Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Bynum Takes His Rehab To The Playboy Mansion

On my way to the airport here in Cincinnati (it's actually across the Ohio River in Kentucky), I heard a report on the radio about Andrew Bynum partying at the Playboy Mansion recently.

The host was going off about how Bynum should be at home resting while his Lakers teammates were getting beaten by the Hawks in Atlanta. I am not defending Bynum's actions, but nor do I think they are reprehensible in any way. Now, I realize perception is oftentimes reality, but I believe this particular situation needs a little perspective.

I have talked to Andrew several times over the last few weeks, and I know there is nothing more important to him than getting back on the court in time to help the Lakers win another championship.

In order to expedite that goal, Bynum has been working out quite feverishly during his rehab sessions. And trust me, his workouts are way more intensive than any Lakers practice or game. So it's not as if he was slacking on his attempt to get healthy. Plus, I'm sure several of his teammates have been enjoying the luxuries afforded to them during that road trip. Partying is partying, whether you are at Club Opera in Atlanta or the Playboy Mansion.

One can argue the merits of anyone going to the Playboy Mansion. I, for one, have no problems with it. It's not nearly as decadent as some people might imagine, and I should know. I've been there a couple of times.
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But anyone who is trying to make a big deal out of Bynum hanging out with some playmates (let's not forget, he's 21 years old), is doing it either out of pure jealousy or simply to boost the ratings on their talk show or the hits on their blog.

Plus, come on now, what man would not want the chance to have a Playmate sit on his shoulders? It's Nicole FREAKING Narain. In the immortal words of the Chi-Lites, have you seen her?!?!

Shaun Livingston Getting Another Shot In The NBA

So glad to see that former Clippers first round draft pick, Shaun Livingston is getting another shot in the league.

I'm sure you remember Shaun's horrific knee injury a couple of seasons ago. An injury that may have been the worst sports injury seen on live television this side of Joe Theisman.

The real tragedy, however, was that it happened to one of the nicest guys you will ever meet. Shaun was destined for greatness both on and off the court.

Here's hoping he gets a chance at both.

(Editor's note: I am also really glad he finally cut those damn corn rows. After Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson cut theirs, the trend seems to be dying. Now the question is: Who will be the last NBA player with corn rows/dreads? I've got my money on either Mikki Moore or Udonis Haslem. You can have the field.)

NEW YORK, March 31, 2009 – The Oklahoma City Thunder signed guard Shaun Livingston of the Tulsa 66ers today making him the 19th GATORADE Call-Up of the 2008-09 NBA Development League season. He becomes the 76th NBA player to have NBA D-League experience.

Livingston, a 6-7 guard, has played in 11 games, 10 starts, since being acquired by the 66ers on March 7, 2009. He is averaging 9.5 points, 6.0 assists and 3.0 rebounds in 28.4 minutes and has scored in double figures five times, including a season-high 22 points in a 112-110 win at Rio Grande Valley on March 27, 2009.

Originally drafted by the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round (4th overall) of the 2004 NBA Draft, Livingston has played in 149 career NBA games for the Clippers and the Miami Heat, averaging 7.4 points, 4.7 assists and 3.1 rebounds in 26.3 minutes.

Livingston is expected to join the Thunder today in San Antonio and be available when the team takes on the Spurs tonight.

Monday, March 30, 2009

John Calipari, Your New Job Is Waiting

I know, I know, I know. I said I would try to stay out of this UK coaching situation madness, but I can't help it. I'm too tied to too many of the people involved to completely leave it alone. Plus, so many of my friends keep bugging me for information that I figured it would just be easier writing it here instead of responding to each and every phone call, text message and e-mail.

So here's what I know as of right now. John Calipari woke up this morning convinced that he was going to take the job at UK. After his intermediaries discussed some specifics (namely potential salary and contract length) with some Kentucky intermediaries, both sides felt they had an agreement in principle. It would then be just a matter of fine tuning some language in the contract and Calipari informing University of Memphis officials, as well as his players, of his decision to leave.

And barring something drastic, I do believe Calipari will officially accept UK's offer within the next 24 hours. Memphis AD R.C. Johnson has formally granted Kentucky permission to speak to Calipari, which means now Mitch Barnhart can have actually offer him the job.

However, Memphis is not going down without a fight. Calipari has that town eating out of his hand, and they don't want to lose him. As crazy as UK fans are about the Wildcats, Memphis fans are just as nuts about the Tigers. The only difference is the sheer number of fans who root for UK compared to Memphis.

Calipari met today with Johnson and some of the program's biggest boosters. Their intent was to convince Calipari to stay in Memphis, and they were prepared to renegotiate his contract yet again to help him make up his mind.

Calipari's intention for the meeting was two-fold. First, he wanted to explain his reasoning for accepting the UK job even though the Tigers have been a much more successful program over the last few years. Secondly, he wanted to lobby for his former assistant Tony Barbee (currently the head coach at UTEP) to replace him in Memphis.

Now, as I said earlier, barring something drastic, I do think Calipari will become UK's next head coach by the end of the business on Tuesday. But that something drastic could be a serious counter-offer to what UK is offering, although Memphis will never be able to match Kentucky dollar for dollar.

There is also one other small issue that might play into Calipari's final decision: Recruiting! As many of you probably know, he has commitments from two of the top 10 players in the country, and a third (John Wall) is said to be leaning towards Memphis as well.

The problem Calipari is facing is that he much prefers his recruits to the one's Billy Gillispie had been securing. And if you compare both recruiting classes player for player, you can't blame Calipari for wanting his guys to come to Lexington with him.

If Calipari was able to bring all of his recruits to UK next season, the Wildcats could very well make a run at the Final Four. That's how good Xavier Henry, DeMarcus Cousins and John Wall are considered to be.

One potential hang up regarding Henry though is that his brother is currently on the Memphis roster. He joined the team earlier this season, but did not play due to injuries. It was a common recruiting move. Sign one brother so you can sign the better one. That's why some people believe that Henry may not follow Calipari to Lexington.

So that's where everything stands as I sit here in this Cincinnati hotel typing this post. With the money that's been rumored to be sitting on the table and the opportunity to coach at one of true storied programs in all of sports, I just can't see Calipari not signing the contract at this point. But as we all know, until he does, anything can happen.

Isn't that right, Billy Donovan?

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Billy Gillispie: The Aftermath

While listening to Mitch Barnhart and Lee Todd announce the firing of Billy Gillispie Friday, one statement in particular stood out to me.

A reporter asked the UK Athletics Director if he regretted hiring Gillispie in the first place and Barnhart said no. Say what?

You just fired a man less than two years after offering him the job, but yet you don't regret that decision? Then why are you even firing him?

I'm sure Barnhart was trying to be respectful, but come on! Be honest to the UK fans. That's the least they deserve.

Don't Let The Door Hit You

I read in Sunday's Lexington Herald-Leader about the UK assistant coaches only having 3 hours after Gillispie's firing to clean out their offices.

If you think that's bad, check this out. While Gillispie was packing up his things, he tried to use his swipe card to get back into the Craft Center only to find out that it had been turned off. As you might expect, the former UK coach was a bit peeved. So he went to fire off an e-mail to share his displeasure, but that too had been deactivated.

The Right Kind Of Games

I did not make it to Lexington in time to see or hear any of Billy Gillispie's news conference live. But having read several accounts of the event, it seems as though Gillispie stuck to his guns all the way out the door.

