Mark Story

At last, we are getting some 'Kentucky' back into Kentucky college basketball

Joe B. Hall, center, is the last native Kentuckian to coach men's basketball at the Universtiy of Kentucky (1972-85). However, four of the commonwealth's seven NCAA Division I men's hoops programs will have homegrown head coaches in 2018-19.
Joe B. Hall, center, is the last native Kentuckian to coach men's basketball at the Universtiy of Kentucky (1972-85). However, four of the commonwealth's seven NCAA Division I men's hoops programs will have homegrown head coaches in 2018-19. Lexington Herald-Leader file photo

Fast-break points from the IHOb launch:

21. Kentucky proud. When the 2018-19 men's college basketball season tips off, a majority of the head coaches at the commonwealth's seven NCAA Division I universities will be native Kentuckians.

20. Eastern Kentucky. New EKU head man A.W. Hamilton was a standout player at Scott County on the Cardinals' 1998 state championship and 1999 Sweet Sixteen runner-up teams.

A.W. Hamilton was introduced as the new men's basketball coach at Eastern Kentucky University on Wednesday afternoon.



19. Morehead State. An alumnus of Betsy Layne High School in Floyd County, Preston Spradlin will be in his second full season as Eagles coach in 2018-19.

Preston Spradlin
Betsy Layne High School alumnus Preston Spradlin will be in his second full-season as Morehead State men's basketball coach in 2018-19. Michael Reaves

18. Northern Kentucky. Once a star forward at Newport Central Catholic, John Brannen has coached NKU to the 2017 NCAA Tournament and the 2018 NIT.

17. Western Kentucky. In Rick Stansbury's second season as Western Kentucky head man, the 1977 Meade County High School alumnus coached the Hilltoppers to the NIT semifinals last season.

Rick Stansbury
In his second season as Western Kentucky University men’s basketball coach, Meade County native Rick Stansbury, center, led the 2017-18 Hilltoppers to the NIT semifinals. Lexington Herald-Leader file photo

16. The holdouts. Kentucky's other three Division I men's hoops programs have gone decades without a native Kentuckian calling the shots in men's hoops.

15. Kentucky. Cynthiana native Joe B. Hall (1972-85) is the most recent homegrown Wildcats head man.

Joe B. Hall
Cynthiana native Joe. B. Hall (1972-85) is the most recent native Kentuckian to serve as head men’s basketball coach at the University of Kentucky. Lexington Herald-Leader file photo

14. Louisville. With the hiring of Ohio native Chris Mack as the new Cardinals coach this spring, Central City product Bernard "Peck" Hickman (1944-67) remains the most recent Kentuckian to serve as U of L's full-time men's hoops coach. (Howard Stacey, who was interim head coach at Louisville for 20 games in the 1970-71 season, was a 1957 graduate of Dixie Heights High School).

13. Murray State. Fred Overton, a native of Crofton in Christian County, was the most recent (1975-78) homegrown coach of the Racers.

12. The last time with four. As best as I can tell, the most recent season in which there were four native Kentuckians coaching Division I men's basketball inside the commonwealth was 1972-73 with Irvine product Guy Strong (Eastern), Belfry's Bill Harrell (Morehead State), Adair County native Jim Richards (Western) and Harrison County's Hall (UK).

11. Joe B.'s pain. In a May 21 column, I wrote about the pain Joe B. Hall has encountered since 2010 because of the deaths of five of his former UK players. Actually, there have been six such deaths among players who played for Hall and finished their careers at Kentucky.

G.J. Smith
Former Kentucky basketball player G.J. Smith, a Wildcats forward from 1972-75, died on Aug. 17, 2012, from a heart attack.

10. G.J. Smith. The ex-Wildcats forward (1972-75) and former Laurel County High School star died from a heart attack on Aug. 17, 2012.

9. The Rick Pitino coaching tree. Even before Ricky P's career implosion, the most impressive part of his professional legacy was the array of successful coaches whose careers he launched — Billy Donovan, Tubby Smith, Jeff Van Gundy, Frank Vogel, etc. ...

8. The Kelly Wells coaching tree. While not on the scale of Pitino's alumni, of course, the University of Pikeville head man will have an impressive 21 former players and/or assistant coaches from his time at UPike working on the sidelines at various levels of hoops in 2018-19.

Kelly Wells
University of Pikeville Coach Kelly Wells has launched a coaching tree that will see 21 ex-UPike players and/or assistant coaches on the sidelines at various levels of basketball in 2018-19. Pablo Alcala Herald-Leader file photo

7. Kentucky-Indiana All-Star split. Both the Bluegrass State's boys' and girls' All-Star teams earned a split of their two-game series against Indiana's best high school basketball seniors over the weekend. Pregame expectations should dictate how you feel about that.

6 . The Kentucky boys. The 2018 class of Kentucky seniors was relatively unheralded even before several of our state's top players skipped the summer All-Star series. So breaking even with a lavishly praised Indiana class that included McDonald's All-American Romeo Langford was a big win.

5. The Kentucky girls. Conversely, the 2018 class of girls' seniors is one of the most hyped in our state's 21st century basketball history with four players generally ranked among the top 75 college prospects in the country. So you would have hoped this was a year when Kentucky could have swept Indiana.

4. Familiar name, familiar number. The 2018-19 Alabama Crimson Tide women's basketball roster shows 6-foot-1 freshman forward Grace Pelphrey wearing No. 34. That, of course, is the number Grace's father, ex-Kentucky forward John Pelphrey, wore in his playing days (1987-92).

3. Dwane Casey. The ex-UK guard, dumped as head coach of the NBA's Toronto Raptors for the crime of not having LeBron James on his roster, landed on his feet Monday with a five-year contract to become head man of the Detroit Pistons.

2. Can't fire the players. Casey, of course, led Toronto to seasons of 56, 51 and 59 victories the last three years, only to see the Raptors eliminated in the Eastern Conference playoffs by James and Cleveland all three seasons.

1. My bold prediction. The coming years will show that Casey had Toronto over-achieving in the regular season, not under-achieving in the playoffs.

Mark Story: 859-231-3230; Twitter: @markcstory

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