UK Men's Basketball

SEC honors Wall, Cousins but not Calipari

Kentucky swept the Southeastern Conference coaches' major individual awards for players. But it was the award that did not go Kentucky's way that puzzled the Wildcats.

When John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins, the league's Player and Freshman of the Year, respectively, learned that Kevin Stallings of Vanderbilt had been voted Coach of the Year, they were confused.

"Who is that?" Wall asked Cousins.

Recalling Wall's question, Cousins said, "I was, like, 'I don't know. Who is that?'

"I thought that was the coach from Georgia or something."

John Calipari, who led Kentucky to the SEC regular-season championship, was not available for comment. Coincidentally or not, he scheduled a planned news conference for before the SEC announced the award winners at 11 a.m. EST. Normally, he meets with the media in the early afternoon on non-game days.

So reporters could not ask whether Calipari felt his status as a newcomer to the league or the two vacated Final Four appearances on his record or some other factor explained the snub.

After a meeting of UK's Board of Trustees on Tuesday, school President Lee T. Todd Jr. reacted to Calipari not being named SEC Coach of the Year. "He gets my vote," Todd said. "That's about all I'll say about that."

In speaking to reporters Tuesday afternoon, Wall had apparently refreshed his memory on Stallings. He noted the good job the Vandy coach did in leading the Commodores to a second-place finish behind Kentucky in the SEC Eastern Division. He just thought Calipari would have been a better choice in a vote of the 12 league coaches.

"I feel Coach Cal should have gotten it," Wall said. "It was his first year coaching us. With six freshmen (actually five, plus first-year sophomore Darnell Dodson), he had to start from scratch with the whole team."

Cousins declined to comment. "That's crazy," he said before adding, "but no comment."

Cousins suggested that the SEC had an ulterior motive for naming anyone other than Calipari coach of the year.

"I guess they didn't want the whole conference to have 'Kentucky' going across it," he said. "They had to mix it up a little."

Junior forward Patrick Patterson joined Wall and Cousins on the coaches' All-SEC first team. It was Patterson's first time on the first team after making the All-SEC second team the past two seasons. Eric Bledsoe joined Wall and Cousins on the All-Freshman Team. Patterson also made the All-Defensive Team.

The coaches learned of the results Monday afternoon. Without getting into the particulars, Calipari said the players would be deserving of whatever awards came their way.

"They took on all comers," he said, "and they took on teams that played out of their minds. They had teams come back at them, and they responded. And they're still standing."

It is not unprecedented for a coach to guide his team to the SEC regular-season championship and not be named coach of the year. Twice since 2000 a coach won the award while his team did not even win a division title: Stallings won it in 2006-07 after Vandy finished second to regular-season champ Florida; and Dave Odom of South Carolina won it in 2003-04 even though his team finished third in the Eastern Division (Mississippi State won the regular-season championship).

Wall became the first coaches' selection for player of the year at UK since Keith Bogans in 2002-03 and the first freshman to win the award since Chris Jackson of Louisiana State in 1988-89.

Wall thanked God for blessing him with talent, the coaches for refining his skills and his teammates for enhancing his play.

That Cousins won the coaches' Freshman of the Year award produced an illogical dilemma: The coaches voted Wall the league's best player but not the best freshman.

SEC rules dictate that each school is limited to one nominee for each individual award in pre- and post-season voting.

So Calipari met with Wall and Cousins, then the UK coach decided to nominate Wall for player of the year and Cousins for freshman of the year.

Cousins considered Wall's play so exceptional that his fellow freshman might sweep the awards. "He deserves it," Cousins said. "He's been ballin' the whole year.

"It feels good. I knew I made a little noise in the SEC."

Wall endorsed Cousins as freshman of the year.

"During the SEC conference (schedule), DeMarcus has been playing out of his mind," Wall said. "He played a lot better than at the beginning of the season. So I felt he should have gotten one of the awards. I'd have been happy no matter what."

Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader

  Comments