UK Men's Basketball

UK basketball notebook: 50 years later, former student thanks C.M. Newton

Kentucky Wildcats head coach John Calipari had a surprise visit from C.M. Newton during the press conference as Kentucky defeated Alabama 77-61 on Saturday January 9, 2016 in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Kentucky Wildcats head coach John Calipari had a surprise visit from C.M. Newton during the press conference as Kentucky defeated Alabama 77-61 on Saturday January 9, 2016 in Tuscaloosa, Ala. mcornelison@herald-leader.com

C. M. Newton does not remember Susan Mossman. But Susan Mossman remembers C.M. Newton.

It’s an interesting dynamic that can happen with mentoring. Two lives intersect. For one person, it’s just another chance connection in a kaleidoscope of comings and goings. For the other, it’s life-changing.

Newton and Mossman met as teacher and student at Transylvania in the 1950s or 1960s (Mossman declined to say what years she attended Transylvania; Newton coached the Pioneers’ basketball team from 1956 to 1968).

“He was a great man in my life,” Mossman said of Newton.

When Mossman was about to leave her Indianapolis home to attend college, her father encouraged her to become a physical education teacher. She was dubious.

“I told him he was crazy,” she said, “because I was about as coordinated as that tree across the street.”

Mossman took a required P.E. class as a freshman. Newton, the former Kentucky player and future UK athletic director, was the teacher. She found the way he carried himself and his kindness endearing.

“Smiling, encouraging,” she said. “All those positive attributes you want to have when you grow up. . . .

“There was just something special about how he got people — people, students, athletes — to be the very best they could be. To me, that’s a tribute in today’s time.”

After earning her degree, Mossman began a career as a physical education teacher in elementary schools in Lexington.

After seeing Newton’s picture in Sunday’s Herald-Leader, she called the newspaper. She wanted to get contact information for Newton. She wanted to make sure he knew about the difference he had made in her life.

“I didn’t remember her as being a student of mine,” Newton said later in the week.

Hearing from Mossman made him wonder if he really had a big impact in her life, or whether she was being nice.

“I’ll accept that, gladly,” he said of the difference she said he made. “And I’m very happy with it.”

Newton said his approach to teaching involved nothing more complicated than the golden rule. “I tried to treat them the way I’d want to be treated,” he said.

Mossman remembered Newton’s teaching persona as quiet, encouraging and gentle.

Gentle? No coach or former coach wants to be considered gentle. These sporting dictators want to be as lovable as a drill sergeant with bunions.

Newton, too, recoiled. “I don’t know how gentle I was,” he said. “I was very demanding. I remember that. Maybe in her mind, it’s gentle.”

Newton, who turns 86 on Feb. 2, has had to deal with serious health problems in recent years. This only heightened Mossman’s desire to keep in touch.

“I intend to keep bugging him in a nice way,” she said. “Cards. Calls every once in a while.”

Long before she reconnected with Newton last week, Mossman paid him, perhaps, the ultimate compliment.

Mossman, who retired as a teacher in 2000, tried to embody the qualities she saw in her kind, encouraging and, yes, gentle mentor.

“I tried to do that in my teaching,” she said. “I tried to pass it on.”

Mentoring

Former UK standout Karl-Anthony Towns is among the NBA players participating in the startup of a campaign to help guide young people. January is National Mentoring Month.

In a video promoting the program, Towns saluted former Florida star Al Horford as his mentor. Horford began guiding Towns when they were teammates on the Dominican Republic National Team.

“Mentoring is vitally important to society, not just (in athletics),” Towns says in the video.

Other NBA players participating in the promotion are Marcus Smart and Carmelo Anthony. Rapper Kendrick Lamar is another spokesman.

A program called MENTOR began in partnership with the NBA. It is in response to President Barack Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative.

MENTOR, which has its headquarters in Boston, began in 1990.

More information on the program is available at www.mentoring.org. A mentoring organization in your area can be found at www.mentoring.org/get-involved/become-a-mentor/.

Venue review

On Monday, ESPN will launch a salute to what it calls “some of the best and most historic venues” in college basketball.

Not to worry. Rupp Arena will be one of the venues featured. ESPN will salute Rupp Arena as part of its coverage of the Vanderbilt-at-Kentucky game on Saturday (4 p.m. tip-off).

The series, which is titled My HomeCourt, will include a look at the history of the arenas, notable moments, plus great players, coaches and teams. ESPN will also look at fans.

Just a guess, but let’s see if the series begins with a look at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Syracuse plays at Duke on Monday.

Follow the money

Sportswriter Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports followed the money in reporting on the latest speculation about UK Coach John Calipari moving to the NBA.

