Friday, August 28, 2009

Pitino, Calipari and Now Gillispie - Crazy Couple of Weeks in Kentucky; Quick Favre Talk

The news has been coming from all directions in sports this week. Some of it actually matters, much of it—the breathless updates on Brett Favre’s relationship with his new teammates come to mind—does not.

Let’s talk about Favre for just a moment. I believe ESPN now has 43 people assigned to the NFL which means there are 43 people getting yelled at regularly for getting beaten on stories by Jay Glazer. One of the 43 put something out the other day about a rift between Favre and his new Viking teammates. My guess is three or four of the Vikings have grumbled—not for attribution of course—about Favre’s Hamlet act and all the attention he has been getting since he rode into camp. (I’m also guessing none of them actually reference Hamlet).

Gee, that’s a surprise. So here’s the deal: Favre produces wins, everyone will love him; he doesn’t the grumbling will grow louder. Someone may actually go on the record. There is truly nothing more meaningless in sports than the month of August in the NFL, unless it is the month of July in the NFL. But because the sport is an obsession in this country, training camp workouts are actually analyzed. In New York, they are STILL talking about Mark Sanchez’s first pass in an exhibition game a couple weeks ago as if it was Eli Manning to Plaxico Burress for the winning touchdown two Super Bowls ago.

The NFL will matter—a lot—beginning September 10th. Until then, everything, including what Michael Vick did in his EXHIBITION debut last night, tells us nothing and matters about as much as the Mets 34 remaining games. (No truth to the rumor that they’re bringing Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman back to pitch, although I do think they could help).

If you want news right now the state of Kentucky is the place to be.

As a reporter, it is tough to criticize Rick Pitino for actually meeting with the media and taking questions on the soap opera that his life has become. Most guys in his situation would hide behind the, “it’s under adjudication,” excuse. And yet, listening to Pitino, it was hard to feel sorry for him—his family, yes—Pitino, no.

This is on him, even though there seems little doubt that he got himself involved with someone who isn’t playing with all 52 cards. Maybe not half a deck come to think of it. The notion that the media is in any way responsible for this is simply ridiculous. None of the media were in that restaurant six years ago. For Pitino’s sake, I hope he’s telling the truth and the whole truth right now. If any hole at all is punched in his story, as popular as he is at Louisville and as successful as he has been, he’ll be gone. My gut says this one isn’t going to have a happy ending for anyone.

On the subject of unhappy endings: how about the sage of Billy (the kid) Gillispie. Just a few years ago he was one of college basketball’s hot coaches. He had taken downtrodden programs at UTEP and at Texas A+M and built winners and that got him hired at Kentucky. That meant a lot of money, a lot of glamour and a lot of scrutiny. Gillispie didn’t win enough at UK and got fired this spring. A coach with his resume can certainly bounce back from something like that.

But he had two DUI stops along the way, plus the weird story about the lawsuit that happened because he never got around to actually signing his contract at Kentucky. The other night, he got stopped for DUI again. He refused to take a breathalyzer and spent the night in jail. Not good. The worst part may have been the cop who made the stop referring to him as “Billy,” when describing his condition. My guess is most police in Kentucky would NEVER refer to Coach Calipari as “John,” or “Cal,” at this point. Then again, he’s never lost a game at UK.

Can Gillispie come back from this and coach? Sure. He’s won before so someone will take a chance on him someplace. But if the police description of his condition is accurate, he needs to get some help before he thinks about coaching again.

As for Coach Cal? He’s started off-season workouts at Kentucky and is as happy as a hockey fan when a fight breaks out. My guess is John will win a national championship—or two—at Kentucky. If he does, his on court resume should make him a lock Hall of Famer. The question is this: With two Final Four appearances vacated at two schools, will he get in? Other coaches convicted of crimes by the NCAA police are in the Hall, how will the voters (whose names are kept strictly secret by the oh-so-sanctimonious people who run the Hall) treat Calipari when the time comes?

One other Kentucky note I’ve been meaning to get to all week: In writing my Washington Post column earlier this week I repeated a mistake I’ve made for years. I always thought it was $10,000 that fell out of the envelope en route to Chris Mills’ father. It was actually $1,000. I apologize for the mistake I wish it was my first, I’m pretty sure it won’t be my last. I will say this though: it seems to me that sending that kind of money is even STUPIDER than sending 10 grand. If you’re trying to buy a player, BUY him for crying out loud.

