Sports in Kentucky by Bob Watkins

Posted November 6, 2013 at 3:57 pm

Larry Conley was a newsmaker last week. Pardon the mix of sports cliches, but the popular (my favorite) Rupp’s Runt hit for the cycle at a basketball game.

√ Single. Idea to re-unite players from the 1966 NCAA title game, Texas Western-UK at Maryland’s old Cole Field House, moved Conley to quip, “You better hurry up.”

Been 48 years.

√ Double. Doing commentary at the Kentucky-Transylvania exhibition, Conley opined that UK fans “sit on the hands because they analyze players the same ways we do.”

Conley’s logic is wonderfully old school and fair for another place in time. Fans “sat on their hands” because they came with expectation to see precision, fast break elegance, crisp and clever passing (his), and shooting by kids, many of whom were native sons, played for name on the jersey front. Or, they didn’t play.

Fans expected basketball as ballet and appreciated ebb and flow more than dunk and show (off), applauded good play by visitors, left game officials alone too, all the way to end-game tradition of students chanting for a bench player be put into the game.

Times and reasons change for sitting on one’s hands.

Today, Kentucky fans “sit on their hands” because they come to see what the next NBA lottery picks look like. Analysis, spoken or not, pivots on who next bevy of recruits will be and who might be a sophomore next season.

√ Triple. Conley’s “you better hurry up” remark about a 1966 players reunion, brought to mind this idea:

A proposed Texas Western-UK reunion at University of Maryland ignores opportunity. A gathering would be received with pomp and ceremony like no place else in America than El Paso, Texas and Lexington.

A players’ reunion on consecutive weekends. In El Paso, to celebrate the school’s only NCAA title, then another at Rupp Arena a weekend later with player introductions for all.

Media interest would be blitzkrieg. Delightful possibles: Double-up interviews – David Lattin/Pat Riley, Orsten Artis/Louie Dampier, Neville Shedd/Thad Jaracz, Willie Cager/Larry Conley, Harry Flourney/Cliff Berger.

About waiting until 2016, 50th anniversary? Why?

√ Home Run. In a grand scheme of things the proverbial “bunch of old guys getting together to talk about old times,” would light up a room, even a Bluegrass State. The Miners’ 28-1 season in 1966 and Kentucky’s 27-2 marked a grand year for college basketball.

Conversations among the players, gotten to fans through media would be golden.

For starters, this: “Never mind the movie Glory Road, what was the 1965-66 school year like you? … Did you get a degree? Best memories of college days? What career?

Yes, all things considered, Larry Conley’s “ya better hurry up,” idea is, well, a home run.


Latest BCS standings tell us these things.

√ Louisville (7-1) is arguably among the best 10 teams in the country, but having played zero ranked teams is ranked 20th and UofL athletics stands to lose substantial revenue in bowl game earnings. The Cardinals get another patsy this Friday, Connecticut (0-7).

√ Houston (7-1) comes to Papa John’s November 16 for game-of-the-year. At stake, how high on the food chain, a bowl invitation, for both.

√ BCS rankings show Kentucky average losses to No. 1 Alabama, No. 12 South Carolina, and No. 20 Louisville was 36 points-plus. Intriguing element to this week’s visit by No. 8 Missouri (8-1) is Mark Stoops’ team is coming off a season best 48-point performance


NEWS: Western Kentucky defeated Georgia State in Atlanta last week. First questions for Coach Bob Petrino included “what’s it like to be back in Atlanta?” (where he coached the NFL Falcons).

VIEW. Petrino has re-calibrated his tolerance for stupid questions. Five words could’ve triggered a fire storm. “Who cares about that now?” That it didn’t happen is to his credit.

NEWS. Tournament. UCLA, Kentucky, North Carolina and Ohio State will play a round robin, Ohio State coach Thad Matta confirmed last week. His Buckeyes will play one of the other three at a neutral site in 2014, 2015, and 2016.

VIEW. Here’s a neutral site idea: Ohio State-UCLA or North Carolina at Rupp Arena; UCLA or Ohio State against Kentucky at the Dean Dome at Chapel Hill.


E-mails from critics arrived last week reflecting opposite views on Blue Mist Man, John Calipari.

VIEW 1.“I love UK basketball and will watch no matter who is coach. I still bleed blue instead of red, but more for what Kentucky basketball stood for in the past than presently.”

Comment: I believe is this view represents a huge majority of Kentucky fans.

VIEW 2. “Coach Cal announced last week he’s going to pay tuition for two UK students. Why no comment from you on this good deed.”

Comment. That Calipari’s tuition-paid idea helps two young people to maximize their education, is commendable. A better way would have been – Ball coach walks across the street, visits director of UK’s admissions, asks department head to make a list of half-dozen promising undergraduates who may be working two jobs to stay in school. Choose two names out of a hat, fund their educations quietly.

If the recipients want to announce it to the world, then reporters at The Kernel and Lexington Herald-Leader would be delighted to have the story.


College basketball gets underway soon. But first, while you pay top dollar, the big dogs must have their way with cream puffs.

In the run-up to season play, anyone else sick already of hearing about what Andrew Wiggins had for breakfast and lunch on his one-and-done way to becoming LeBron James?

And so it goes.