Ex-AD says truth is Calipari's best defense

Less heat, more light. That's the catchy phrase Sports Illustrated's Paul Zimmerman would use to say the media should provide more information and less opinion when trying to inform the public.

Bob Marcum, who was John Calipari's athletics director at Massachusetts and retired this year from the same position at Marshall, subscribes to that philosophy. Bob Knight's questioning of Calipari's integrity last week led Marcum to again note the importance of facts.

"I'm not sure how many people are interested in facts anymore," Marcum said. "They're mostly interested in opinions."

For instance, Knight said Calipari put programs at UMass and Memphis on probation. Not true in the case of UMass. Although you could say vacated Final Four appearances and, in the Memphis case, also having to vacate the 38 victories of the 2007-08 season is a much more severe penalty than any run-of-the-mill probation. Memphis is appealing the judgment.

Marcum noted that the NCAA absolved Calipari of any personal culpability in the UMass case as it did the Memphis case. Then he added, "People are not interested in a statement by the NCAA. In it, they said the institution did not know and should not have known what happened with Camby.

"But you know what? I don't think anyone cares."

UMass had to vacate its appearance in the 1996 Final Four because star player Marcus Camby took gifts from an agent while playing for the Minutemen.

Here's another question Marcum ponders: What does the growing popularity of overheated radio talk-shows and the anything-goes blogosphere as sources of information say about the future?

"As the decline of newspapers takes place, who in the world is going to be the investigative reporters?" he asked.

Gray areas?

It's been suggested that John Calipari operates in gray areas where compliance with the spirit of rules as well as the letter of the rules is difficult to determine.

That's not how Bob Marcum saw Calipari operate at UMass.

"I don't know of any gray areas that John Calipari worked in because I never saw that in operation," Marcum said. "... When we found things out, we reported them.

"Some institutions go years and don't report anything. I wonder about them."

Three for Dickie V

TV analyst Dick Vitale answered three questions about the Cats last week:

What do 2,000 victories for Kentucky mean? The 2,000 mark, to me, shows just incredible success over a long, long period of time. Great tradition. Unbelievable passion of the fans.

I keep asking the question ... how long will it take for Kentucky fans, who always firmly believe we are the best, how long will it take before they start screaming for Cal's Castle after seeing Pitino's Palace? Because I've seen that place, and I'm telling you it's going to be magnificent.

What do you think of John Wall? I said on the broadcast (of the UK-UConn game) he's the best point guard I've seen in the last decade. I give him a slight edge over (Derrick) Rose because of his ability to shoot a little bit better from the perimeter.

He has to learn to control the speed that he possesses and utilize it as a great advantage. That will come with experience. He's a phenomenal talent, absolutely better than advertised.

What do you think of the UK team? The Cats will be 14-0 on Jan. 2 (the day UK plays Louisville). They passed with straight A's their tests for the one week with Carolina, with Connecticut and with Indiana.

John Calipari is absolutely the right choice. I said it when he got hired. He's the perfect hire. He fits that place perfectly, absolutely perfectly. His energy, work ethic, enthusiasm and his incredible passion for success becomes contagious.

Subdued Vitale

Bob Knight's criticism of John Calipari put Dick Vitale in an awkward position. The college basketball commentator tirelessly promotes Knight and Calipari as coaching mavens.

Alas, there's no safe haven when one maven criticizes another maven.

When asked to comment on Knight's questioning Calipari's integrity, Vitale said, "He's entitled to his opinion."

Otherwise, "I'm not going to comment about somebody else," Vitale said. "I have a tough enough time commenting on my own comments."

Vitale, who had not talked to Knight as of Friday, suggested that maybe Knight was joking as banquet speakers tend to do. However, Knight did not appear to be joking at a fund-raiser for the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame.

But, Vitale added, Knight does not see rules compliance as a joking matter.

"I just know Bob is a guy who took great pride while at Indiana; he was absolutely on top of the rules," Vitale said.

'Jammin' with Jai'

Jai Lucas, once a prospect on UK's recruiting list, made his debut for Texas on Saturday.

Texas Coach Rick Barnes saw Lucas being able to contribute as a leader, a thinker and a versatile player who can play the point and shooting guard spots.

When asked how the 5-foot-10 Lucas compensates for a lack of size, Barnes said, "He's crafty. He's got different gears. He's got great pace."

Barnes spoke of size as more of a potential issue defensively than offensively.

"As smart as he is on the offensive end, he should be as smart on the defensive end," the Texas coach said. "He hasn't been a liability (in practice) for us at all on the defensive end."

Lucas transferred from Florida to Texas at semester break last year. As transfer rules dictate, he practiced with the team but was not permitted to play in games or travel with the team.

At Florida, Lucas made the Southeastern Conference's All-Freshman team. He averaged 8.5 points and shot 43.5 percent from three-point range.

At one point, it appeared Lucas and Patrick Patterson would form tandem signings for then-UK coach Tubby Smith. Media types would have considered themselves extraordinarily blessed to work with two such thoughtful, conversational players on one team.

Lucas, a communications major, hopes to go into broadcasting. Starting this fall, he's hosted a weekly Web video titled Jammin' with Jai during which he interviews players about different subjects. Texas plans to continue the show throughout the school year.


UK's approach to 2,000 victories prompted a reflection on the 29 seasons I've covered the program.

