Jock Sutherland recalls fun times with Louisville basketball

Photo courtesy Room 17 Productions

Jock Sutherland hasn’t seen a University of Louisville basketball game in person since 2001. That’s a long time for a man who was immersed in the sport for most of his 90 years. But he’s still very much a UofL basketball fan, describing his time with the program as “one of my bonuses in life.”

Since he can’t play golf or travel for basketball games, he relies heavily on his big screen TV to follow the sports he loves. “Being 90 isn’t easy, you have to learn things all over again,” he said. “I see as many Louisville games as I can although it is sometimes a challenge finding UofL games in Central Kentucky.”

Jock Sutherland during his days at Lafayette High School in Lexington where he won a state basketball championship in 1979.

Sutherland was a member of the UofL basketball radio broadcast team from 1981 to 2001. He raised the concept of color commentator to another level, entertaining fans with a zany sense of humor, unrelenting candor and folksy stories. A former member of the University of Kentucky coaching staff, he was often critical of UK on the broadcasts.

The Observer caught up with Jock by telephone on Monday at his Nicholasville home that he shares with his wife Phyllis, adjacent to the Lone Oak Golf Course. He played golf regularly until about five years ago, often participating in UofL golf scrambles,  before being sidelined with arthritis in both knees.

Jock Sutherland with his son Charles, Jr., at the annual Press Box Golf Scramble at the UofL Golf Club in 2014 (Charlie Springer photo).

Sutherland, who coached Lafayette to the state high school championship in 1979, got his start in media a year later as an analyst with Dave Conrad at UofL games on WHAS TV. “We didn’t have replays in those days, and it was tough explaining the technical stuff,” he recalls.

When Conrad left for another job, Van Vance asked Jock to join the Louisville broadcast team.  “I had the worst voice in the world and I didn’t know anything about radio,” he said. “I was so bad we made a pretty good team. He just wanted me to talk so I talked. It was wonderful. I had a great time and got to know a lot of Louisville people. I wouldn’t take anything for that experience.”

Van Vance hired Jock Sutherland in 1981 to do color commentary for UofL basketball (WHAS Radio photo).

Sutherland and Vance have stayed in contact over the years, getting together at the Cracker Barrel in Lawrenceburg to rehash memories. “Van was a great guy to work with and quite a character,” he said. “He was the ultimate bachelor, with some quirky habits. He would eat supper at weird hours, nothing for him to go to Kroger at 4 o’clock in the morning.”

Jock, who retired from broadcasting the same year when Coach Denny Crum left the program, was obviously disappointed with some of the off-the-court activities affecting Louisville basketball in recent years. “The dorm activity never would have happened with Denny,” he said. “There was no way, we had too many people on campus. We had a coach there (in the dorm) every night.  I don’t think Rick Pitino had any idea what was going on.

“That one assistant caused all the problems, and it has cost him dearly. It has cost UofL dearly, too. It’s a shame but the school, the program will recover and come back better than ever.”

Sutherland isn’t fond of some of the changes in basketball over the last few decades. “I have never liked the three-point shot or all the dunking in today’s game,” he said. “I especially don’t like the one-and-done stuff at UK. Fans don’t get to know the players and the players aren’t learning much about the game.”

He says there will never be another Denny Crum and the place will never be the same as when Crum was there. “Denny was a special person. I never heard Denny say a curse word in 20 years. I never saw him embarrass a player in 20 years. Denny never said a word if I was critical during a game.”

He is optimistic about the future of UofL basketball, predicting great things under Chris Mack’s leadership. “They’re coming back, they’ll definitely be back,” he said. “We’ve got a guy here now who has a good reputation and he’s a great recruiter. I guarantee you that in about three years, UofL will back to where it was, competing at the highest levels.”

Sutherland was constantly choking up during the interview, obviously still proud to have worked with the Louisville basketball program, still wondering at times how it was possible.

“I had the worst voice in the world but I did know my subject.  When they bury me, I will take some wonderful memories with me.”

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Jock was recently interviewed by film producers Renee Collins and Warren Cobb for Room 17 Productions as part of a documentary about one his former players, Greg Austin. A phenomenal athlete in basketball, football and track, Austin played for Jock’s 1967 team and earned fame as a country music singer. In the interview Jock also reveals how he earned the nickname. 

The Greg Austin Story: Charles “Jock” Sutherland from Renee Collins on Vimeo.

Arica Carter there when Louisville women need her most

Coach Jeff Walz wanting to get closer to the action as North Carolina mounts a comeback against UofL in the opening game of the Atlantic Coast Conference portion of the schedule.

Arica Carter was not in the starting lineup at tipoff for the opening tip against North Carolina. But she would be there when the University of Louisville most needed her, barely clinging to a lead with the clock winding down.

Asia Durr receives a basketball before the game commemorating her 2,000th point, making her the third leading scorer in the program’s history.

