Sports in Kentucky by Bob Watkins

Posted June 5, 2013 at 2:20 pm

News and Views.

Sports news, after the Kentucky Derby, becomes a crawl line at bottom of your teevee screen, right?


NEWS. Calumet Farm, the most visible and glorious red and white symbol of horse racing on the planet, valued at more than $40 million, is now under lease to native Kentuckian Brad Kelley.

VIEW. How perfect. Calumet in hands of a conservationist who grew up near Franklin, owns two horse farms in central Kentucky and thousands of acres in states across America kept safe from developers. That Kelley has no appetite for glad-hand celebrity, shuns crowds and publicity, make him an icon to me, the anti-thesis of, say fellow Fayette resident John Calipari. Another thing: Kelley’s racing colors, black and gold. Perfect.

NEWS. Southeastern Conference directors of athletics met in Destin, Florida last week and voted unanimously to “authorize the conference to explore a primary site for the men’s basketball tournament.”

Favorite: Nashville.

VIEW. Hardly the heart of the SEC, Nashville has two large pluses.

1. Bridgestone Arena seats 19,395 for basketball.

2. It’s close enough to keep Big Blue Nation coming to spend money and far enough from Lexington to keep pundits from dubbing it the UKIT.

The SEC Tournament is already set for Nashville in 2015, 2016 and 2019. Sites for 2017 and 2018 remain open.

NEWS. Eddie Sutton, the ex-Kentucky coach (1985-89) whose photo was left out of coaches section in UK’s basketball media guide for several years, has been invited to visit Lexington, attend UK practices by John Calipari.

VIEW. Yes. An invitation overdue. Sutton’s teams contributed 88 wins to the nation’s winning program. He is 77, has wrestled with personal demons, and lost his wife last year. And, Eddie Sutton is hardly the only UK coach on whose watch NCAA probation came. He simply didn’t have the same layer of teflon as others.

NEWS. The NBA fined Roy Hibbert $75,000 last week for a gay slur.

VIEW. 75 grand seems a steep price to pay, but somebody in the NBA had to be a first sacrificial lamb to the new no-no since Jason Collins reset the bar for political correctness. However, Hibbert’s check won’t be in the mail until the NBA players union has its say.

NEWS. Latest NBA mock draft projects Ben McLemore going first to Cleveland, Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel to Orlando second, Louisville’s Gorgui Deng projects No. 22 to Brooklyn; Murray State’s Isaiah Canaan at No. 34 to Houston; UK’s Archie Goodwin No. 40 to Portland; and UofL’s Peyton Siva at 55th to Memphis.

VIEW. Noel is three seasons and 30 pounds away from being more than a shot blocker who can no longer be pushed around alot.

VIEW II. Two ‘steals’ in the draft? Canaan and Siva.

• Canaan can shoot, but more, he knows how to score. Unselfish, a leader and clever defender.

• Siva is more than a penetrator and deft passer. He will contribute to locker room harmony and be a fan favorite.

The NBA Draft begins Thursday, June. 27.

NEWS. Winston Bennett was let go as basketball coach at NAIA Mid-Continental University in Mayfield this week. His teams were 73-89, 2007-2013.

VIEW. An enigma is Bennett. Reached the heights – Kentucky Mr. Basketball 1983 to All-SEC at UK, a professional career in NBA and overseas, and coached at NBA and college levels. Yet, he sank to a personal bottom also. I hope Bennett, now 48, finds his niche, a comfort zone and peace, maybe away from basketball.

NEWS. Best basketball towns in America? Internet site Bleacher Report says Durham, North Carolina, Lawrence, Kansas and Chapel Hill are 1-2-3. Here in the Hoops Triangle, Lexington and Bloomington are 4-5, Louisville ranks eighth.

Why Durham is One? BR says, “Teams: A-plus; Duke is in the select group of programs synonymous with college basketball; Fans: A-plus. Cameron Crazies are nation’s most famous spectators. And, competition: A-plus.”

VIEW. Incredibly the foundation for Duke’s supremacy went unmentioned. Mike Krzyzewski is winningest ball coach in the sport.

NEWS. No. 101. Mark Stoops’ Kentucky team is No. 101 for 2013 football season, says USA Today. But the sun is going to shine bright on the bluegrass according to writer Paul Myersberg.

“Mark Stoops has the whole state abuzz due to February’s rock-solid recruiting class, that has carried over into a torrid start in the class of 2014.

His conclusion: Reinforcements are coming. Batten down the hatches. Could Stoops and UK actually, win big?”

VIEW. Stoops landed his tenth commit last Sunday and there is sunny optimism. But there is also that nation’s toughest, 2013 schedule coming up.


A few weeks ago on the way to a game, members of Union County High’s girls softball team were injured in a bus crash.

Kevin Patton writes about people in sports for The Gleaner in Henderson.

While recent news had not been good for the softball team, Patton wrote, “reaction to it was. Livingston Central’s softball team, which was the scheduled opponent the afternoon Union County’s bus ran off the road and turned over on its side, went to Paducah hospitals to show their support for the injured Union County players.

“As a way of saying thank you, Union County’s team traveled to Trigg County to support Livingston Central in the first round of the Fifth District Tournament.

“The outpouring of support for the Union County team reminds us of what is right about high school sports. It’s not about winning and losing. It’s about competition and the relationships developed from that competition.”

Comment: Good to have someone to recognize and chronicle these things also.

And so it goes.