He reiterated that coaching and recruiting are far more important than being a celebrity. I agree with that belief. However, when the first two job requirements fall short of expectations, the third becomes even more important.

I do have one contention with something Gillispie said Saturday. He said he thought he and his staff did a great job during their brief tenure at UK, but they simply didn't win "the right kind of games."

The right KIND of games? What the hell is that?

Did he mean games against Gardner-Webb and VMI?

Did he mean SEC regular season games against Ole Miss and Georgia?

Or did he mean NCAA Tournament games?

Oh wait, my bad. You have to make the NCAA Tournament to win those games.

The Joe Craft Center

Saturday afternoon, I got my first glimpse of the Joe Craft Center. With a $30 million price tag, I fully expected it to be quite the spectacle. I was not disappointed.

Kentucky's basketball practice facility is on par with those of most NBA teams. From the weight room and practice court to the locker room and players' lounge, UK's players have absolutely everything at their disposal.

However, with such access comes the lack of excuses. There is no reason, whatsoever, for the UK program to be this average.

Regardless of who the next coach is, the players need to step up to the level of their facilities. The Craft Center is championship caliber, and those who use it should be as well.

Friday, March 27, 2009

This UK Madness Is Seriously Getting On My Nerves

As I sit here at a Huck's gas station in Madisonville (only place I could find public wifi), I'm asking myself, "What are you doing here?"

The only reason I'm sitting here is because I'm working on finding out the latest details on the UK coaching situation. But why?

Sure, I spent the first 27 years of my life in the Bluegrass State. I am a UK graduate, and I covered the team professionally for almost a decade. But not anymore.

I have really enjoyed being just a fan the last several years--something I was not able to be when I worked at WKYT. I actually went to a game last season and CHEERED! I hadn't done that since college.

I was around the program in one of its all-time greatest decades: the 90's. 4 Final Fours. 3 NCAA Championship games. 2 National Titles.

Those were some of the best years of my life. I often miss those days.

But I must admit that there is one aspect of covering UK Basketball I absolutely do not miss: the insanity of it all.

I love the passion UK fans display for the program, but despise the amount of interest they pay to it.

Just as greed leads to corruption when it comes to money, the overzealousness towards UK Basketball leads to deceitful conjecture. In other words, you get too many people saying shit and not knowing what they are talking about. Granted, that's how most message boards thrive, but that's not what I am about.

I don't care that much about knowing it first. I just want to know what's right. The truth is way more important than timing.

What often happens in situations such as these, is that people tend to either stretch the truth or completely make things up in an attempt to make themselves seem more important. There is a certain level of respect, or maybe even celebrity, in being "in-the-know."

I had somewhat forgotten about that dynamic, but now I find myself getting sucked back into it--UK style.

Over the last several days, I have been getting bombarded by people offering up "inside information" about the UK coaching situation. Some of them have been complete strangers, while others are those I would normally trust otherwise. But right now, I'm leery of everybody, even my most trusted sources.

Why is this person telling me this? What is their motive? Do they really know or are they just trying to get me to put some false information out there?

Those questions make up my current internal struggle.

So instead of giving myself a headache, I am going to leave it all alone for a while. Instead of trying to find out what's going to happen before it does, I am going to just wait and see like everyone else.

Plus, I have much more important things to worry about right now, like trimming my mom's hedges at her new house here in Madisonville.

Joe Crawford Signs With Knicks


NEW YORK, March 27, 2009 – The New York Knicks today signed Los Angeles D-Fenders guard Joe Crawford, making him the 18th GATORADE Call-Up of the 2008-09 NBA Development League season. Crawford joins fellow former NBA D-Leaguer Courtney Sims on the Knicks roster.

Crawford, 6-5, has played in 43 games for the D-Fenders this season, averaging 20.8 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.0 steal. He has scored in double figures in 42 games, scoring 30 or more points on four occasions and netting a D-Fenders season-high 44 points in a 110-100 loss to the Utah Flash on Jan. 9.

Originally drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers in the second round (58th overall) of the 2008 NBA Draft, Crawford played with the Lakers during the 2008 preseason before being waived on Oct. 22, 2008, and joining the Lakers’ NBA D-League affiliate D-Fenders.

A four-year contributor at Kentucky, Crawford averaged 11.3 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.5 assists during his 127-game NCAA career. Crawford is expected to join the Knicks today and be available when the team hosts the New Orleans Hornets at Madison Square Garden tonight.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

It's Official: Billy Gillispie Has Been Fired!

After weeks and weeks of speculation, it appears that it is finally official: Billy Gillispie has been fired!

Multiple sources have confirmed to me that Gillispie was relieved of his duties following UK's loss to Notre Dame. In fact, the players were informed right after the game but were told to keep quiet about it until an official announcement was made. That announcement will come Friday.

Here is an excerpt of an e-mail I obtained from an employee at the university:

I have a little UK basketball news that you can share with any of your UK buddies... Billy Gillispie has been fired. He and the other assistant coaches told the team goodbye in the locker room after the game. The players were then told by Mitch Barnhart and Lee Todd (the athletics director and president of the university) how to answer reporters after the game. (Denying any knowledge of the firing, etc) A formal press conference will be scheduled for Friday to make the official announcement to the public. Gillispie left the game last night on a flight and the team traveled back to Lexington on a bus.

As of last night, the only names being mentioned for the replacement are Billy Donovan and Travis Ford. Lee Todd says he will not hire John Calapari under any circumstances. It seems as if President Todd has a little more say than Mitch Barnhart as far as the hiring this time.

I hope to have more on this story as well as potential replacements in the immediate future.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Is It Finally So Long, Billy G At UK?

Now that the season is officially over, everyone can now focus on the future of UK basketball--seemingly a future that will not include Billy Gillispie.

Finding someone official who will say that Gillispie will definitely be back next season is like finding someone to take responsibility for our struggling economy. No one is stepping up to that plate.

And was it just me, or did Billy G seem resigned to his future during and after UK's loss to Notre Dame? He coached the game and spoke to the media as if he knew he would no longer be Kentucky's coach after tonight. He just didn't come out and say so.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not saying he didn't try or want to win the game. Of course he did. I've never thought the man was a quitter. In the immortal words of Herm Edwards, "you play to win the game," and Gillispie has always seemed to be about winning. It's just that he hasn't done enough of it over the last two years. This season's 14 losses were the second most in school history.

However, I don't think his win-loss record will ultimately be his undoing. To put it simply--as I have said repeatedly since the beginning--Gillispie and Kentucky were not a good fit. Independently, they can be great, but together they are a disaster.

I'm sure most of us can relate in some capacity. I'm divorced. That's not to say that I was a bad husband or my ex was a bad wife. We simply weren't good to together. But that failed marriage is not going to stop me from getting married again, and I will be the first to say that I sincerely hope Gillispie gets another coaching job somewhere else.

John Calipari Rumors

A constant question from the readers lately has been about the thought of John Calipari replacing Billy Gillispie. I have known Coach Cal for almost 10 years now. I was working at a station in Memphis when first took over the Tigers program.

I have not spoken to John or anyone close to him lately, but I do believe that UK is definitely a job he would leave Memphis for. While that statement may seem like a no-brainer, Cal has had other opportunities to leave Memphis over the last several years, but he has a really good thing going down there, and he's not about to give it up for just any good offer that comes along. Plus, I know he was very interested in the Kentucky job after Tubby resigned.

