Sports

Time for Kentucky to act like KENTUCKY

John Clay
John Clay

So Lee Todd says that Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart will sit down with head basketball coach Billy Gillispie at the end of the season and then report back to the president on the status of the program.

If I could sit in on either meeting, I'd have just one piece of advice:

If you're Kentucky, be KENTUCKY!

That means:

1. Sign the contract. If Billy Gillispie is to remain as coach, he needs to sign the formal contract. Barnhart should demand it. Now.

I know, some say the contract is a non-issue considering there is a memorandum of understanding between the two parties. They're wrong. It's a symbolic issue, and an important one.

This is Kentucky basketball, after all. Either Gillispie wants to coach at Kentucky under the terms of a formal contract, or he doesn't. If he doesn't, there are plenty more coaches out there who would gladly take the pen.

2. Quit talking about softening the schedule. The schedule is too soft now. Stats whiz Ken Pomeroy ranked UK's non-conference schedule 243rd in the nation this season. True, Indiana's rare rock-bottom season didn't help. But there are too many Longwoods, Delaware States, Lamars, Mississippi Valleys and Florida Atlantics on the slate.

The excuse I hear from the Craft Center is they need a schedule that helps teach the kids how to win. Please. This is Kentucky. The kids should come here knowing how to win.

3. Stop discounting Kentucky kids. That doesn't mean the roster should be filled with nothing but in-state players. But while not a single UK player made the All-SEC Freshman Team, Bryan Station product Shelvin Mack was averaging 11.7 points and 3.5 assists per game as a freshman at Butler. Steffphon Pettigrew, a sophomore from Elizabethtown, was averaging 12.7 points and 5.1 rebounds at Western Kentucky. I'm just saying.

4. Respect the uniform. If a player refuses to come into the game, he shouldn't be playing 27 minutes the next night. If a player quits the team in a huff — if that's truly what happened — should he really be in at a key time of the next game?

And, by the way, we're all tired of the Bob Knight-era mind games, of the rumors about lockers being emptied and nameplates removed, of rumors about whether so-and-so was allowed to ride home on the team bus.

5. Take better care of your former players. If you think the current players aren't happy, talk to the former ones. Most say all they feel is a cold shoulder.

They lost their one connection to the basketball office when longtime secretary Marta McMackin was transferred, then retired. That's one reason why players such as Mike Casey, Kenny Walker and Jay Shidler have spoken out publicly about the problems at the Craft Center.

And when was the last time UK retired a jersey at Rupp, anyway?

6. Remember what you represent. Don't be boorish in halftime TV interviews or post-game radio shows. Don't accept ESPN's request for an all-access feature, then limit the access. Don't ignore boosters who travel on trips.

Don't tell a media member who is trying to give you a compliment — as a Florida writer did by remarking that UK took the Gators' Nick Calathes out of the game — that he doesn't know how basketball should be played. Is that too much to ask?

7. No more one-man committee. Under most circumstances a coach deserves more than two years in a job, but if Barnhart and Todd honestly believe the situation has become untenable, so be it. But next time, no more one-man search committee.

This state, this university, this fan base has plenty of knowledgeable minds about the game of basketball who would love to help with the process. This time, I'd use some of that brainpower.

After all, I'm guessing that the Billy G. Kentucky basketball has (so far) is not quite the Billy G. it expected.

That can't happen again.

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