Slipping in almost unnoticed among the 1,400 fans attending the University of Louisville basketball Tip-Off Luncheon Thursday was Jim Host, the mastermind behind the design and construction of the KFC Yum! Center, a facility Rick Pitino calls the finest basketball arena in the world.
Host tackled the project at a time when the world’s economy was tanking badly, guiding his baby through a troubled bond market and numerous political barricades, never taking no for an answer. He brought creativite approaches and borrowed some of the best ideas from existing facilities to provide a remarkable monument to U of L basketball in the heart of the state’s largest city.
What was surprising during the luncheon was that Jim Host didn’t receive any recognition on a day when Pitino was dropping names by the dozens during a 40-minute monologue.
Then it occurs to one that maybe Host didn’t want any recognition. Maybe the former University of Kentucky basketball and baseball player was there as a fan. Or on another mission.
The former publisher and media executive has extensive ties throughout collegiate athletics. Possibly he’s helping Tom Jurich on another project, like navigating the complexities of conference realignment. The man has connections, he’s obviously a genius, and he loves tackling difficult challenges.
Just maybe. We also know his name has been on TJ’s speed dial list for a while.