UK Men's Basketball

UK basketball notebook: Herky Rupp weighs in on possible renaming of arena

Former Kentucky basketball coach Joe B. Hall, center, with Herky Rupp, Adolph Rupp's son, celebrated UK's 2,000th win with the players on Dec. 21, 2009.
Former Kentucky basketball coach Joe B. Hall, center, with Herky Rupp, Adolph Rupp's son, celebrated UK's 2,000th win with the players on Dec. 21, 2009. Herald-Leader

On a trip to New York last weekend, Herky Rupp found himself in a crowd. A conversation with a stranger quickly led to the inevitable where-are-you-from?

Answer: Lexington, Kentucky. To which the man said, "Oh, I made a special trip there to see Rupp Arena."

Recalling the exchange, Herky said, "He didn't know I was Herky Rupp from Adam. That makes you feel really good."

That good feeling might get diminished in the next few years. One of the ideas for funding a proposed reinvention of Rupp Arena is a sale of the naming rights. Not a surprise that Herky Rupp, the son of Kentucky basketball founding father Adolph Rupp, prefers the name remain the same as it's always been: Rupp Arena.

"Absolutely," he said last week.

He noted how other elite programs in college basketball have not surrendered their perfectly good names to corporate interests: Allen Field House remains Kansas basketball's home as does Cameron Indoor Stadium at Duke, the Dean Smith Center (aka the Dean Dome) at North Carolina and the ultra-generically named Assembly Hall at Indiana.

But, of course, Rupp Arena is not owned by UK. City leaders must find a way to pay for a proposed sweeping renovation. Any and all ideas during this difficult economic time must be considered.

"I understand that, and I'm sympathetic to that, too," Herky Rupp said. "They'll have to do what they have to do."

But Herky playfully suggested that there are limits. "'Duke Energy Rupp Arena' just doesn't sound good to me," he said with a chuckle.

By the way, UCLA's Pauley Pavilion has undergone a $136 million renovation financed through donations expected to total around $70 million and sponsorships. The school is negotiating for a naming rights sponsor for the renovated building, a move UCLA says the Edwin Pauley family approves and encourages.

When the naming rights idea for Rupp Arena took root recently, a Lexington company floated an idea on its website. How does "Big Ass Fans Rupp Arena" strike you?

The company's CEO (or as he's known colloquially, Chief Big Ass) Carey Smith sounded a tad defensive about the name of his company, which manufactures fans for industry that range in size from 60 inches to 24 feet. "There's absolutely nothing wrong with our name," he said last week. "I mean, everybody loves it. Everybody would love to see it on the side of a big building."

Whatever you think of it, the name certainly is more memorable than what Smith originally called his company: HVLS Fan Company.

When asked if he agreed that an irreverent name like "Big Ass Fans" did not smoothly synchronize with a place that evokes reverence like Rupp Arena, Smith paused and said quietly, "Probably not."

Smith voiced strong support for a united effort by citizens and businesses to donate money to fund the project. He said he opposed any company looking to "slap its name on a community treasure."

Lexington Mayor Jim Gray sounds open to the idea of selling naming rights. But he said he'd want "Rupp Arena" to remain part of the name.

Although his company floated that exact idea a week earlier, Smith recoiled when asked about it. "The whole idea is pathetic. ... ," he said. "It's demeaning to the community. ... I find it odd and I find it distasteful."

Smith endorsed the "True Blue Membership" idea. Fans and companies buy shares of the reinvention of Rupp Arena much like the Green Bay Packers helped finance a renovation of Lambeau Field.

"Everybody knows this is the center of college basketball," Smith said. "Why can't you do something like that rather than slap somebody's (name) on, whether it's a great name like Big Ass Fans or anybody else's name on a building? That cheapens the whole thing."

Author! Author!

Last week brought the "news" that UK Coach John Calipari plans to put out another book next spring. This might not qualify as news given that Players First (the working title) will be at least his fifth book, and third since becoming Kentucky coach in 2009. Is it news that JTM plans to produce more sausage?

