce had no problem with Whitmar not announcing any assists.
"Patrick is pretty busy if he is keeping his own stats, getting scores attributed correctly and navigating some really interesting hand signals from officials when a foul is called," Bruce wrote. "Squeezing an assist in as part of the game flow is really a luxury."
Beating the Tubbs
Lamar's game at Kentucky brought back losing memories for Athletic Director Billy Tubbs. The Cardinals' loss lowered his record in Rupp Arena to 0-4.
Tubbs first came in 1987, when his Oklahoma team lost to UK 75-74 on Senior Day. With his trademark devilish smile, Tubbs noted his team's winning tip-in was "waived off by a Big 8 official."
Then in 1989, his Sooners lost to Virginia 86-80 here in the NCAA Tournament region semifinals.
Newly installed as Texas Christian coach, Tubbs' team took a 124-80 beating at UK on Jan. 20, 1996. "I figured if you wanted to be good, you better see what good looks like," he said.
The thought police nabbed Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell last week for a supposed sexist remark. A live microphone caught Rendell saying that unmarried Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano was a good choice to head the Department of Homeland Security because she had "no life" and "no family."
Rendell summed up by saying, "She can work 20 hours a day protecting the homeland."
On the CNN Web site, commentator Jack Cafferty wrote, "These are the mutterings of a moron."
Comment: What sexist comment? UK fans have said the same thing about Billy Gillispie. Without the nuisance of a wife, Gillispie could devote his full energies to Kentucky basketball, which more than one fan has cheerfully noted.
Ryan on Rondo
On a recent blog, columnist Bob Ryan of The Boston Globe noted that ex-Cat Rajon Rondo had become a better player than Ryan expected. The point of the blog was that the Celtics were better than Ryan expected.
"And Rajon Rondo!" Ryan wrote. "I was a big critic when the Celtics acquired him, and you can look it up. I never remotely imagined he could be this good. You have to love it when the Pistons roll in with Allen Iverson and the quickness advantage at point guard belongs to the Celtics. Danny (Ainge, the team's guiding light) nailed this one, all right."
Gone, not forgotten
Family, friends and UK basketball managers past and present plan to meet in the Craft Center on Dec. 17. That would have been the 82nd birthday of the late UK equipment manager Bill Keightley, who died last spring.
Since 1983, family, friends and managers have gathered on that date to celebrate Keightley's birthday. They decided to continue the tradition. His widow, Hazel, and daughter, Karen, are expected to attend.
To Randy Noll, who played for UK and then Marshall. He turned 59 on Friday.
A native of Villa Hills, Noll came to UK reluctantly in 1968. "My dad wanted me to come to Kentucky," he said. "I wanted to go to North Carolina. Dean Smith was 39. I could relate to him. Adolph (Rupp) was pretty tough to relate to."
Rupp was 65 when he recruited Noll out of Covington Catholic. "And looked 90," Noll said. "I'm almost 60. If I look like that, I'll shoot myself."
Someone connected with UK basketball calling to wish him a happy birthday surprised Noll. "That was a long time ago, and I wasn't there that long," he said.
After his freshman year, Noll played one season (1969-70) for Kentucky. It went well for the team, which went into the NCAA Tournament ranked No. 1. But Noll didn't play much (41 minutes, 1.2 ppg) and felt alienated from Rupp, who was ill and minimally involved in the day-to-day operation of the team.
Noll, a 6-7 forward, considered some of the Marshall players friends, which helped him decide to re-start his college career with the Herd.
At Marshall, Noll averaged more than 12 rebounds in two seasons. He also led the team in scoring (19.6 ppg) as a senior in 1972-73. He's been inducted into the Marshall Athletics Hall of Fame.
Noll still plays in 50-and-older competitions. One of his teammates has been ex-Cat Larry Steele, who was a year ahead of him at UK.
Noll and his wife, Susan, have two children. Daughter Lindsay played volleyball for San Diego State and now plays professionally in Spain. Son Casey, the valedictorian of his high school class, is an engineering student and 6-7 sophomore forward for Missouri University of Science and Technology.