Calipari's track record shows an incredible ability to stack rosters with NBA-level talent, and his motivation tactics are Knute-esqe. Two attributes seemingly missing from the UK program over the last few years.

And in the mold of Rick Pitino, Calipari is the consummate salesman. He could probably sell a crossword puzzle to a blind man.

However, with all that being said, it's fair to point out that Calipari has a little shade in his background. The NCAA found recruiting violations during his tenure at UMass, and there has been wide speculation about his players at Memphis receiving improper gifts--most notably being high-priced luxury cars.

Is he perfect? What coach is really? The main question should be, is he perfect for Kentucky right now?

Dan Issel Rumors

I received an e-mail on Facebook shortly after UK's loss to Notre Dame asking me if I had heard anything about Dan Issel joining the athletic department as the head of basketball operations. Evidently the belief is that Issel would run the basketball program, and Mitch Barnhart would oversee all other sports.

I have no credible information to either confirm or deny this particular speculation.

However, I do think it would be a tremendous idea. As the program's all-time leading scorer, perhaps no one knows the value and tradition of UK Basketball more than Issel. But even beyond that, his basketball acumen is off the charts. He's held both coaching and front office jobs in the NBA. His contacts and respect within the basketball world would immediately make Kentucky a serious player again in big-time college basketball.

So if this idea would somehow be put up to a vote, allow me to cast the first YES ballot.

Larry Scott Replaces Tom Hansen As PAC-10 Commissioner

Here's the official release from the PAC-10 naming Larry Scott as its new commissioner.

Several names had been rumored over the last few weeks as the eventual replacement for outgoing commissioner Tom Hansen--everyone from Condoleeza Rice to Sandy Alderson.

Scott will certainly have his hands full trying to fill the footsteps of the longest-tenured commissioner in big-time college athletics, who saw the PAC-10 win more than 200 NCAA titles during his reign.


WALNUT CREEK, Calif.--The Pacific-10 Conference named Larry Scott, Chairman and CEO of the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA), its new commissioner, effective July 1, 2009. Scott becomes the sixth commissioner of the Pac-10, succeeding Tom Hansen who is set to retire after 26 years in the role.

Since joining the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour in 2003, Scott has engineered the turnaround of women's professional tennis, increasing the popularity of the sport across the world. A former tennis All-American at Harvard, Scott is credited as the architect behind the largest-ever sponsorship in women's sports, a six-year, $88-million title sponsorship agreement with Sony Ericsson. He also led the WTA in its development of the largest television agreements in women’s tennis history spanning viewership both in the U.S. and abroad.

“While it is difficult to replace a leader like Tom Hansen who has served the conference for more than 26 years, we are extremely pleased with the tremendous response we received to the national search,” said John Hennessy, president of Stanford University and head of the executive committee. “We considered a very impressive group of candidates, and Larry Scott was clearly the most qualified and innovative leader for the Pac-10.”

The Pac-10 dates back to 1915 when four schools - the University of California at Berkeley, the University of Washington, the University of Oregon, and Oregon State College – formed the conference. Now with 10 member institutions, the Pac-10 ranks first in NCAA Championships with 159 over the past 18 years and has finished with more NCAA titles than any other conference in 42 of the last 48 years, earning titles in more than 26 different men’s and women’s sports.

“I’m excited to pursue this very unique opportunity to be involved in a broad range of men’s and women’s sports at the college level and balancing the priorities of student-athletes with the commercial needs of the conference,” said Scott, who will move from Florida to Northern California. “It’s an exciting opportunity for me to apply my broad range of leadership skills in sports management, marketing, effective positioning of an organization to international and national audiences, and being an advocate on behalf of our sports.”

Since the NCAA began conducting women's championships 27 years ago, Pac-10 schools have claimed at least four national titles in a single season on 19 separate occasions. Overall, the Pac-10 has captured 113 NCAA women's crowns, 30 more than any other conference. That said, Scott’s experience in women’s athletics will be especially relevant. Scott is credited with being a vocal and effective advocate for women’s athletes, helping WTA members earn equal pay in major tennis tournaments around the world for the first time in 100 years.

“Our search committee was most impressed with Larry’s broad range of leadership experiences in both men’s and women’s sports, as well as his extensive success in representing the commercial interest of men’s and women’s tennis,” said Bob Bowlsby, athletic director of Stanford and head of the search committee. “He was the architect of a highly-effective turnaround of women’s tennis over the last six years and created a compelling vision that has served the sport and its athletes extremely well. We are also very pleased to bring on such a great advocate for both men’s and women’s sports.”

Under Scott’s leadership, the WTA secured television partnerships with the major US networks and renewed its international television partnership with Eurosport, which broadcasts women's tennis to 54 countries and more than 104 million homes. Scott's career in tennis began as a professional tennis player on the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) circuit, where he played for three years and won one tournament. Scott then spent a decade in leadership and senior management positions within the ATP, serving in the posts of Chief Operating Officer, President of ATP Properties and Executive Vice President of the International Group.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

How Did UK Basketball Come To This?

My former boss at WKYT-TV, Dick Gabriel, writes a very insightful column on WKYT's website. It basically traces the history of all the major decisions made by Kentucky AD Mitch Barnhart. I am certain Dick holds a good relationship with Barnhart and that much of the information in the article came firsthand.

However, there are some things I agree with and others I do not.

Let's start with what no one wants to acknowledge: the underlying racism of some UK fans.

Dick writes, "..don’t kid yourself, it was there. From the season ticket cancellations the day (Tubby) Smith was hired to the cowardly, anonymous phone calls to the talk shows – a faction of UK "fans" made themselves clear."

On that point, Dick could not be more right. I remember the day Tubby was hired. Shortly after returning from the news conference at UK's Patterson Office Tower, I was back in the WKYT sports office working on scripts and tapes for the next newscast. As you might imagine, the phones were ringing off the hook from people wanting the very latest on the hiring.

One phone call in particular still remains vivid in my mind 12 years later.

{Phone Rings}

Me: "27 Sportsfirst, this is Michael."

Caller: "Did UK hire a new coach today?"

Me: "Yes, sir. Tubby Smith is the new coach."

Caller: "You mean they're gonna let a nigger coach Kentucky?"

{I abruptly end the call}

So for all those fans who like to downplay the racism or its effect on Tubby's departure, give it up. The evidence is too real and too prevalent.

And I strongly believe it was that racism that would not allow some people to give Tubby the credit he deserved.

Dick wrote that it was hard to argue with the results of "five SEC championships, five SEC tournament titles, a single season that saw his team race undefeated through both the league and tournament (only to be done in by Dwyane Wade) and three trips to the Elite Eight," yet some UK fans went out of their way to do so.

By definition, racism means a lack of fairness or equal treatment due to some one's race or ethnic background.

Does anyone really think a white coach at UK would have received the same amount of criticism with such a successful record? Take your time on your answer. I'll wait.

There is one area of Barnhart's track record where Dick and I differ. It seems as though his account of Kentucky's pursuit of Billy Donovan comes from Barnhart's side, while mine comes from Donovan's camp.

It is important for everyone to understand that in situations where a coach is being courted by another school, the vast majority of the negotiations are not done between the AD and the coach, but rather intermediaries. So it should be no surprise to hear that Barnhart and Donovan may have only had one face-to-face meeting regarding the UK coaching vacancy.

However, that doesn't mean there wasn't more Barnhart could have done to bring Donovan to Lexington if he was truly UK's number one choice.