Here, in chronological order, are a few memories:

UK 34, Notre Dame 28. Dec. 29, 1981. UK won the rebounding battle in this slowdown game, 11-7. Turnovers were UK four, Notre Dame three. Fans came out of the stands at Freedom Hall to implore UK Coach Joe B. Hall to do something. Anything! My eighth game on the beat.

UK 56, Illinois 54. Dec. 24, 1983. Christmas Eve chiller. Wind chills in Champaign, Ill., were 70 below zero. Assigned referees could not get to the game. So three men with officiating experience were recruited out of the stands. Joe B. Hall and Lou Henson took it easy on the blue jean-wearing "refs," who made no serious gaffes.

The team plane froze up on the runway, necessitating hiring a bus to get back to Lexington at 4 a.m.

UK 74, Houston 67. Jan. 22, 1984. Two were better than one as Sam Bowie (eight points, 18 rebounds) and Melvin Turpin (19 points, 11 rebounds) beat Akeem Olajuwon (14 points, 12 rebounds, five blocks).

Seton Hall 63, UK 60. Nov. 26, 1988. This Great Alaska Shootout game was the last time Kentucky was shut out on three-pointers. UK missed its only two attempts (by Chris Mills and John Pelphrey).

Attendance dips

In the 17 seasons Arkansas has played in Bud Walton Arena, only 19 games have drawn fewer than 10,000. All eight home games this season heading into Saturday fit that description. The Razorbacks were averaging 6,736 fans going into Saturday's game against Stephen F. Austin.

In a story Saturday, The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette noted that seven of the arena's eight smallest crowds had come this season. The 5,197 for the Arkansas-South Alabama game on Nov. 29 was the smallest ever.

Coach John Pelphrey, the former UK Unforgettable, said, "All I can tell you is how incredible the people of this state are, the way they support this program."

Athletics Director Jeff Long acknowledged that the attendance decline is a problem.

ESPN commentator Jimmy Dykes, a former Arkansas player, noted how attendance can affect performance.

"You're losing revenue, you're losing a home-court advantage, and I think mentally it affects your players," Dykes told the Democrat-Gazette. "When they run out there and, instead of seeing 12,000 or 13,000 for non-conference games, they look up and there's 5,000 or 6,000, that has to affect their energy level, how they feel about themselves.

"That's just something you have to play through and show some maturity about."

Kentucky's way

UK fans can spend Christmas Day watching UK games. Former UK guard Jeff Sheppard's Wazoo Sports TV Network will air games from 7:30 Christmas morning until early the next morning.

Here is the lineup:

7:30 a.m. — 1996 NCAA championship game: UK vs. Syracuse

10 a.m. — 1996 Final Four: UK vs. UMass (Coach Pitino vs. Coach Cal)

Noon — 1992 Elite Eight: UK vs. Duke (special ending)

2:30 p.m. — 1998 Elite Eight: UK vs. Duke

4:30 p.m. — 1998 Final Four: UK vs. Stanford

6:30 p.m. — 1998 NCAA championship game: UK vs. Utah

9 p.m. — 1986 NCAA championship game: Louisville vs. Duke

11:30 p.m. — 1980 NCAA championship game: Louisville vs. UCLA

2 a.m. — 1996 Sweet 16: UK vs. Wake Forest

Wazoo Sports is available in Lexington and Louisville on Insight Cable channel 524. The Time Warner channel is 305. Other channels where the games can be seen include Elizabethtown (Channel 208), Frankfort (Channel 147), Manchester (Channel 14) and Inter Mountain Cable (Channel 256).

That special ending on the UK-Duke game of 1992 includes editing out Christian Laettner's game-winning shot.

"For years, UK fans have dreaded watching that shot," Sheppard wrote via e-mail. "We want to be different and give the UK fans a Christmas gift."

Hawaii's way

With an eye toward Christmas on Friday and the 2010 Maui Invitational, let me say to you, dear readers:

Mele Kalikimaka.

Happy birthday

To Matthew Mitchell. UK's women's basketball coach turned 39 on Wednesday.

To mark the occasion, the players filled his car with balloons and made a YouTube video of them singing him Happy Birthday.

Jennifer Smith, who covers the UK women's team, provided this report:

"Somebody broke into my house — my garage more specifically — and vandalized my car," Mitchell said, laughing. "I'm still trying to gather some information and find out who the culprits were."

He later said he thought the "culprits," who filled his Chevy Tahoe to capacity with multi-colored balloons, might have been taking a break from studying for finals.

"I couldn't sit in my car because it was filled with balloons," he said. "I'm still riding around with balloons."

The same "vandals" also wrote messages on his car such as, "I'm old!" and "Honk, I'm 39."

"Thank goodness there are not a lot of people on the road at 6:30, so I didn't get a lot of horn honking," he said.

Mitchell, who said he will be changing his garage code immediately, said his morning got worse when he arrived at UK.

He found what he called "a lot of crazy, goofy pictures of me plastered all over the Joe Craft Center," including his office.

The only good part of the day was dinner time at his house with his wife, Jenna, who made lasagna.

Mitchell said he's already dreading his next birthday, but not because he turns the big 4-0.

"You have to think, if this is what they did when I'm 39, what in the world are they going to do when I turn 40?" Mitchell said.

As for turning 39, Mitchell shrugged.

"I feel better at 39 than I did at 29," he said.