Wes Unseld and his winning ways

By Ed Peak

Big Wesley Unseld was the total package. Some actually believe he was the greatest to ever play basketball at the University of Louisville. The 74-year-old  local legend died Tuesday of complications from pneumonia, according to a statement from his family.

In his three year varsity career, he averaged 20 points and 18 rebounds a game, helping the Cardinals to win two Missouri Valley Conference titles. Unseld’s team lost to Houston and Elvin Hayes in his senior year — a classic matchup of two of the game’s best in the NCAA Touranment.

Unseld was a second round pick of the Baltimore Bullets. He was selected as one of the league’s 50 Greatest Players by NBA.com in 2017. He also coached the Bullets before moving to the front office. He won Rookie of the Year and League MVP honors and led Baltimore to its only NBA title.

I had the opportunity to interview Unseld before the Bullets played an exhibition game at Freedom Hall. Wes, then the head coach, came on the playing floor before warmups. He spotted me, calmly asking, “What are we talking about today?” He looked at me over those big glasses, never cracking a smile. He was in game mode two hours before game. It didn’t matter if was just an exhibition game. Continue reading “Wes Unseld and his winning ways”

Quit giving college baseball the cold shoulder

By Ed Peak

One could say that Ed Peak gets excited over things most people don’t even think about. The last two weeks or so I’ve been hungry for those preseason college football magazines. I picked up two Saturday.

With sports sidelined because of the pandemic since March. I was chomping at the bit, anxiously waiting for something. Anything. NASCAR provided a little relief. as did horse racing and golf.

When I heard the conjecture that professional, college and high school football will be played this fall I was giddy. It looks like the NBA is coming back in Orlando at Disney World. If we could only get major league back on the field, it won’t be a lost summer.

I have sorely missed University of Louisville baseball and coach Dan McDonnell. This could have been Dan’s best. We’ll never know.  We do know McDonnell is in favor of moving the baseball season further into July. Instead of beginning in February as the Cardinals do and a lot of teams in the North and East do, it makes sense to move the start of the season.

Continue reading “Quit giving college baseball the cold shoulder”

Ed Kallay was unapologetic about being a Louisville homer

WAVE-TV Photos

While watching WAVE-TV’s recent replay of the University of Louisville basketball team’s win over UCLA in 1980, I was reminded that one of UofL’s biggest fans ever was not in Indianapolis that night. He would have been overjoyed.

Unfortunately, Ed Kallay, a highly popular media personality synonymous with UofL sports, died three years before that game. It finally struck me the other night that it was a shame he never saw UofL’s first national championship.

Ed Kallay was synonymous with UofL sports in the Sixties and Seventies.

If you’re a Cardinals’ fan and over 50 years old, you grew up listening to him on WAVE radio calling Louisville games.  Kallay was sometimes criticized for his overt rooting for local teams and calling the players by their first names. “That ref must need glasses,” he would say when a call went against UofL.

Ed would never apologize for being a homer. He was a fan first and a play-by-play announcer second. “I couldn’t do it any other way,” he once said.”I make a lot of mistakes… I never try to fool anybody on the air, I admit it right off. A lot of people watch me just to see how much I goof up”

Ed Kallay hosted the Tomorrow’s Champions boxing show in the late Fifties.

He was also the play-by-play announcer for the Louisville Colonels baseball team, often calling the road games by teletype and recorded crowd noise from the WAVE radio studio. He was frustrated by the Colonels at times, frequently declaring, “These guys just can’t stand prosperity.”

As fate would have it, Ed was the first person I saw before a Colonels’ game after making the trip to Louisville from Versailles in 1959. Never ever met anyone he didn’t like.

Kallay was also a close friend to Muhammad Ali and may have played a role in the champ’s later success. He along with Joe Martin, a local policeman and traine

Ed kept the conversation lively with his puppeteer friends on Funny Flickers.

r, started a boxing program called “Tomorrow’s Champions” on WAVE-TV. Muhammad, then known as Cassius Clay, made frequent appearances on the show, along with Jimmy Ellis and Rudell Stitch.

He was known as “Uncle Ed” to a generation of Louisvillians for his noontime show called Funny Flickers on WAVE. The show featured some lively conversation with some dangling marionettes, along with black and white movies of the Little Rascals and the antics of Spanky and Alfalfa.

“Sure, I laugh at myself. I know a lot of people are laughing with me.” Despite offers to go elsewhere, he once said, “Louisville is where I’ll stay.”

Ed Kallay was a Louisville legend. Sorry if you missed him.

