Fewer distractions in UofL basketball locker room the better this season

Not long after Tim Sullivan tweeted about a University of Louisville basketball player not being around, Coach Chris Mack has made the locker room off limits to the media after games. A good move, as far as the Observer is concerned, removing some unnecessary distractions. 

Tim Sullivan and friends lose media access to Louisville basketball locker room (Charlie Springer photo).

Sullivan, a Courier Journal sports columnist, was doing his thing following Chris Mack’s first game as UofL’s head coach — the beginning of what could be an eventful career. Never one to let negative news go to waste, Sullivan was interested in asking V. J. King about some FBI recruiting notes. King wasn’t around, having departed before the media arrived.

Nothing really wrong with asking questions, wanting a quote, it’s what Sullivan does. He thrives on being a cynic, putting people on the defensive, exposing alleged transgressions, pointing out shortcomings, bringing darkness to light. A sports columnist or a frustrated evangelist, take your pick.

To place the blame on Sullivan is probably not fair but he wouldn’t hesitate to point a finger or to cast doubt on other people if he himself wasn’t the most obvious suspect. Always the somber one, a walking thesaurus of doom and gloom.

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Not that it has received any credit but Louisville has for years been one of the few remaining basketball programs allowing media into the locker room. Mack never allowed the media into the locker room when he was at Xavier, never even considered it. Despite misgivings, he tried it for one game in UofL’s opener, only to reverse the policy in the next game.

The sports media is complaining about lack of access, of course. The least of their concerns is a new coach implementing a new system with a new group of players. That’s a group of players facing the toughest schedule in the program’s history. With players in a program that is more likely than not to face NCAA scrutiny in the near future for the screwups of the previous bosses.

There is, in fact, the possibility that this young team is facing a seven-game stretch during which wins will be hard to come by. If the worst were to occur, the last thing a coach need for pundits to be poking around in the locker room after a series of losses. Or following a series of upset wins for that matter.

Mack’s job will be further complicated if and when the NCAA follows up on the FBI’s NCAA accusations. Still another media circus seems inevitable. He has the responsibility of protecting players as much as possible from the gloom emanating from allegations of previous recruiting violations. 

The media will, of course, have plenty to say about the perceived slight. There’s no one around to temper them, to reason with them or to muzzle them for that matter. Complaining attracts readers and viewers, stimulates bitching and arguments, provides fodder for talk shows and such, a never ending cycle. Freedom of the press, yes, but don’t ever expect the media to self-impose any limits.

While one can understand the media’s desire to get unfettered access to the players, there’s an equally strong case to be made for Chris Mack wanting to protect his players. Here’s a vote for his taking charge of the situation, doing what he thinks is in the best long-term interest of his team. 

A very long season is looming for Louisville basketball. The fewer distractions in the locker room the better.

Waiting not an option for Vince Tyra to stop Louisville football bleeding

Cindy Rice Shelton photo

Time to act. Quickly. Like right now.

Anyone watching the University of Louisville football team this season knew that something had gone terribly wrong. The Cardinals were giving up 56, 77, and 54 points in lopsided losses over the past three games. Ugly and getting uglier every week, with no prospect that anything was ever going to change.

The question of whether a coaching  change was needed was not if but when. Athletic Director Vince Tyra pulled the pin Sunday morning, feeling the need to immediately relieve Petrino of his duties. Petrino had suffered from the incompetence of his staff and the confidence of his players. He had worn out the welcome mat and exhausted the patience of the UofL administration and Cardinal fans. 

Bobby Petrino was rumored on his way to LSU when Koby Springer held this sign up at the 2004 Liberty Bowl in Memphis (ESPN photo).

He had to go, along with three of his family members on the staff, specifically two sons-in-law — linebackers coach Ryan Beard, defensive line coach L.D Scott — and his son quarterback coach Nick Petrino. Also gone is Andy Wagner, director of football operations, who was blocking UofL media left and right on Petrino’s Twitter feed..

The Cardinals (2-8, 0-7) rank last or near the bottom of the Atlantic Coast
Conference in about every statistical category. Associate Head Coach and safeties coach Lorenzo Ward, was named interim coach.

Petrino was in his second stint as Louisville’s head coach. He was (77-35)
overall and 36-26 during his second stint. He was 21-18 against the Atlantic
Coast Conference. But just 10-16 since a blowout loss to Houston in 2016.
Tyra met with the players Sunday morning, making one thing clear.

Lorenzo Ward overseeing the next two games, attempting to salvage anything positive from the 2018 season.

He wants to  change the atmosphere around Louisville football. Now. Not next season, not when a new coach comes in. Now.