North Carolina had reduced a 19-point lead to two points at with five minutes to go — talented and inspired, hoping to knock UofL from the ranks of the unbeaten. Conference opener a preview of things to come for the Cardinals.

But that was when Carter went to work, scoring five straight points and eight of UofL’s final 14 points. Destined to make a difference, filling the void on a off night for Asia Durr. No tolerance for any upset, she would secure the 73-66 win in front of a crowd of 8,506 at the KFC Yum! Center.

Making an equally strong impression was junior Jazmine Jones with one of the best games of her career, with 17 points, eight rebounds and two assists. Kylee Shook, Dana Evans and Durr would add 10 points apiece.

North Carolina, with a 9-7 record, providing evidence that the ACC may be much stronger from top to bottom this season. Louisville with a 13-0 record now, but the road ahead is littered with opponents who will be highly motivated. Nobody said it was going to be easy.

Free admission for Louisville baseball’s first nine home games … and more

Did someone say free?

Yes, free admission is back, at least for most non-conference game at Jim Patterson Stadium for the 2019 season. The first nine games will be non-conference games for the University of Louisville baseball team.

The 2019 season gets under way on Feb. 15 with a three-game series against UConn in Lakeland, Fla. The home schedule opens with an opening game against Eastern Kentucky University on Feb. 20, followed by three games against Brown University Feb. 22-24, a game against Xavier on Feb. 26, three games against James Madison March 2-4, and Morehead State on March 6.

The schedule also includes free non-conference games against Mississippi, Alabama A&M, Western Kentucky, and Northern Kentucky.

Of course, all of UofL’s 15 Atlantic Coast Conference home games will require paid admission, as well as two non-conference games against Vanderbilt and Kentucky.

The 2019 reserved chairback ticket packages are priced at $110 for adults, $90 for senior adults/youths and $90 for families of four or more. Season tickets for the left field berm are $50 per ticket.

Season tickets can be purchased by calling 502-GO-CARDS or by visiting the UofL ticket office at Cardinal Stadium.

Louisville seems content to hang around against Kentucky

A game Dwayne Sutton wants to forget, Louisville’s third leading scorer managing only two points for the day (Cindy Rice Shelton photos).

May be a while before University of Louisville basketball plays another Kentucky team so lacking in talent as was so evident on Saturday. But that’s irrelevant because UofL never posed a serious threat to the Wildcats.

Chris Mack gave his team a chance against Kentucky but was outmanned in his first game in the rivalry (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Choose a reason — lack of focus, no consistency, little confidence, an absence of leadership, no visible will to win — any of these qualities were in evidence in a 71-58 loss to Kentucky. No perceived benefit either from the boisterous UofL diehards in the crowd of 20,882 at the KFC Yum! Center on Saturday.

A UofL team able to connect on only  five of 20 three-point field goal attempts. Not much better on close-up attempts, unable to finish, blowing uncontested shots at times. Seemingly content to just hang around, spotting UK 10-point-plus leads,  lacking the ability to hit two or three shots in a row.

The crowd of 20,882 was the largest at the KFC Yum! Center this season.

Credit Coach Chris Mack for keeping his team as close as it was, avoiding a second straight blowout to Kentucky. The offensive schemes were good, the 1-3-1 zone offense could have been effective. But not without booster shots of mental toughness and consistent focus.

If there was a bright spot, it was the play of Christen Cunningham, who almost singlehandedly kept UofL within striking distance in the first half. The 6-foot-2 graduate transfer from Samford University had three of Louisville’s five 3-point shots and a team-leading 20 points.

Jordan Nwora, the team’s leading scorer, accumulated 17 points but teammates Dwayne Sutton and Darius Perry managed only seven points between them. Sutton never took a shot during the first 20 minutes. Ryan McMahon couldn’t possibly get open, winding with two free throws.

Not a blowout at least, but not all that encouraging. Not with UofL hosting Miami next Sunday in the first game of a grueling ACC schedule. 

An early wakeup call, a reminder for Louisville fans to keep expectations in check for the rest of the season. Chris Mack’s work has only just begun.

Slideshow courtesy of Cindy Rice Shelton.

Louisville vs. Kentucky, 2 p.m., ESPN2

The good guys, those representing the University of Louisville, deserve to win this rivalry game. 

UofL has been through some challenging times. But one thing UK fans should never doubt is that Louisville is never going to go away. Emerging stronger than ever from the chaos, much to the disappointment and chagrin of some Wildcat followers.

If the ongoing battles have taught Louisville people anything, it may well be that there are more important concerns for the University’s supporters than the athletic rivalry. Louisville has got to aim much higher in all areas of academia and athletics.

Much more significant aspirations and relevant goals to achieve, improving the outlook for the community and mankind. UofL’s best days are very much ahead of her.