Pitino right person to message Kentucky basketball fans

Rick Pitino may or may not have shown the middle finger to some fans in Lexington following the Louisville vs. Kentucky basketball game. The quality of the cell phone video is bad, making it impossible to verify anything.

The only thing for certain is that many UK fans want to believe it happened. So many of them have been obsessing about it on the radio talk shows the past couple of days. If that’s what they believe, there’s no changing their minds. They believe a lot of incredulous things about their program.

Rick Pitino knows UK fans well.
Rick Pitino knows UK fans well.

A spur of the moment impulse whatever it was, following a bitter defeat to a hated arch rival. Who knows what abuse some UK fan(s) may have directed toward Pitino as he headed for the locker room. There’s obviously still a lot of hate for the former Kentucky coach in Lexington.

Pitino was someone they admired, respected and idolized.  As effective as John Calipari has been at UK, one does not sense the same high levels of adoration or affection. The distinct impression is that he’s more of a hired gun than a beloved figure, with all the winking and nodding when his name is mentioned.

Many UK fans have never forgiven Pitino for leaving to take a job in the NBA. They hate him much more for taking the University of Louisville job. Doesn’t matter that John Calipari took UK’s recruiting to another level, they consider themselves the jilted lovers, the ones he left behind.

They trash him regularly, every chance they get, justified or otherwise, making up stuff if they have to, their collective attitude epitomized by Matt Jones of the Kentucky Sports Radio. Jones was quick to capitalize on the grainy video, tweeting about it within a couple of hours after the game. His followers unashamedly lap it up.

Some UofL fans are also hoping that Pitino actually did make an obscene gesture to the UK fan base. If so, the action would reflect the collective wish of many University of Louisville fans. Not that such a gesture would be a great display of civility or sportsmanship, but if any individual were justified in sending UK fans a message it would be Rick Pitino.

If some Kentucky fans want so badly to believe the worst, they may want to heed the message and follow it to their desired conclusion.

The Calipari whining, the Wesley ties and Pitino recruiting

Should be okay for University of Louisville fans to get out in public now, with the loss to Kentucky a couple of days in the rear view mirror. Not a fun rivalry.

The worst part about losing to UK in any sport is that Wildcats fans, a large segment of them anyway, are unable to give the University of Louisville credit for what it has achieved, even following a third national championship in 2013.

The less interaction UofL partisans have with UK fans the better in the days immediately following a game, whether the outcome was a win or a loss.

One need not look any farther than John Calipari, their head basketball coach, as a prime example. Rather than give the Cardinals’ defense credit during a halftime interview, the UK coach predictably alludes to the physical play. Sorry, coach, but UofL is never going to roll over for Kentucky.

Calipari is used to having calls go his way, especially at Rupp, and when they don’t, he gets that slack-jawed, whiny look on his face. That familiar expression of someone who looks guilty of something, knowing he’s gotten away with it, and making one wonder he’s done lately. Not one mention of the way UofL played, focusing exclusively on his own team in the post-game press conference.

Meanwhile, UofL Coach Rick Pitino is complimenting UK of having one of the best defensive teams he’s seen in 40 years of coaching, expressing admiration for Calipari’s ability to keep the Kentucky players happy with their limited playing time.

Pitino should know a good defense when he sees one, with defense being his major emphasis at UofL and offense almost an afterthought. The coach’s “offensively-challenged” basketball team desperately needs more attention, starting with the point guard play.

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Pitino said on his post-game radio show that “Louisville fans may not like it, but Kentucky has better players than we do.”

Rick Pitino
Rick Pitino

It was an unintended reminder from Pitino that Calipari has not only outcoached Pitino, winning six of the seven games between the two schools and has never lost a recruit to Pitino. UofL fans will never be happy with that equation.

Interesting that William Wesley, also known as World Wide Wes, again managed to find a front row seat, even at the KFC Yum! Center. The individual who has made most of Calipari’s success possible at UK, Memphis and, probably, at Massachusetts

Front row seats on the floor are not the best place to watch a basketball game, providing a poor perspective of the overall action. Those seats are generally for people who want to be seen, often having bigger interests than the outcome of a particular game.

Wesley is a mover and shaker, actually the kingpin, in the college basketball recruiting. As long as Calipari and Wesley remain on good terms, UK will have first pick of emerging high school talent. Small wonder the UofL roster includes a growing number of foreign-born players.

Still waiting for the next assist, Louisville bows to Kentucky

One assist in a game where assists are essential, a lack of focus on the fundamentals, 40 minutes of panic on offense, the University of Louisville basketball team unable to establish any momentum, apparently content to keep it close.

Too big an underdog not to play loose and aggressive, wanting and willing a win. That’s how rivalry games are supposed to be decided.

Kentucky winning 58-50 by virtue of nine assists, more than half of them to Tyler Ulis, unaffected by the racous atmosphere, sinking five of eight field goals, including two three-point daggers.

When and if UofL Coach Rick Pitino reviews the game film with his team, he may want to focus on the blue team, moving the ball around to find the open shooter. Doesn’t matter who you’re playing, find the open man. Against a team as tall as UK, move the ball, find a teammate.

Chris Jones was credited with the one assist, one that nobody remembers. Taking too much on himself as usual, wandering in among the trees, throwing up 12 blanks in 15 tries. Incapable of taking his team on his shoulders, but unable to concede leadership to Terry Rozier.

Rozier, not blameless for the lack of assists, possibly not making himself available often enough, finding the basket on five of 18 shots, four of four free-throw attempts. Like Jones, making too many contested shots, not looking for teammates.

Wayne Blackshear needed a game like this to show some progress but he wasn’t up to the task, still needing more time, running out of it. Making only two of nine field goal attempts, six of nine free throw attempts, including two misses at the end typical of his career thus far.

Montrezl Harrell just up against too many big people in the middle, keying on him, matching him step for step, still managing nine points and eight rebounds.

Shaquan Aaron probably should have seen more playing time, a player like Ulis unaffected by the environment, a pure shooter, the only pure shooter on this team, but we will never know whether he would have gotten the ball in a one-assist game. Good for one three-pointer on two shots.

Anas Mahmoud could have supplied the cool, unaffected attitude that seemed so lacking. All that development in the past two games apparently not for this opponent.

Three or four more assists may or may not have made a difference but it would have far better than next to none.

Countdown to kickoff: Louisville basketball schedule released

Screenshot 2014-08-28 10.26.38Right on schedule, five days before the opening kickoff of the football season, the 2014-15 University of Louisville basketball schedule has been released.

We keep hearing how it takes months to finalize the schedule but it always comes out the last week of August. This season’s release all but obscured in the excitement leading up to Monday’s football opener against Miami.

This town can’t wait for the football season to begin, some fans complaining that 2 p.m. is too late in the day to open the Green Lot for tailgating for an 8 p.m. kickoff.

A clear sign of just how far football has come in Louisville over the past decade.  UofL has won two BCS bowls and finished in the top 10 twice, sixth in the Associated Press poll in 2004 and 2006. The Cards were 19th in the 2005 poll and 13th after the 2013 campaign.

Not too many years ago, the new basketball schedule would have been a serious distraction. Thankfully, those days are history.

Regardless, the basketball schedule is probably the toughest in UofL’s rich history, featuring home games against Duke, North Carolina, Ohio State and Kentucky and a challenging father-son matchup against NIT champion Minnesota at a U.S. Air Force facility in Puerto Rico.  Eighteen games with Atlantic Coast Conference foes, including a February 18th showdown at Syracuse.

Football first, however.