Had Donovan always considered what it would be like to coach in the NBA? Yes.

Did Rick Pitino advise him to seriously consider the idea? Yes.

Despite knowing Donovan's interest in the Orlando Magic and the organization's interest in him, should Barnhart have just given up and not come back with another offer to Donovan? Absolutely not!

If Donovan was the choice, then Barnhart should have done whatever it took--within reason--to get Donovan to accept the job. You don't just give up on your top candidate because another team can offer him more money. You sell the university, the program and the lifestyle that comes with it.

While most college jobs can't compare to the NBA, Kentucky sure as hell can!

And Barnhart should always remember that when hiring a basketball coach at UK, especially if he has to do it again this year.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Correction To Boosters Wanting Pitino Back At UK!!

I need to make one correction to my earlier post, "Big Money Boosters Want Pitino Back At UK." In that post from last week, I stated that two of Kentucky's largest monetary supporters drove to Louisville to meet with Rick Pitino about coming back to UK. The conversation actually took place over the phone.

It may have been a misunderstanding on my part or a misstatement from my primary source, but either way, I take full responsibility for that factual error.

However, multiple sources once again confirmed to me today that my reporting of what was said during that conversation is 100% completely accurate.

I apologize for any confusion my mistake may have caused. As a journalist, I should have been more careful.

Kobe And The Kids: A Lovefest

Over the last several seasons, Kobe has continued to show that he is the best basketball player in the world, evidenced by last season's MVP award.

As impressive as he has been on the court, I am more impressed by his off-the-court initiatives. Kobe has done a remarkable job of remodeling his image since his issues in Colorado a few years back. He's come back out of that protective shell to reveal that multi-million dollar smile.

However, his smile pales in comparison to the smiles I have seen him produce on the faces of countless youngsters all over the world. From LA to Beijing, kids love Kobe and he seems to genuinely love them right back.

If he's not donating money and equipment to various causes, he's giving something even more valuable--his time!

Check out this story from the Chicago Tribune about a recent visit by Kobe to a Chicago after-school program.

Should Patterson And Meeks Stay Or Go?

Since my most recent posts about the UK Basketball coaching situation, UK fans have been hitting me up about other topics surrounding the program.

Besides "who's going to replace Gillispie," the most frequent question I have been getting lately is about the draft prospects of Patrick Patterson and Jodie Meeks. I, like most of you, thought both guys were two of the best players in the SEC, if not the entire country.

However, my thoughts are surely biased because Patterson and Meeks play for my beloved alma mater. Plus, I am not a NBA personnel director. Just because a player puts up huge numbers in college, it doesn't necessarily mean that player's game will translate well to the NBA.

So instead of guessing where Patterson and Meeks might go in the NBA draft if they were to leave school early, I decided to do what I always do: go to the experts.

I contacted two NBA front office execs (one from the East and one from the West--both with first round picks this year) and one former NBA player, who works out potential draftees every year prior to the invitational camps and individual team workouts.

And to a man, all three agreed on where both Patterson and Meeks would likely go in the draft.

Patterson is considered to be an undersized power forward by league standards, something he makes up for, however, with his strength and toughness. At best, he is considered to be a late first round draft pick. If he were to leave UK early, he could expect to go anywhere from 20-35.

Meeks has impressed NBA scouts with his shooting range, but they have concerns about his ability to get his own shot. Right now, his value is only as a spot-up shooter, making him at best and early second round pick.

"Meeks is on the radar now and he needs to improve his ability to create his own shot," said one NBA executive.

If Patterson and Meeks both declare for early entry, they will have the chance to hear these assessments first hand during their workouts with individual teams. And it's always important to remember, that one team's lottery pick could be another team's second-round selection.

One other point that underclassmen should always consider when deciding to enter the draft is the strength of that year's draft class compared to next year's. If a player has a better chance of getting drafted in the lottery next season, it would be in his best interest to stay in school. And that seems to be the case for Patterson.

"Patterson has too much competition as his position this year," said one NBA executive.

However, there is one final issue that could affect both players decision to stay at UK for another season. Yes, you guessed it: the coaching situation!

"If Gillispie is still there, they both need to leave. If not, they could wait and see who the new coach is first before declaring," said one NBA executive.

So as you can see, Patterson and Meeks have quite a bit to consider. I just hope they make the best decision for their respective futures, whether that future continues at UK next season or in the NBA.

Kentucky, Here I Come

You ever notice how life has a way of coming full circle? At various times in our lives, our past becomes our present again, and that's definitely been the case for me lately.

Nearly 10 years removed from living in Kentucky and more than 6 years removed from covering the SEC, I find myself immersed back into the world of UK sports--more specifically UK Basketball. And on top of that, I am making my first trip back to Lexington this weekend since Derby Week of 2003.

Holy Kentucky deja vu, batman!

So I guess I shouldn't have been that surprised when I received a call from Mike Cameron this morning asking me to come on his show with Chris Cross later today on 1300 WLXG-AM in Lexington.

Back in the day, I used to host my own show on 1300, and since I left town in 1999, I have been a frequent guest on their show.

Most recently, they have had me on to discuss the Lakers, Dodgers, Angels or other West Coast teams I cover on a regular basis. Today, however, I have a feeling we won't be talking about Kobe's chances of winning a second straight MVP award.

The Bluegrass is all the buzz about the UK Basketball coaching situation. Is Billy Gillispie staying or going? If he does leave, who is in line to replace him? Those are the questions UK fans want answered, and quite frankly, so do I.

I am scheduled to appear on The Sports Huddle at the top of the 6pm eastern hour.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Does Billy G Know His UK Days Are Numbered?

I have known John Clay since the mid 90's. I have always thought his observations in the Lexington Herald-Leader were mostly spot on. He and I seem to agree on certain topics/issues where others do not.

And that definitely seems to be the case in John's most recent take on Billy Gillispie's future at Kentucky.

Based on what I have been learning over the last several days, a shake up in the UK Basketball program would not be a shock to the media, the fans or even Gillispie himself.

Listening to him respond to questions today left me with the impression that he feels as if his days at Kentucky are numbered.

Donovan Reaches Out To Pitino About UK Job

I have been getting flooded with e-mails from UK fans asking, "what have you heard?" as it relates to the Kentucky coaching situation.

For those of you new to me and/or my blog, here's a point of information. I do not post what I have heard. I post what I know.

If I have not been told something directly from the parties involved or those with direct access to the parties involved, I won't go with it. I leave the rumors and the speculation up to the countless message boards out there.

So if I did not respond to some of your e-mails, it's because I didn't know anything at the time. However, I now know a little something.

In the last couple of days, Rick Pitino and Billy Donovan have discussed the coaching situation at Kentucky. I do not know exactly what was said, but I do know that it was Donovan who reached out, picking up the phone to call Coach P.

Some of those close to Pitino feel as if the UK job is his if he wants it, but if he decides to stay at Louisville, then Donovan would be the second choice. It seems as though, despite Mitch Barnhart bungling the Donovan negotiations two years ago, that the two-time national championship coach is quite interested in hearing what UK has to offer this time around.

As far as the chances of Pitino going back to Lexington are concerned, those odds increase dramatically if the Cards run the table and win the national championship. Some of his assistants believe that Coach P would feel better about leaving the program if he had just guided the Cards to the title. Pitino hates leaving projects unfinished.