Tyra wants coaches who deserve to be here. And players who want to be here. While things look bleak, he says these players can change that perception and go out winners, especially the seniors. He called on the senior class to take charge and help the young players gain momentum entering next season.

Tyra is also focusing on the 12 players that have petitioned to transfer after the season. He said he would work hard in trying to keep those players.and the deportees who are still in school, arguing it’s not out of question that they could return.

A lot of questions are to be answered before Louisville football can get back on track. Few believed that that was ever going to happen under Bobby Petrino. That was even more obvious to Vince Tyra, and it couldn’t happen soon enough for the fan base.

Good times are long gone, time for Bobby Petrino to go

Athletic Director Tom Jurich couldn’t blamed if he appeared to be having second thoughts about hiring Bobby Petrino as Louisville football coach during a January 2014 press conference (Charlie Springer photo).

A couple of weeks ago one was for giving Bobby Petrino the benefit of the doubt, believing he had earned a mulligan for one bad year because of all he had accomplished during his first eight seasons of guiding University of Louisville football.

After watching UofL flounder helplessly against Wake Forest and Clemson, however, has one been forced to reconsider. A very difficult proposition for the Observer who was thrilled to have Petrino back when he succeeded Charlie Strong in 2014. 

One of my favorite memories of UofL football was attending the Louisville-Wake Forest game in the 2007 BCSOrange Bowl in Miami, along with 35,000 to 40,000 fellow Louisville fans.  UofL was riding an all-time wave of popularity, with a Kentucky fan sitting beside me in a New Year’s Day bowl game before a national TV audience. The Cardinals were riding high, finishing with a 12-1 record and Bobby was considered an offensive genius.

The next day the same UK fan handed me a Florida newspaper with an article indicating that Petrino had accepted a job with the Atlanta Falcons. And just like that, Petrino was gone. He was done with Louisville, finally managing to get what he considered to be a superior job with all the accompanying recognition.

The excitement wouldn’t last long for Petrino, with him not making it through an entire season. He would wind up at Fayetteville, standing behind a microphone shouting, “Woo, Pig, Sooie” at an Arkansas press conference. A couple of years later he was gone, having disgraced himself with an extramarital affair and fired for lying to the school’s athletic director. After a year’s absence, he would wind up  at Western Kentucky University.

After Charlie Strong left for Texas at the end of 2013, Petrino was contacting Tom Jurich and Jim Ramsey, pleading for a second chance at Louisville. The outcome was predictable with Petrino getting the job. There were some concerned board members at the press conference, the concerns were outweighed by the outlook for Petrino’s offense and the prospects for a return of high-powered UofL football.

Five years later, UofL is struggling through its worst season in 20 years, with a 2-7 won-lost record, winless in six conference games, and coming off of a humiliating 77-16 loss to Clemson. There is no evidence of any improvement in any phase of the team’s game at any point this season. The opposite has been true, with the team getting progressively worse, incompetent and inept. 

The defense has to be the worst ever, with opposing teams running over, around and through UofL defenders with little or no resistance. The offense bears no resemblance to previous Petrino teams, getting outscored by an average of 19 points per game. Even worse, the players don’t appear to have any idea of what they’re supposed to be doing on either side of the ball. And it doesn’t seem to bother some of them very much.

Petrino needs to be gone, as soon as possible. The ideal situation would be to fire him immediately and name an interim coach. The problem is there doesn’t seem to anyone on Petrino’s staff anywhere near capable of replacing him. 

The reported $14 million buyout is steep, especially for UofL these days, but it would be the best thing for the future of UofL football. The sooner Petrino is gone, the better. Only after he’s gone will Louisville football be able to move forward again.

Ed Peak: Louisville football is on life support, needing a transplant

As the losses mount, so too does the embarrassment for University of Louisville football. How much more can L1C4 take? It’s like trying to plug an oil gusher with a band aid. No hope.

Did Bobby Petrino forget how to coach? No. Did he miss the lectures on effective human resources management? Yes. Much debate about whether Athletic Director Vince Tyra should relieve Petrino of his duties. Pay the $14 million buyout and run up I-65 to secure home boy Jeff Brohm from Purdue.

Brohm, you’ll recall, was an assistant at Louisville under Petrino. When Petrino left Western Kentucky University, Jeff took over as head coach and led the Hilltoppers to a Conference USA title and two bowl wins before going to West Lafayette.

In in his first season at Purdue he led the Boilermakers to a Foster Farms Bowl win over Arizona. Louisville escaped a loss in Indianapolis in the season opener to that same Purdue team, 35-28. This season after struggling to an 0-3 start, Purdue won four of its next five which included wins over nationally ranked Ohio State and Iowa, as well as Boston College. Yes, The Ohio State University of Coach Urban Meyer. It wasn’t close, 49-20.

