Sports in Kentucky by Bob Watkins

Posted March 5, 2013 at 4:52 pm

A grizzled septuagenarian basketball fan looked out over his coffee cup the other day and said, “Y’know, I’ve lived long enough to have seen just about everything,”

Maybe. Maybe not.

Dateline: Pyongyang. When an ex-basketball flake with barbed wire hanging from his lips and nose makes himself USA’s ambassador to North Korea, my 75-year-old pal has plenty of new stuff to look forward to.

Dennis Rodman told the world last week that dictator Kim Jong Un “is an awesome kid” who loves basketball as much as Barack Obama. And, he said, Jong Un wants a phone call from President of the United States to make everything all right.

Think of it, Obama out back of the White House, posting up his man.

Meanwhile, what a pair for diplomacy, Dennis Rodman and a fan with his finger on a nuclear button.

But let us be optimistic. Our world could be saved by a phone call request channeled by nose-ring cross-dresser who hangs out with the Globetrotters. Then, who knows, we could witness nomination for a Nobel Prize for Peace … Dennis Rodman.

No, my 75-year-old friend has not seen everything, Better hang around awhile.

America. I love this place!


With the Kentucky Wildcats having played themselves back onto the ledge of the NCAA Tournament at Arkansas, a few things seem obvious.

First, the bull rush play at Fayetteville brought to mind …

Rick Pitino style.

• Rush tempo early, get crowd involved, influence game officials who often cannot resist being swept up in crowd-pleasing on 50-50 calls.

• Test officials early, find level of rough play allowed.

Coach Mike Anderson added to the frenzy by substituting in waves.

Result? The Wildcats rushed, were rattled, got tired and let themselves be bullied.

Which brings us to …


Kentucky’s Alex Poythress and Archie Goodwin.

This month and next fans will watch for …

1. Hints on who coaches want to return next season and not.

2. Signs for who players and families are listening to (advisors/agents).

Alex Poythress. On his bone-jarring/in your face test on the road, he failed.

Poythress’s lackluster body language indicates he’s ready to be paid-to-play. Reality: Sit on an NBA bench, be a spot player; Or, like Terrence Jones, play in the development league.

Archie Goodwin. Instincts and style, unless Goodwin changes dramatically, the coach-speak hints are there is no place for him at Kentucky next season.

He is a one-on-everybody player who’s style better suited to the NBA though he is clearly not physically ready and certainly not mature enough.

Bottom line. With Calipari’s recruiting class for next season, playing time for Poythress and Goodwin as they are today, projects to go down, not up.


Days until college basketball’s biggest holiday, Selection Sunday, is near single digits and what do we have? Precisely what fans want no clear-cut favorite to the Final Four, and number one seeds still up for grabs.

Heading to league tournaments, who’s playing best? Gonzaga (West), Duke (Southeast), Georgetown (East) and Louisville (Mideast).


With the so-called Catholic 7 as its core, college basketball’s newest hot item is the NEW Big East: DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, St. John’s, Seton Hall and Villanova will be joined by Butler, Xavier, St. Louis, Dayton and Creighton.

Lots to like about this new league.

Little wonder television (FOX) is clamoring for a contract. Market reach begins with the Big East tournament staying at Madison Square Garden and stretching into ratings rich cities, Philadelphia, Cincinnati on to Chicago and St. Louis on to Omaha, Nebraska.

Impact in Kentucky? None, right? Wrong. Louisville’s Yum Center will sell out for future Cardinal opponents Duke, North Carolina and other ACC teams, and Charlie Strong’s football program will be a force, basketball series with more geographically compatible rivals won’t happen.


Conference re-alignments further afield, Western Kentucky would have been a better geographic fit in Conference USA than Florida Atlantic. FAU and Middle Tennessee left the Sun Belt for C-USA. Should have been Middle and Western.

With Eastern Kentucky long since in its rear view mirror, WKU athletics lose rival Middle Tennessee also.

A Hilltopper all-sports presence in C-USA would be a natural alongside Southern Miss, Marshall and Memphis, with good exposure into media markets Houston, New Orleans (Tulane) on to Tulsa.

View here is, Western Kentucky, like Middle Tennessee, has outgrown the Sun Belt.


And, in a perfect storm kind of way the Kentucky-Western Kentucky football opener Aug. 31 is already starting to draw a day-to-day countdown.

Hilltoppers fans, still aglow from beating UK in Lexington last year, are anxious to get the Wildcats in neutral Nashville this year.

New coach Bobby Petrino, a bevy of returnees and large recruiting class, adds to expectations.

Meanwhile, Kentucky fans are revving up also with new coaches, a well regarded recruiting class and must-win-this-one motivation.

For Kentucky after WKU, the Wildcats move on to play consecutively: Louisville, Florida, (at) South Carolina, Alabama and (at) Mississippi State.

Footnote: Unofficially, more than 27,000 tickets have been allotted already for Kentucky’s spring game April 13.


As Syracuse continue to spiral downward, the coach’s patience with media did likewise. Following another loss, Jim Boeheim at a postgame press conference was asked why a certain player was on the bench at a crucial time. He blew off the question and replied,

“”Any more coaches here? Want to ask another coaching question? I’d be happy to take it. I’ve only been doing this 37 years, I’m sure you’ve got more ideas of who we should play or we shouldn’t play or who should lead? What do I know?”

Its March after all, a trip on road to the Final Four some coaches won’t be making.

And so it goes.