So for all the UK fans out there who desperately want Pitino to come back to UK, maybe you should do something you've likely never done in your life: root for Louisville to win it all!

Obama's Gutter Ball And Other Weekend Musings

While attending a friend's birthday party Saturday night at a bowling alley, I was reminded of President Obama's ill-advised attempt at humor when describing his shaky bowling skills. We've all either seen or heard President Obama's remark about the Special Olympics by now.

While I will be the first to say that the reaction has been over-the-top and that it, unfortunately, overshadowed so many other more important remarks he made during his appearance on the The Tonight Show with Jay Leno , President Obama has to remember that he is no longer "just one of the guys."

You and I could make that joke and not be criticized, but not the President.

I frankly love the fact that we have a president who's down, but that doesn't mean we still shouldn't hold him to a higher standard.

Here are some other random musings from over the weekend:

*My recent posts about the UK Basketball coaching situation have reminded me of one of life's little facts: people believe what they want to believe.

If you want something to be true, you will accept anyone's thoughts pointing towards that hopeful truth. On the contrary, if you don't want something to be true, you will discount anything anyone says towards that fearful truth, regardless of how much credible information that person may have.

*Speaking of the drama swirling around Kentucky's basketball program, the Lexington Herald-Leaders's Jerry Tipton presented some great counter-points to the shallow arguments some fans have presented in favor of keeping Billy Gillispie on the job for another year.

Here's my favorite excerpt: Those who support him could say two years is too soon to judge a coach. UK would look panicky and overly obsessive about basketball. These are the seeds of a public-relations problem. Plus, to fire Gillispie now would mean admitting the mistake of hiring Gillispie two years ago.

As a counterpoint, the decision is not based on victories or defeats. A single coach whose lifestyle can be grist for the rumor mill is the wrong fit for a button-down program such as Kentucky. Like it or not, the coach represents not only UK but the entire state. Gillispie wants only to recruit and coach. There are plenty of jobs where that's sufficient. Kentucky isn't one of them.

Amen, Jerry. Amen!

*Last week, I wrote about the SEC's decline in quality basketball teams, and less than a week later, all three of the conference's NCAA Tournament representatives have been eliminated. Not one team from the country's most athletically-skilled conference could make it to the Sweet 16. So maybe this year's poor result speaks more to the SEC's decline in quality coaching.

But at least three SEC reps made it to the NIT Sweet 16, right?

*I received an e-mail earlier this week with information regarding picking up my credential for the semifinals of the World Baseball Classic. The Final Four of Major League Baseball's version of the World Cup is being held at Dodger Stadium.

The e-mail got be to thinking about MLB's plan to grow baseball internationally, "Does anyone really care?"

You tell me.

*Imagine being 36 years old in great physical shape, but yet needing open heart surgery. That's exactly what 11-year MLB veteran Aaron Boone is facing. Thursday, Boone will undergo a procedure to repair a problem with his aorta and aortic valve.

Just another reminder that life is fragile. We all should live our lives seeking to enjoy our limited time here on Earth. Life is way too short to be bogged down with petty arguments and meaningless gossip. Get out and enjoy life for what it truly is: Beautiful.

Good luck, Aaron.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Success--And Failure--Starts At The Top, Including Kentucky

After covering sports professionally for the better part of a decade and a half, I have learned a few things along way--some good, some bad, but all enlightening.

And if I have learned anything, I have learned that success and failure starts at the top. There has never been a great team or program without great leadership, and vice versa.

Think about all the celebrated teams through the years, in any sport, and each of them not only had competent coaches, but they were also guided by skilled general managers and owners or athletic directors and school presidents.

Lakers, Celtics, Yankees, Dodgers, Steelers, 49ers, Canadiens, Maple Leafs, Notre Dame Football, UCLA Basketball. You name a great franchise or program, and I will show you impeccable management.

But the flipside is also true. There has never been a perennial loser that didn't have misguided direction.

Kentucky Basketball is, of course, one of the all-time greats in college basketball--a program others used as a model to build their own championship contender. However, the last several years have seen a decline in both results and leadership.

Most fans always look to the coach when placing blame for a team's shortcomings, and while that may be suitable for game-to-game situations, I believe that if a team struggles over a period of time, the responsibility ultimately falls upon the coach's boss.

Since Mitch Barnhart replaced C.M. Newton protégé Larry Ivy in the summer of 2002, he has been faced with two pivotal moments in the basketball program's history.

Towards the end of Tubby Smith's tenure at UK, a small portion of the Big Blue fan base started making noise about the team not reaching the Final Four since Tubby guided the Cats to the NCAA title in 1998, despite three other Elite Eight appearances.

(Editor's note: In 1999, the Cats lost to a Michigan State team, led by the heralded "Flintstones", which would win the title the following year. A red-hot Marquette team, featuring future Hall of Famer Dwayne Wade, knocked off UK in 2003. And two years later, Kentucky once again lost to Michigan State in a double-overtime thriller--still one of the best games in NCAA Tournament history.)

Did Tubby deserve some criticism? Sure. Was it fair for people to call for his job? Absolutely not.

This was a time where Barnhart should have done two things: 1) come out publicly stating that Tubby wasn't going anywhere no matter how much noise a few ignorant fans made and 2) tell Tubby that he needed to stop being so loyal to some of his assistants and replace them with more capable recruiters and player developers.

Barnhart did neither, and as a result, the win-loss records continued to decline and the Tubby bashers grew in number. Having grown tired of the ridiculous criticism and the perceived lack of appreciation and support, Tubby unexpectedly left UK to take the head coaching job at Minnesota.

That move presented Barnhart with his second pivotal moment. Who do you get to replace a national championship coach at Kentucky?

The choice was obvious: former Rick Pitino understudy Billy Donovan, who had just won back-to-back championships with Florida.

And Billy D was totally down for a relocation. He was about to lose four NBA draft picks off that 2-time championship team, meaning it would be quite the rebuilding project over the next couple of seasons. Perhaps more importantly though, no matter how successful he was on the court, Florida basketball would always play second fiddle to Florida football.

So getting Donovan to come to Lexington would be easy, right? Not for Barnhart evidently.

A former employee of the UK Athletics Department tells me that Barnhart completely dropped the ball on the deal. Bungling the negotiations so badly, it appears, that Donovan was somewhat concerned about the leadership and cooperation, or lack thereof, he would get from the administration.

Donovan decided to stay in Gainesville after receiving a nice pay increase and other goodies from Florida AD Jeremy Foley, who once again proved why he is one of the best ADs in the country.

Barnhart compounded this mistake by not having a backup plan. He seemed to have no idea who to pursue once Donovan turned him down. Thus, he was forced to scramble to find a coach who could not only succeed at the highest level, but also handle the ambassador-like responsibilities of being Kentucky's head coach.

Just two weeks after Tubby's departure, he ends up settling for Billy Gillispie, a coach who had only once finished first in his conference and had never made it past the Sweet 16. Really? That's the pedigree of a Kentucky basketball coach?

(Editor's note: In his second year at UTEP, Billy G led the Miners to the WAC regular season championship. That team lost its opening round game in the NCAA Tournament. Three years after taking over at Texas A&M, Billy G got the Aggies to the Sweet Sixteen. That team featured future first-round draft pick Acie Law, a player Gillispie did not recruit to College Station. Gillispie's 5-year combined win-loss record as a head coach before coming to Kentucky was 100-58!!)