Louisville would have to pay Brohm’s buyout at Purdue. He seems happy where he is. He admitted to meeting with Tennessee during their coaching mess last year, but said no. If you would turn down a chance to coach in the almighty Southeastern Conference, a blue blood program like Tennessee, would he come back to Louisville?

I’m told he still has a home in the Ville. He would be a fan favorite and could possibly make a quick fix of the mess on Floyd Street like what was at Purdue. Coaches love coming home but I’m just not sure Brohm is a jumper like so many coaches.

Brohm is a regular guy with humble beginnings. I knew him as a player at Trinity and Louisville and assistant coach for the Cardinals. He and his coaching staff have the respect of many of the state’s high school coaches just like Greg Nord did when he was an assistant at Kentucky and Louisville. Brohm got a steal when he plucked Rondale Moore of Trinity away from Kentucky and Louisville. The receiver is trending to set Purdue and Big Ten freshman receiving records.

Continue reading “Ed Peak: Louisville football is on life support, needing a transplant”

Ed Peak: Succeeding the Godfather comes easy for Chris Mack

Cindy Rice Shelton photo

No light show. No banter. No saluting “The Godfather” of Louisville men’s basketball. Chris Mack walked onto Denny Crum court at the KFC Yum with his assistant coaches before their exhibition game with Bellarmine with little fanfare.

No pomp or circumstance. Just Coach Mack. You might have an idea that I didn’t care for coach Rick Pitino’s grand entrances. “Oh, your kicking a guy while he’s down.” Or, “It’s a part of college basketball’s pageantry.”

I’m saying Mack is a regular guy. Less ego. Easier to deal with. He’s already proven that with his Twitter feeds day and night. Fans love it. It’s the wave of the future. Pitino has one now, too.

There was never a man or woman in the University of Louisville press room that wasn’t on guard, particularity after a Cardinals’ loss, anxious that Pitino would explode after a question he didn’t feel had merit.

Yes, the sports media has reporters that have their own their own agenda. I’m sure in my years of reporting I’ve asked some doozies. I understand there is a lot of pressure on coaches and players, especially after a tough loss.

But don’t make things worse. I know some journalists will persist. Some should, others should not. Coaches are going to tell you what they want you to know. Most everything has a smoke screen anyway. I’ve always thought the facts support themselves.

Louisville struggled to beat a good Bellarmine team, especially in the first half, but did win. After the game it took Mack about 20 minutes or so before he arrived in the press room.

“I apologize for being late, the Bengals were kicking a field goal to win the game,” said Mack who drew laughter from the assembled media. “I have no problem with that. Or do I have a problem with Pitino who would watch the end of Minnesota’s games that his son coaches.

I’m sure coaches and players don’t appreciate the media second guessing every move they make. I could only imagine after a two plus hour basketball game of running jumping and having someone yell at you asking “Why didn’t you block out, or you ran the wrong way off the screen,” gets old.
Then comes the questioning from these so-called experts who never played the game, much less sprinted up and down a basketball court 45 to 50 times during the game.

So when Mack walked on the floor for his first time as UofL head coach what did he feel? “For the first four minutes when we didn’t have a basket, I wanted to go sit up I the stands with my wife and kids,” said Mack.

“No. It’s special I’ve said that any time I’ve interviewed. It’s one of the reason I’m sitting here before you guys how much this means to all of college basketball and certainly to the Louisville community and the University.”

I think it does mean a lot to Mack. He left his alma mater, Xavier, and Louisville basketball is somewhere in the top 10 or even top five of college basketball’s pecking order. “I coach with a lot of pride,” said Mack.

Mack remembered an exhibition game coaching against Bellarmine and coach Scott Davenport in 2010. His Xavier team led by 10 points at halftime only to lose to the Knights at the Cintas Center, 63-61.

“We lost to Bellarmine in nearly the same circumstances (as last Sunday),”said Mack. “They evaporated that lead and our guys didn’t play well that day. Most important thing is learning from it and moving forward.”

Davenport’s son, Doug, coached at Xavier in 2012 where he earned his Masters degree. He knows what Louisville fans should expect.
“I think what people will get from coach is they will become a very, very sound basketball team,” said Davenport. “A team you have to beat that won’t beat themselves. More games are lost than are outright won when you beat someone. More often or not one team loses.

“He’ll get his team so solid where you will have to beat them and that’s difficult to do. That’s difficult to do. Now I look at the polls and I just shake my head. Whoo, it is difficult.”

Now I know Mack is probably going to have his moments where he is unhappy with his team and the media, fans, etc. But one thing for sure. No more pomp and circumstance from The Godfather.