Of course, when it comes to coaches as prolific ersatz authors, Calipari must bow to Louisville's Rick Pitino. Pitino plans to put out a book later this year, The One-Day Contract: How to Add Value to Every Minute of Your Life. That will be at least his seventh book.

Plus there's speculation that Calipari might have another book in the pipeline: An inside look at the upcoming 2013-14 season.

Somewhere Stephen King must be wondering why he's always suffered from writer's block.

Jim Milliot, co-editorial director at Publishers Weekly, explained the proliferation of books by coaches and other college basketball figures (in 2012, Dick Vitale promoted his 10th book, Getting a W in the Game of Life).

"Any successful coach is probably going to draw interest from a publisher just because they have brand recognition in their name and they have a platform to help them promote the book," Milliot said. "Those are two things all publishers look for."

Regional appeal for a book by Calipari and Pitino is a given. "And if you get lucky, it'll catch fire," Milliot said of the money-making possibilities.

Calipari and Pitino have the added advantage of ties to New York-based media outlets that can help trumpet the books.

Coaches' books seem like pseudo biographies or the well-padded policy statements politicians put out in a run-up to a presidential campaign. Are they vanity projects timed to capitalize on popularity and/or help boost the next endeavor? Of that analogy, Milliot said, "I'd think that's not wrong."

But is it literature?

"Uh, (chuckle), not really," Milliot said. "But these books can be well done. A lot of business books aren't classic literature, but they are pretty well done."

Calipari's co-author for Players First, Michael Sokolove, writes regularly for The Sunday New York Times Magazine. He's also written well-received biographies of Darryl Strawberry and Pete Rose.

Make no mistake, the coaches' books make money. "(Publishers) wouldn't go back to them if they didn't make money," Milliot said. "Penguin (Press, which will publish Calipari's next book) is a big house. So they wouldn't do it to be nice."

Publishers Weekly reviews books. Milliot, who does not do reviews, said he had not read anything in the Calipari or Pitino canons.

Of coaches' books in general, he said, "They can be A-B-C-ish."

Book smart

Longtime sportswriter and columnist Dave Kindred suggested why coaches' self-help books can draw an audience and be valuable aids.

"A hundred years ago, I went to a Lamar Hunt speech with Lee Corso," Kindred wrote in an email message. "I asked, 'Why go listen to that guy talk about tennis?' (Hunt had founded a pro tennis league.) Corso said, 'Because you want to hear what anybody successful has to say.'

"So maybe you pay $25 for John Calipari's book because Calipari has been good at what he does and you'll pick up one thing that improves your sales, or makes you a better manager.

"Also, I think it's a lot about type-A personalities who are always competing. For them, life is only about winning and losing. Edward Bennett Williams called trial work 'contest living.' They are addicted to the contest every day.

"The big-time coaches, with their television exposure, are vivid, sweating, screaming, strutting examples of who those folks would like to be. So they'll read a book hoping to learn even one thing from a big-time winner that helps them win in their own little way."

Media daze

A record number of media members gathered in Hoover, Ala., last week to hear Johnny Manziel, Nick Saban and others at the SEC Football Media Days. The league issued 1,239 credentials, spokesman Craig Pinkerton said. That's a record.

That also dwarfs — I'd say at least quadruples — the number of credentials issued for a typical SEC Basketball Media Day.

The SEC is not alone when it comes to football outdrawing basketball in media day participation.

In the 2012-13 school year:

■ The Big Ten issued credentials for almost 700 reporters for football media day and almost 400 for basketball.

■ The ACC issued 430 credentials for football and 273 for basketball.

■ The Pac-12 issued about 450 credentials for football and 150 for basketball.


To Linville Puckett. He was among the players inducted into the Kentucky High School Basketball Hall of Fame on Saturday night in Elizabethtown.