As much criticism as Billy G deserves for the debacle of a season the Cats put together this year, Barnhart deserves as much, if not more.

But the buck doesn't stop there. Remember, you can always trace everything, both good and bad, all the way to the top. And the top at UK is the President's office.

Lee Todd said he wanted to "change the culture of Wildcat athletics" in 2002 by hiring Barnhart, who became the school's first AD since 1934 without any previous ties to Kentucky as either a player, coach or staff member.

(Editor's note: I won't even mention Barnhart's ties to border-rival Tennessee).

First, I wasn't aware that the program's culture was in need of a makeover. I thought Newton did a remarkable job of renovating the athletics department after the Chris Mills-Emery Delivery scandal.

But if you are going to go that route, then you have to hire the right person. Kentucky is a national basketball power. It needs an AD who not only understands that concept, but fully embraces it.

Instead of going to another school featuring a commitment to having a national basketball presence like North Carolina, Kansas or UCLA, President Todd hired Barnhart away from a very regional school in Oregon State. The Beavers hadn't been relevant on the national basketball scene since Gary Payton left campus in 1990, and it's a stretch for me to even type "relevant".

(Final editor's note: UNC, KU, and UCLA have combined for seven Final Four appearances during Barnhart's tenure at Kentucky.)

So in "changing the culture of Wildcat athletics," President Todd changed the basketball program from a national power into a regional one. You hire a regional AD, you get a regional head basketball coach, and that's exactly what Billy Gillispie's career suggested he was before he came to Kentucky, and that's exactly what he's proven since he's been there.

Only an ill-prepared athletics director couldn't see that then or now, and you can say the same for the school president who would hire such an AD.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Big Money Boosters Want Pitino Back at UK

Earlier tonight, one of my colleagues told me that Arizona was hot on the trail of Rick Pitino. UA school officials thought he would be the perfect choice to replace outgoing legend Lute Olson--the same man, of course, who stopped Pitino from winning back-to-back NCAA titles in 1997.

Arizona was prepared to pay $2 million or more for Pitino to move to the desert.

However, in pursuit of details on that story, I stumbled across this stunner: Pitino could very well be on his way back to UK!

Earlier tonight, Pitino hosted two of Kentucky's biggest boosters. I won't divulge the names of those who attended, but I will tell you that one is huge in the banking business, the other in coal.

According to multiple sources, the boosters traveled to Louisville to persuade Pitino to come back to Lexington and try to fix the mess created by Mitch Barnhardt and Billy Gillispie.

Initially, Pitino was pushing Travis Ford for the job, but the boosters said no. They were adamant about wanting Pitino, and only Pitino. So much so, that they said he could have anything he wanted. "Name your price" was a frequent response from the boosters.

Now, don't get too excited just yet. Pitino did not accept the offer, but he didn't turn it down either. After first being reluctant to even listen to any offers, Pitino gave the boosters the impression that he would seriously consider it before ending the meeting.

And if it was up to Pitino's staff at Louisville, which includes Steve Masiello, Walter McCarty, and Richard Pitino (all with ties to Lexington), he would have said yes during the meeting. Word is that Pitino's assistants are really pushing for him to take the job.

And why wouldn't they? Besides going back to the place were Pitino reached the pinnacle of his career, it would also be much easier to win SEC titles every year as opposed to the jam-packed Big East. If the money is truly as good as I am hearing, it would be a no-brainer for Pitino to go back to UK.

However, that doesn't mean he will take the job. I wouldn't be shocked if he did, but I would be somewhat surprised. Nonetheless, I seriously doubt anything official would come out until after the NCAA Tournament anyway.

But anybody remember when Roy Williams was grilled by Bonnie Bernstein about leaving Kansas for North Carolina after losing the NCAA title game to Syracuse in 2003?

Could we witness a similar scene this year in Detroit? UK fans can only hope!

Interesting Rumors Around The UK Program

Currently, I am at Staples Center hosting the halftime and post-game shows for the Clippers game tonight against Golden State-- while also sneaking inside for a peek at the Lakers game against Philly.

But I wanted to pop on real quick because I am hearing some very interesting talk about Billy Gillispie leaving Kentucky as well as the man some big money boosters are trying to get to replace him.

Stay tuned because more details will be coming shortly.

But first I have to tell the fans how Baron Davis is doing while facing his former team.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Ford and Horn Are Not The Right Choices For UK Right Now

Having been born and raised in Kentucky and a proud UK grad, I can understand why so many people think getting a person with Kentucky ties would be good for the program. And while there may be some merits to that idea, it doesn't mean that a Kentucky person would be the right choice right now.

The program needs a person who would make a splash nationally to put the program back in the minds of every top recruit in the country.

I have known Travis since I was 10 years old, and I covered Darrin's high school games in Lexington. But with all due respect to both of them, neither would make blue chippers take notice if they were hired at UK--at least not right now.

Kentucky needs someone to come in like Rick Pitino did back in 1989-- a coach who had success in the college ranks and also had NBA experience. That's why I think Lon Kruger from UNLV or Tim Floyd from USC would be great choices.

However, if you can't find someone with NBA experience, then someone like Jamie Dixon would be a good choice. I have also previously mentioned Lorenzo Romar at Washington and Jeff Capel at Oklahoma because both coaches come from winning programs in their past (Romar was an assistant on UCLA's national title team in 1995 and Capel of course played at Duke) and both have recruited some of the top players in the nation, who have moved or are going to move on to be all-stars in the pros (Brandon Roy at Washington and Blake Griffin at Oklahoma).

Travis and Darrin do not have the overall appeal of any of those coaches.

At times like these, UK fans have to get out of their Kentucky/SEC bubble. UK should be a national program not a regional one.

I think Mitch Barnhart, who came from a very regional program in Oregon State, either lost sight of that fact or never understood it in the first place.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Tee It Up To Support Young Black Scholars

Some of you may or may not know, but I recently became a member of 100 Black Men of Los Angeles. One of our most effective programs is Young Black Scholars (YBS), which is dedicated to ensuring college preparation, leadership development, community responsibility and successful life planning for Southern California high school students.

To date, approximately 14,000 students have matriculated through the YBS program.

We will be holding our primary fundraiser for YBS on Monday, April 6th at Mountain Gate Country Club, and we would greatly appreciate your sponsorship and/or participation in our annual golf tournament.

Winners in all categories will receive trophies and other exciting prizes. In addition, the entry fee includes a continental breakfast, drinks/refreshments on the holes, lunch, dinner and a Mardi Gras show.

Funds raised allow us to assist YBS students in mastering standardized tests (i.e. PSAT, SAT, ACT) by providing a comprehensive test prep series. Low standardized tests scores continue to be a barrier for many Black students applying to major colleges and universities.

You can also sign-up by calling 323-295-2700, by e-mail at: ybsgolf@pacbell.net or online at

Donations made to 100 Black Men of Los Angeles and/or Young Black Scholars are tax-deductible.

PAC-10 Tournament Lived Up To The Hype

For the last several weeks, my colleagues on the PAC-10 television package and I have been saying that the 2009 version of the tournament could be one of the best in recent memory. The strength of competition was so good all season that we believed as many as seven teams were capable of winning the tournament. And that belief turned out to be right on the mark.

Since the tournament was reinstated in 2002, every winner had been either a 1, 2 or 3 seed, except for 2007 when Oregon claimed the title as a 5 seed. This year, USC did the Ducks one better by winning the championship as a 6 seed.

