UK Football

UK football notebook: Stoops hasn't outgrown his prankster ways

Kentucky NCAA college football head coach Mark Stoops, center, , prepares to take his place in the team photo during the teams media day at Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington, Ky., Monday, Aug. 5, 2013. (AP Photo/James Crisp)
Kentucky NCAA college football head coach Mark Stoops, center, , prepares to take his place in the team photo during the teams media day at Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington, Ky., Monday, Aug. 5, 2013. (AP Photo/James Crisp) ASSOCIATED PRESS

During the course of a pre-season and season, you uncover little morsels, but they don't necessarily have a place in day-to-day football stories.

So they get lost in the notebook or shuffled away in a folder.

There have been many of these little gems this pre-season as we've gotten to know Coach Mark Stoops and his Kentucky staff.

These little tidbits are one of my favorite things about sports writing, so the first bye week seemed like the perfect time to pull out a few.

Some came from one-on-one interviews with coaches and coordinators, others are just little side notes that I found amusing, and I hope you will as well.

Stoops the prankster?

It's been fairly widely reported that Stoops, the youngest of the six siblings in his family, was a bit of a class clown type.

Vince Marrow, Kentucky's tight ends coach, is close friends with Stoops and has known him since their playing days back at Cardinal Mooney.

"He was a prankster back then," he said of Stoops, who served as a mentor for Marrow, two years younger.

So what was Stoops' best prank?

Marrow's grin got as wide as a football field.

And then he stopped short.

"He was a really funny guy back then and did a lot of pranks," Marrow said with a smile. "Let's just leave it at that."

Stoops blushed slightly when asked about the jokester he once was at Cardinal Mooney.

"I was probably a little bit," he told the Herald-Leader in August. "I wasn't as conservative as I am now, let's put it that way."

One thing Marrow would say is that the pranks didn't end at Cardinal Mooney, in fact Stoops has gotten his old friend a couple of times since they arrived in Lexington.

"He called a staff meeting when we didn't have one just to make sure I'd be there," Marrow said. "But that's what I love about the guy."

And it's one of the reasons UK's been successful in such a short time.

"One thing about Coach Stoops is you see the maturity now, but he's still that fun loving guy," Marrow said. "Those parents get here and they see a guy they want to see their son play for."

Stoops' fun side is one of the reasons the new Kentucky staff has bonded so quickly, several of them mentioned.

"Everyone on our staff would tell you they love him," Marrow said. "I've worked for a lot of head coaches, a lot of different people. We have a great staff, though. All these guys on staff, we all get along, and Mark is the reason behind it."

Dan Berezowitz, UK's director of recruiting operations, has known Stoops since they met at Arizona in 2004. He said the head coach is good at managing people without micromanaging.

"He's hired guys he trusts, he lets them do their job," Berezowitz said. "The one thing that makes him special is the way he treats people. He treats everybody on our staff really well. The guys work hard for him."

Some notable things Stoops has done since arriving on campus with his staff is instituting Tuesday night family dinner nights where the coaches eat with their families (from personalized UK blue embroidered picnic baskets Chantel found on after practice.

The 30-plus kids belonging to the staff run around the field.

"They're all running all through the building," said Marrow, who along with Berezowitz top the kid count with five apiece. "Good staff, good people. It's really fun working with this staff and these people."

On the first day of classes this year, Stoops gave his staff the morning off to take their kids to school.

"I want guys to enjoy what they're doing," Stoops said. "It's extremely hard, extremely competitive and it's extremely time consuming (work). So I don't believe in doing that miserably. ... It's just important to me to have guys that when they walk in this building they're excited to be here because that's contagious."

A little extra attention

The three seasons Stoops was at Miami under Larry Coker, he distinctly remembers the head coach telling a story about waking up one morning and rolling out of bed to pick up his car.

Coker, with a bit of bed head, was stopped and asked for autographs and pictures.

"You put on a pair of shorts and not pay attention to how you look at all and then all of the sudden, people are like, 'Hey, there's coach.' They're taking pictures of it or something," Stoops recalled.

Stoops joked about it then, but now as a first-year head coach, the extra attention is something to which he's still getting accustomed.

"Whether I go get a coffee or my wife goes to get a coffee, it shows up on Twitter," he said in August. "You can't do anything, but I understand it goes with the territory. But it does take a little getting used to."

But Stoops can't imagine a better place than Lexington to learn the ropes.

"In every restaurant you go into, everybody's looking at you and all that good stuff," he said. "This is as good a place as any I could imagine because people here are very respectful and there are good people here. It makes it a lot easier for me and my family."

Marrow's quick success

As a part of the big recruiting story running in Sunday's paper with this notebook, I talked to Stoops about Marrow, who has made big recruiting waves in their home state of Ohio, bringing in commitments with enough stars next to their names to form a constellation.

Stoops has known Marrow for decades, but admitted even he was a little bit amazed at how well Marrow has done. "I knew he was a good recruiter, but he's surprised even me a little bit, the success we've had so quickly in certain areas."

Marrow's success has helped his name start to appear on national lists as a top recruiter.

Does Stoops worry he might lose one of his best recruiters?

"No, I don't. Whatever is right for Vince is right for him," Stoops said. "I want him to do a great job while he's here. I don't think he has any intention to go. I think he loves it here. His family is close, this is close to where he grew up, where his wife's family's from. It's the right region for him and he enjoys what he's doing. I really don't worry about that."

Marrow seemed happy to be at Kentucky working for his long-time friend, saying of Stoops: "He could've gone anywhere and I would've gone with him."

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