There’s a guy who runs a website listing the all-time enemies list for Kentucky basketball. (Talk about needing a life). I’m proud to report I’ve been number one on that list for many years ahead of such villains as Sports Illustrated, Billy Packer and Bob Knight. He was absolutely right to complain about me getting the dollar figure wrong. I’d also say he’s sort of missing the forest for the trees but that’s another story for another day.


Josh said...

The man you refer to hosting the "all-time enemies list" is Jon Scott, one of the most well studied, knowledgeable, and generally pleasant basketball fans you will ever encounter. He's a historian of Kentucky basketball, and as I'm sure you know (and purposefully neglected to relay in the article, as you are wont to do), the critics of the program page is only a tiny fraction of what he has up there.

If you were to talk to him in person, you'd realize that he wouldn't personally insult anyone, or be anything less than completely cordial in conversation, for that matter.

Anonymous said...


You have talent, but you reduce yourself to a hack when you continue to blindly write with an agenda. Use all the facts, not simply the ones that help you to sleep better at night.

Anonymous said...

Who is the most NCAA penalized basketball program in the country, at least of the 'top programs'? Is it Kentucky? I'm a UCLA alumn and I KNOW it isn't us.

Truzenzuzex said...

Dear UCLA fan above:

If Bill Walton et. al. are to be believed, you should be.


Josh has already defended Jon Scott, and I'll completely echo his comments. You have earned your place there, and a perusal of that page contains enough evidence in your own words, not to mention your own comments above, that you qualify as major detractor. The interested may judge for themselves at I personally forwarded your comments to Jon so he could share in the unintended hilarity.

As to your allusion to basketball as a religion in Kentucky, that is of course hyperbole. It is no more a religion than football is at Notre Dame, or baseball is in New York. We have no professional sports teams in Kentucky, so naturally, college sports here in the Commonwealth are a big deal, not just at UK, but also at Louisville, Western Kentucky and other colleges.

I won't presume to tell you how to do your job, especially in your currently frail condition recovering from heart surgery, but I think all UK fans really want from any sportswriter is a fair shake, not a presumption of badness. As you are a Duke alum and fan, I would point to your fellow Blue Devil Jay Bilas as a writer who really gets the idea that he shouldn't let his personal preferences overwhelm his objectivity.

As a parting shot, I do find it instructive that you didn't make up with Pitino until he was no longer at Kentucky.

I'm sure that was a coincidence, though.

JDM said...

I am a huge fan of John but I just want him to respond to Jon Scott repeatedly contradicting him about Rupp and mentioning time and again that again, Adolph recruited Wes Unseld before the Texas Western game.

Jack Moore said...

Feinstein is incapbale of objectivity. His allegiance to Puke, er, Duke prevents him to have an ounce of credibility. It seems to me there was an incident where a Duke player received some money, yet the NCAA did nothing. What say you Johnny?
Oh, if you are going to say, "there were whispers", document it. Who was whispering and what were the whispers about? Anyone dweeb can say that. Grow a pair and tell what it was or go write for a tabloid. You stinking Hack.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for FINALLY correcting that $10,000 LIE you have been telling for years. Now will you stop repeating that 25-year-old "quote" from Jerry Tarkanian in the same sentence? Do you have a macro that drops in that quote and the $10,000 line every time you type the word "Kentucky?" And what the heck did any of that have to do with John Calipari???

Here's a challenge for you, John. Write a column mentioning Kentucky basketball that tells the truth: it was never "too big" to get the worst sanction the NCAA can impose, and the program has been clean since Eddie Sutton left in 1989.

Joe said...

It's so brutally obvious that Feinstein has an axe to grind against Kentucky. Nothing quite like a disgruntled Duke alumnus/fan who wants to take unsubstantiated potshots against Kentucky. I think it's deplorable that this article lacks a great deal of objectivity which I would expect from someone who claims to have some expertise in this area. John, try not to be so transparent in your disdain of Kentucky. Your Duke colors are showing through...and it's not very becoming at all.

Anonymous said...

Hey I do not have to be anonymous. My name is Richard D. Hackworth and I am from Kentucky.

You suck. Period.

How about an article about Cory Magettee admitting he cheated and played a year with DUKE and the NCAA did nothing. Coach K is their little sweetheart and reporters like you try to expose other programs like Kentucky. This is in reference to the Washington Post article.

Sarah said...

Whoa. Vehement crowd. Seriously boys, it's ok. If you don't like John's opinion, why are you reading the blog? I was just going to post a little comment about the Bret Fa-vrey issue because I have always thought the guy a diva and this only proves it. But I think maybe I'll just be quiet and stay out of the fray....

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