But it wasn't just that the Trojans made an incredible run to the title that made this year's tournament so good. The real dramatics were in the individual games.

You saw superstar players (James Harden, Jordan Hill, et al) put together superstar performances.

You saw some of the best coaches in all of college basketball (Tim Floyd, Herb Sendek, et al) devise impeccable game plans.

And you saw a championship game that displayed the drama that makes March Madness one of the best sports events of the year.

The PAC-10 couldn't have asked for more!

What Happened To The SEC?

As I sit here and watch the championship game of the SEC Tournament, I am fascinated by what I see on the court between Tennessee and Mississippi State. And not in a good way.

The level of play is, quite frankly, pathetic. That statement is not so much an indictment of these two respective teams, but rather the league as a whole.

What happened to the SEC? Whether it's the coaching, the players or both, the league is a shadow of its former self.

We are not that far removed from Kentucky going to three straight NCAA Title games (1996-1998), winning two titles in the process.

And even more recently (2006 & 2007), Florida won back-to-back national titles.

But heading into Sunday's title game, the SEC was only guaranteed to get two teams into the NCAA Tournament. Mississippi State would have to beat Tennessee to make it three teams from the conference earning a trip to the Big Dance.

Both numbers are ridiculous when you consider the wealth of athletic talent in the nine states making up the Southeastern Conference. The league should be able to get at least four teams in the NCAA Tournament every year, even if they just held open tryouts for pickup games.

The SEC may still be King of the college football world, but on the hardwood, the league is close to holding down the last seat on the bench.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Billy G Will Never Change

UK fans forced Tubby Smith out of Lexington because of what was happening--and not happening--on the court, only to replace him with a guy who has produced much worse results on the court and has been a jerk off of it.

And oh yeah, by the way, he's making more than both Tubby and Rick Pitino. Last time I checked, both of those guys won a national championship.

In some regards, I think it's fitting actually. Typical case of people needing to be careful what they wish for. They wanted Tubby out, and look what they got.

You pick the cliche--"the grass is not always greener on the other side" or "you don't know what you've got until it's gone"--because they both apply.

But this situation is bigger than Billy Gillispie. This is about the program, which is always bigger than the coach.

At the PAC-10 Tournament championship game, I spoke to a former coach who knows Billy G really well. He proceeded to tell me that Gillispie doesn't care what people say about him. He just wants his money and he won't change his ways for anybody. John Clay confirmed as much in a recent column in the Lexington Herald-Leader.

Kentucky made a mistake in hiring Gillispie in the first place. An obvious realization to just about anyone, but that mistake should not be compounded by allowing him to stay on the job.

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Sign of the Apocalypse For UK Basketball

If you still need more evidence as to why Kentucky should fire Billy Gillispie, check out this e-mail I received from a close friend in Lexington. I am withholding the name to protect my friend's anonymity.

I mean it's one thing to lose games and be a jerk in the process, but running off former players is blasphemous.

"Yo, the whole program is a JOKE! They do not reach out to former players AT ALL! In fact, they charge them for tickets. Here's what I don't get: If you are an athlete at UK and get a DUI, you get your scholarship taken away (see Desmond Allison). If you have 2 DUI's they hire you to be the Head Basketball Coach and pay you more than Tubby and Rick. Hypocrites bro! All former players are now migrating to Louisville games where they get in for free, hang with Jurich in his suite and get treated like they should.....with respect. It starts with Barnhart. I worked with the man and as we all know, you can't bring in too many outsiders to run this program. It is and will always be run by the Blue Bloods. Instead of trying to run them off, work with them. Whew....I'm done."

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Billy G Needs To Go

So this is what it has come to? Both Western Kentucky and Morehead State locked up automatic bids to the NCAA Tournament, and Louisville could very well end up with a number one seed, yet Kentucky--the team with the most NCAA wins in history--is headed to the NIT? The freaking NIT? Seriously?

Well, that's it. Enough is enough. Billy Gillispie needs to go!

Even though I thought it was a mistake by Kentucky to hire Gillespie to replace the under-appreciated Tubby Smith, I gave the man the benefit of the doubt. Not because I personally saw potential in his abilities, but because Texas coach Rick Barnes and Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel both assured me that Gillispie was capable of being the coach UK needed.

Maybe they were trying to hype up the Big 12 or maybe they simply didn't want to bad mouth Gillispie, but either way, they were wrong. Gillispie is about as far away from being the coach UK needs as Chris Brown is from being Time's Man of the Year.

Not only is the team under performing--NBA execs tell me both Jodie Meeks and Patrick Patterson have a future in the pros--but the program has no sense of direction. Can you tell me what style of play the Cats are supposed to be playing? And if you do know, can you please tell the players, because they obviously have no clue either.

And if that alone wasn't bad enough, Billy Gillispie treats people--including diehard UK fans--as if they don't matter.

Dana O'Neill wrote recently on espn.com that "(Gillispie) is perceived as prickly, aloof and guarded, a lunch pail of bad personality traits in the fishbowl that is Kentucky basketball... He has been brusque with the media, both local and national, and his rude dismissals of ESPN sideline reporter Jeannine Edwards have been a hot topic in Kentucky. He is not one to engage in small talk with anyone, brushing into and out of meeting rooms, locker rooms and breakfast rooms with a purposeful stride."

Tubby Smith was never like that, and although Rick Pitino was a bit leery of UK fans in the beginning, at least he was winning!

Gillispie acts like a jerk--oftentimes for no apparent reason--but can't beat Georgia at home. Nobody likes an asshole, especially one headed to the NIT!

I agree with Kenny Walker and others back in the Bluegrass, who are calling for Kentucky AD Mitch Barnhart to do something drastic: recognize that he made a mistake and fire Billy Gillispie after just two seasons on the job.

Fan morale could be at an all-time low, and player morale seems to be even lower. Both deserve better.

The job at Kentucky is certainly not made for everyone, and it's readily apparent to me that it certainly wasn't made for Billy Gillispie.

Monday, March 9, 2009

PAC-10 Announces Men's Basketball Honors

No real complaints on my part with these awards. In a very competitive year in the conference, all of these honorees stood out in their respective categories. The coaches did a great job with these selections.

WALNUT CREEK, Calif., – In a vote of the 10 Conference coaches, ARIZONA STATE sophomore guard James Harden has been named the 2008-09 Pacific-10 Men's Basketball Player of the Year, WASHINGTON guard Isaiah Thomas has been named Pac-10 Freshman of the Year; USC junior forward Taj Gibson has been named Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year; Washington senior guard Justin Dentmon has been named Pac-10 Most Improved Player of the Year and Lorenzo Romar of Washington is the Pac-10 Coach of the Year, Commissioner Tom Hansen announced today.

You can access the PAC-10's complete news release through this link.

Saturday, March 7, 2009


Amazing what the signing of Manny Ramirez can do for the first day of ticket sales, huh?

-Figure is 33% higher than the 37,000 last year-

LOS ANGELES – Fans of the Los Angeles Dodgers today purchased more than 49,000 tickets for the 2009 regular season, a 33% increase over the 37,000 they bought on the first day of single game sales last year.

The club, which brought back free agents Manny Ramirez, Casey Blake, and Rafael Furcal, and which added such stars as Orlando Hudson and Randy Wolf, held tickets at 2008 prices.