In 2014, Calipari turned down the Cleveland Cavaliers’ offer of a 10-year, $80 million-plus offer, Wojnarowski reported.

Then the Sacramento Kings considered hiring Calipari. According to Wojnarowski, a minority owner with the Kings, who was part of multiple calls with Calipari, told confidants, “He kept saying it wasn’t about the money, but he kept talking about the money.”

Calipari’s asking price now is 10 years, $120 million, coincidentally the deal Phil Jackson has to run the New York Knicks, Wojnarowski wrote.

Twenty years ago, the Nets hired Calipari and startled the basketball world by giving him a five-year, $15 million contract.

No. 6?

Jonathan Givony makes NBA Draft projections for the website DraftExpress.com. In a recent update, he dropped UK freshman Skal Labissiere to the sixth pick.

He said he based that projection, which is still well within the lottery, on conversations with NBA scouts who saw Labissiere play in the Nike Hoop Summit.

“Everybody who saw him in Portland (Ore.) thinks he’s a much better player than he’s shown at Kentucky,” Givony said. “If you only saw him at Kentucky, you’d think I’m a lunatic.”

By the way, Givony projected another UK freshman, Jamal Murray, as the ninth player picked.

Spin

Of course, Tai Wynyard is from New Zealand. His move from the Southern to Northern Hemispheres inspired a question at the UK freshman’s introductory news conference last week:

What did he think of how water spins down a drain in the opposite direction in the Northern Hemisphere than in the Southern?

“I didn’t notice that,” Wynyard said with a smile, “but thanks for telling me. I’ll have a look.

“Let’s have some water here.”

One more light-hearted moment as Wynyard displayed an engaging and unaffected personality.

It turns out Wynyard had no reason to notice a difference in how water spins down a drain in New Zealand and Kentucky. There is no difference.

Dhananjay Ravat, a professor of geophysics at UK, explained. He noted the Coriolis effect, which is how the Earth’s rotation affects a moving object.

But, Ravat said, the Coriolis effect is too weak to impact the direction water goes down the drain. But it can be observed in, say, cyclones and hurricanes.

These storms spin clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere and counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere.

Hopefully, Wynyard won’t have the chance to see this difference.

Misleading numbers?

As British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli said, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.”

This observation, which was popularized in the United States by Mark Twain, came to mind on the SEC coaches teleconference Monday.

So, analytics lovers, you’ve been forewarned.

Georgia went into last week’s play ranked first in the SEC in field goal defense. The first three league opponents had made only 37.6 percent of their shots. The Bulldogs were also fourth-best in points allowed (69.3 ppg) and three-point defense (29.5 percent).

But when asked on Monday’s SEC teleconference about the defense, Georgia Coach Mark Fox said, “I don’t think our defense has been very good. I know statistically it looks like it has been. Inside our team, it hasn’t been consistent enough.

“The numbers look more impressive than, I think, we’ve been playing.”

Rebel yell

In lauding the new arena at Ole Miss, The Pavilion, Coach Andy Kennedy said he regretted that the UK press corps would not see it this season.

This led Kennedy to playfully say, “Hopefully, you get to see it next year. Unless we open at Kentucky for the 42nd consecutive year.”

As his turn on an SEC coaches’ teleconference last week ended, Kennedy said to the moderator, “Before I go off the line, can I get an assurance we’re not opening at Kentucky next year?”

Moderator Craig Pinkerton said, “We’ll see what we do when we get there.”

Kennedy called the new arena a “complete game-changer for our program.”

Senior moments

With three seniors among its top six scorers, Mississippi State had an advantage in experience against Kentucky.

Then again, that experience was not of the confidence-boosting variety. The Bulldogs’ seniors had an 0-4 record against UK going into Tuesday’s game. Each defeat was by double digits with the average margin being 20 points.

Dwane says hello

Lori Ewing of The Canadian Press covered the Kentucky-Mississippi State game. She also covers the Toronto Raptors.

Ewing passed along a hello from Raptors’ coach Dwane Casey to the Big Blue Nation. Of course, Casey played on UK’s 1978 national championship team and later worked for UK as an assistant coach.

Happy birthday

To Shagari Alleyne. He turned 32 on Thursday. … To Mike Scott. He turned 49 on Thursday. … To Jay Shidler. He turned 58 on Friday. … To Richard Madison. He turned 51 on Saturday. … To Dirk Minniefield. He turns 55 on Sunday (today). … To James Lee. He turns 60 today. … To Oliver Simmons. He turns 40 on Monday. … To former Alabama player and coach Mark Gottfried. He turns 52 on Wednesday.

Jerry Tipton: 859-231-3227, @JerryTipton

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