Puckett was a three-time all-state player for Clark County. Perhaps more notable, he capped off a streak that saw at least one of the seven Puckett brothers playing for Clark County from 1928 through 1952.

To explain his basketball ability, Puckett cited his older brothers. "If you get beat to death every day by six brothers, you learn to play or get out," he said. When he complained to his mother about the treatment he received from his brothers, she told him to stay home if he couldn't take it. He decided he could take it.

"It's a really, really great honor," Puckett said Friday of the Hall of Fame induction. "If it hadn't been for my brothers and the good boys I was fortunate to play with, it wouldn't have happened."

Other inductees this year were Butch Beard, Howard Beth, Mike Casey, Larry Conley, Johnny Cox, Howard Crittenden, Joe Fulks, Sharon Garland, Allan Houston, William Kean, Billy Ray Lickert, Donna Murphy, Letcher Norton, J.R. VanHoose, Jamie Walz-Richey and Bobby Watson.

Puckett, who turns 80 on Saturday, longs for another, perhaps greater, honor. He makes no secret of his wish to have his UK jersey retired and hung alongside the others in the Rupp Arena rafters. As a sophomore, he played for UK's only unbeaten team: 25-0 in 1953-54.

One big problem: Puckett transferred to Kentucky Wesleyan during the following season. It's a decision that obviously colors any consideration of a jersey retirement. It's a decision he regrets.

UK has retired seven jerseys from the 1953-54 team: Cliff Hagan, Frank Ramsey, Lou Tsioropoulos, Billy Evans, Gayle Rose, Jerry Bird and Phil Grawemeyer.

UK requires a player to be in its Athletic Hall of Fame in order to be eligible for a jersey retirement. Since Puckett is not in UK's Hall of Fame, he is not eligible to have his jersey retired.

Meanwhile, Puckett remains active. He sells a beer cheese called "Say Cheez."

Happy birthday

To Derek Anderson. The ex-Cat turned noted author (Stamina) turned 39 on Thursday. ... To John Pelphrey. He turned 45 on Thursday. ... To Jules Camara. He turns 34 on Tuesday. ... To former Western Kentucky and Georgia coach Dennis Felton. He turns 50 Sunday.

By the books

John Calipari

Refuse to Lose. 1996. Co-author Dick Weiss. Foreword by Rick Pitino. Coaching philosophy and how Calipari elevated UMass to relevancy.

Basketball's Half-Court Offense. 1996. An explanation of the UMass offense (pre-Dribble Drive).

Bounce Back. 2009. Co-author Calipari's staff assistant David Scott. Advice on how to overcome adversity.

The Bluest State: My First Year as Head Coach of College Basketball's Winningest Program. 2010. Co-author David Scott. An inside look at UK's 2009-10 season.

Players First. 2014. Co-author Michael Sokolove. Coaching philosophy at UK, where players' personal ambitions rank first.

Rick Pitino

Born to Coach. 1988. Co-author Bill Reynolds. A look at Providence's run to the 1987 Final Four, which led to Pitino becoming New York Knicks coach later that year.

Basketball Pitino Style. 1990. Co-author then-UK sports information director Chris Cameron. Reliving UK's joyous 1989-90 season of Pitino's Bombinos.

Full-Court Pressure: A Year in Kentucky Basketball. 1992. Co-author Dick Weiss. Reliving Pitino's 1991-92 season as UK coach.

Success Is a Choice. 1997. Co-author Bill Reynolds. Advice on achieving success in life.

Lead to Succeed. 2000. Co-author Bill Reynolds. Offers 10 traits shared by leaders on and off the basketball court.

Rebound Rules. 2010: The Art of Success 2.0. Co-author Pat Forde. Retelling personal tragedies in Pitino's life (death of an infant son, death of brother-in-law in 9/11 attacks) as means to show how adversity can be overcome.

The One-Day Contract: How to Add Value to Every Minute of Your Life. 2013. Co-author Eric Crawford. How-to guide to become disciplined in your career and appreciate the value of humility.