“We are seeing how eager families are to incorporate the Dodgers into their spring and summer plans,” said Chief Operating Officer Dennis Mannion. “We also saw such evidence today at Camelback Ranch – Glendale, where our third home game drew our biggest crowd, 11,896. Enthusiasm is high.”

Single game tickets for the regular season went on sale today via dodgers.com, via telephone (866-DODGERS), and at TicketMaster outlets and the Dodger Stadium box office.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


EL SEGUNDO – The Los Angeles Lakers will conduct “Camp Lakers”, presented by dazadi.com, a youth basketball camp for boys ages 9-18, this July in two sessions, it was announced by the team. The camps will be held for the 10th consecutive year on the campus of UC Santa Barbara. Session one will be held July 3-7; session two will be held July 8-12.

As in the past, both current and former Lakers players and coaches will make guest appearances to help with on-court instruction. Previous players/coaches who have made appearances include: Kobe Bryant, Phil Jackson, Luke Walton, Jordan Farmar, Sasha Vujacic, Rick Fox, Derek Fisher, Brian Shaw, James Worthy, Kurt Rambis, Tex Winter, Jim Cleamons, Frank Hamblen, Bill Bertka and Mitch Kupchak to name a few.

“We are pleased to offer Camp Lakers to young basketball players as a unique opportunity to improve both their skills and overall knowledge of the game,” said Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak. “The campus of UC Santa Barbara is an excellent setting for a camp, and the experience is made even more memorable for the kids with an experienced coaching staff encouraging the importance of teamwork, dedication and sportsmanship coupled with instruction from Lakers players, coaches and scouts reinforcing these core concepts.”

There will be no price increase over last year; cost of the camp is $670 per camper, per session for overnight campers (includes $20 refundable key deposit) and $470 per camper, per session for day campers. Net proceeds from the camps are used by the Lakers for charitable purposes.

Approximately 6,500 campers have attended Camp Lakers over the past nine years, and the camps have sold out every year. It is anticipated that this year’s camps will sell out by late May. For more information, please call the camp hotline at (310) 426-6055, email camps2009@la-lakers.com or visit the Lakers website at www.lakers.com.


In case you didn't know, it's official!

Future Hall of Famer Makes Commitment to Community

CAMELBACK RANCH – GLENDALE – The Los Angeles Dodgers today signed 12-time All-Star outfielder Manny Ramirez to a two-year contract with a player option following the first season. In addition, Ramirez will make a $1 million commitment to the Dodgers Dream Foundation that will help fund Dodgers Dreamfields.

Ramirez is expected to meet with the media at a news conference tomorrow at approximately 10:30 a.m. (MT) at Camelback Ranch – Glendale, located at 10712 W. Camelback Road.

“We are thrilled that Manny wants to be a Dodger and that he has made such a tremendous commitment to the Los Angeles community,” said Dodger Owner Frank McCourt. “We witnessed something very special last year in the way that our fans connected with him and the manner in which the team came together. Now, we focus our complete and undivided attention on our primary goal – winning a World Championship.”

“Manny has shown that he has an ability to significantly alter our lineup,” said Colletti. “Our organization has maintained its commitment to our core of young, homegrown talent while also retaining such key veterans as Casey Blake, Rafael Furcal, and now Manny, all of whom helped us reach the National League Championship Series.

“Manny showed great leadership in the clubhouse and on the field last season and to say we’re very pleased that he’s back with the Dodgers is an understatement.”

Ramirez, who hit .396 (74-for-187) with 17 homers and 53 RBI in 53 regular-season games in a Dodger uniform, helped lead the team to a 2008 National League West Division Championship, a sweep of the Cubs in the Division Series, and its first National League Championship Series appearance since 1988. He became one of the most popular players in franchise history after he was acquired by the Dodgers July 31 along with cash considerations from the Boston Red Sox at last year’s trade deadline as part of a three-team deal with Pittsburgh.

Ramirez’s 21 homers as a Dodger from August 1 through the postseason were the most by any player on the team for the entire season, one more than Andre Ethier’s 20.

The right-handed hitter batted a combined .332 with 37 homers and 121 RBI in 153 games with the Red Sox and Dodgers in 2008. He ranked third in the Majors in batting average, tied for fourth in homers, and tied for sixth in RBI. He also ranked second in the Majors with a .602 slugging percentage, behind only Albert Pujols (.653), and fourth with a .430 on-base percentage.

In the 2008 postseason, Ramirez batted .520 (13-for-25) with four homers, 10 RBI, 11 walks, and a .667 on-base percentage in eight games as the Dodgers swept the Cubs in the National League Division Series before falling to the eventual World Champion Philadelphia Phillies in the National League Championship Series.

Ramirez ranks 17th on baseball’s all-time home run list with 527, and is one of only eight players in baseball history with at least 12 seasons with 30 or more homers (1995-96, 1998-2006, 2008). He is also one of just nine players in history to hit at least 20 home runs in 14 straight seasons.

Ramirez, 36, is a career .314 hitter in 2,103 games with Cleveland (1993-2000), Boston (2001-2008), and the Dodgers (2008). Among active players, he ranks sixth in hitting, third in doubles (507), fourth in home runs, and second in RBI (1,725) behind only Ken Griffey Jr.’s 1,772. Only Griffey Jr. (611), Alex Rodriguez (553), and Jim Thome (541) have more home runs among active players. Ramirez has won nine AL Silver Slugger Awards for outfielders during his 16 Major League seasons.

Ramirez ranks 20th on baseball’s all-time RBI list. He has logged at least 100 RBI in 12 seasons, including nine straight campaigns from 1998-2006. Since “RBI” became an official statistic in 1920, only eight players in history have recorded nine consecutive seasons of at least 100 RBI. Ramirez has 1,353 RBI since the start of the 1998 season, trailing only Alex Rodriguez (1,378) among all Major Leaguers in that time. Ramirez’s 418 home runs in that same span rank second behind only Rodriguez (489).

A veteran of 10 postseasons, including four World Series, Ramirez is baseball’s all-time post-season home run leader with 28, and he ranks second with 74 RBI, just six behind Bernie Williams. Ramirez won two World Series championships with Boston in 2004 and 2007, and was named the World Series Most Valuable Player in 2004. He also played in the 1995 and 1997 Fall Classics with Cleveland.

Among active players, Ramirez ranks fifth in on-base percentage (.411), and seventh in batting average. He also ranks eighth in baseball history, and second among active players behind only Albert Pujols (.624), with a .593 slugging percentage. His 2,392 hits rank ninth among active players, while his 507 doubles are third.

He was the AL batting champ in 2002 with a .349 average and the 2004 AL home run champ with 43.

Ramirez was born in the Dominican Republic and raised in Washington Heights, NY, graduating from George Washington High School in 1991. He was originally selected by the Indians as the 13th overall pick of the 1993 First-Year Player Draft. He then signed with Boston as a free agent on December 13, 2000.

Manny Set To Meet With McCourt

Is it true? Is Manny Ramirez finally on the verge of signing with the Dodgers? Well, that certainly seems to be the case.

According to several sources, including the LA Times, Manny is set to meet with Dodgers owner Frank McCourt as early as Wednesday morning. It's about time!

I, for one, will be so glad when this saga is over. I don't really blame either side, because when it comes to negotiations, it's all business. Both sides want the best possible deal without giving up much to the other.

But regardless of how long the negotiations took, one thing was never in question: LA was the best and only place for Manny to play in 2009.

The Dodgers knew it, the fans knew it, and ultimately, Manny knew it.