Louisville must get in NCAA’s face in the next go-round

Just when one was growing optimistic that some common sense had permeated the NCAA, along comes the organization dredging up old allegations against the University of Louisville.  Launching an attack on a university that completely cleaned house three years ago.

The NCAA is such a bureaucratic organization, with an inherent inability to recognize a school that did all the right things. Plodding along at a snail’s pace, the governing organization always three or four years out of step and behind the times. No flexibility at all, going through the motions, wasting everyone’s time and money.

The best course for the NCAA would have been to acknowledge that UofL had set a laudable example for member schools. Long known for its unpredictable and inconsistent approach to dealing with allegations, the NCAA leadership had a chance to show how schools like UofL could deal with violators. No indication as yet that NCAA has noticed.

The NCAA is not an organization in which member schools are overly concerned about the integrity or the well-being of sister institutions.

Or that the NCAA has noticed that the FBI’s investigations of college basketball recruiting mysteriously only dealt with allegations against Adidas schools when everyone (except the FBI) knows that Nike perfected the process, transforming questionable recruiting practices into a fine art.

Obviously, nothing has changed. No one should be surprised that the NCAA did not praise Louisville’s actions. This is, after all, the same group that severely punished  UofL after the school conducted a thorough internal investigation for the NCAA and self-imposed a year of probation for the basketball program. Only to have the NCAA strip the school of its national championship and two final fours, along with dozens of wins over three seasons.

The NCAA is not an organization in which member schools are overly concerned about the integrity or the well-being of sister institutions. As in the arena, there is intense competition, not only in athletics but in academics. The smarter-than-thou, better-than-thee, holier-than-ye attitudes exist between schools at all levels of the NCAA spectrum. They are like fans, in other words, on steroids.

One gets the impression that they love putting each other down and seeing other institutions embarrassed, especially when their own schools stand to benefit from the misfortune. Especially, too, when a school has made the kind of strides Louisville has made during the last couple of decades.

History has shown that UofL cannot expect any special consideration for the steps it has taken. Confessions, apologies, cooperation, self-imposed punishment and mass firings have never resulted in respect, appreciation or special consideration from NCAA members on the infractions committee.

History also has shown that only when a school aggressively defends itself against the allegations, refuses to cooperate fully, and hires the best possible defense does it stand much of a chance against the NCAA. That’s why Louisville fans and supporters are relieved and excited that UofL President Neeli Bendapudi has pledged a fight this time around.

The University of Louisville has done the right things. Now it must use every resource at its command over the next few months and years to deal with the NCAA and its inability to make the right decisions.  The NCAA, as presently constituted, can’t be trusted to figure things out for itself.

Getting back to normal without fans not possible

By Ed Peak

Way too much time to think and so few answers.

Well into this Covid-19 pandemic, one still doesn’t know how to take all of the solitude and restrictions. Maybe skip around Cardinal athletics a bit and search for some positive vibes.

Possibly go watch the Louisville baseball team. Nope. Season cancelled. At least one can look forward to UofL football. Maybe. Maybe not.

The people predicting football games without fans are ridiculous. No students on campus, no games. I understand. But that’s over four months away. If that’s the case our problems are far more than anyone could imagine.

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Friday is WNBA draft day. Kylee Shook and Jazmine Jones are on most draft selection prediction boards. Speaking of women’s basketball, when the Cards win a national championship coach Jeff Walz can etch his name with other great UofL coaches. See Crum, Schnellenberger, Petrino (phase one), Pitino, Camp, Hickman.

Baseball coach Dan McDonald is on the verge. This season might have been his best team ever. We’ll never know for sure

That brings us back to football. Offensive tackle Mekhi Becton will be an early top five pick NFL pick. Really going out on a limb.

The Cardinals will take over the ACC Network beginning Saturday at 12 a.m. Football’s 2013 Sugar Bowl win over Florida, the basketball Big East win over Syracuse in the conference tournament championship and several other highlight games will be shown over a 24 hour period, including volleyball and men’s soccer.

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Way too early predictions.  My friends say no 12 or 13 football game seasons this fall. If the Cards do play the full year I’ll say 8-4 with a trip back to Music City Bowl.  If they play only conference games then it’s 5-4, with wins over NC State, Syracuse, Boston College, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest. Losses to Clemson, Florida State, Virginia. Notre Dame is in the ACC.

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I’d like to challenge Card Nation during this slow time. Who are your five favorite football, men and women’s basketball and baseball players. Throw your favorite coach of all four sports in as well. Should be easy.  I’ll write about it next week.