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.

Get on the bandwagon, support UofL through Amazon Smile

May want to get on board. 

For a couple of years now, I have been participating in the Amazon Smile program, in which a portion of the proceeds go a consumer’s favorite charity. My choice, of course, was the University of Louisville Foundation. 

I hadn’t paid much attention to the details, just pleased to see more money going to UofL. You know, wanting to help the alma mater in any way possible, especially during the turmoil of the past couple of years.

An Open Records Request to the University of Louisville was somewhat disappointing, indicating that UofL had only received $73.96 from the program over the last three academic years. Resulting from $14,792 in sales to UofL supporters.

The percentage of Amazon’s gift is .05% of each sale. For example, .05% is only half a penny, a nickel for ever $100 in purchase, or fifty cents from a purchase of $1,000. Even so UofL should be getting much more from the program.

Go to your Amazon account and make the UofL Foundation your charity. When you’re ready to buy, just sign into smile.amazon.com, make your purchase, and Amazon will come through with a donation. What could be easier?

A musical ode to the Pizza Man and fall from grace

Now a song has been written about poor ol’ John Schnatter, the pizza man. Rapidly becoming a cartoon caricature of the kind of person everyone loves to hate. Happy ending not possible.

John Schnatter and his wife, Annette, had courtside seats for the University of Louisville-Florida State basketball game (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

The rapid decline of Schnatter from a fabulously successful businessman to an angry and frustrated untouchable is chronicled by Don R. Mueller, PhD, a former physics professor and New York blogger recently profiled in The New York Times.

The blows just keep coming for the disgraced pizza icon. He has a way of offending someone every time he opens his mouth. A casualty of the cultural wars, unable to negotiate the slippery slopes of the politically correct landscape, antagonizing the people who made him filthy rich.

Don Mueller, a New York physicist, chronicled Papa John’s decline in song on YouTube

Always looking for a fight it seems. No longer welcome at Cardinal Stadium or the University of Louisville  campus. The last Papa John’s signs were trucked away from the stadium last week. He’s not even wanted at the corporate headquarters of the company on Papa John’s Boulevard in Louisville.

The Pizza Man discovering the hard way that money can buy only so much love. He has only himself to blame.

Mending wounds of old friends important to healing at UofL

One of the great things about the growth of the University of Louisville over the past couple of decades was that one always felt like he or she was an integral part of helping to transform UofL from a sleepy urban school to a dynamic and growing university.

It hurt and hurt deeply when some of the architects of that movement, the people in leadership roles, the people one got to know so well, the people one respected as friends and visionaries, were unceremoniously dismissed despite of what they had accomplished at UofL.

'They really didn’t care (about the loss in donations). UofL in the Atlantic Coast Conference became a crown jewel; they wanted it and they got it.'

Not surprising that some influential individuals in the community would want to exercise control over the University. Not surprising either that many supporters want to keep an arm’s length from people who forced  change, sometimes traumatic, upon the institution.

Dr. Bob Hughes, former chairman of the UofL Board of Trustees and the UofL Foundation, often indicated that the “wine and cheese crowd in the East End” was behind the upheaval at the school, wanting their own people in charge. 

“That was the goal from day one when they came on,” he told Card Game in a recent email. “It is only becoming more obvious with time; however, the delta on donations from the negativity it took to take control is about $50 million annually in donations to the foundation. They really didn’t care. UofL in the Atlantic Coast Conference became a crown jewel, they wanted it and they got it.”

With the Board of Trustees now under the thumb of J. David Grissom, a financial advisor to many of the community’s wealthiest families, Hughes’ theory definitely has credibility, even given all the charges of financial mismanagement and malfeasance that has been alleged. There’s no denying that UofL is now under much different oversight.

Not that that is necessarily a bad thing. Getting the community’s blue bloods invested in the future of the school would be a very positive development. Opening up new relationships and even deeper purses may be just what the University of Louisville needs to achieve higher levels of excellence. Some have criticized the school’s success in athletics, believing it may have impacted UofL’s lack of respect in academic circles. Some believed Tom Jurich’s fundraising success in athletics was crippling contributions to academics. Ironic coming from John Schnatter, who pledged $19 million in Papa John’s stock to UofL athletics.

The board most prominent recent hire, that of Neeli Bendapudi as the school’s 18th President, appears to have been a master stroke. She’s an individual with a successful track record of fundraising at the University of Kansas. But equally important, she seems to have the ability to communicate effectively with people from all walks of life. Plus, she has indicated that she very much wants UofL’s success in athletics to continue.

It’s going to take a while for Vince Tyra to  be loved by Louisville fans as much as Tom Jurich. But Tyra has been effective in retaining successful coaches and unquestionably wants UofL athletics to continue competing at the highest levels. Consider the school fortunate to have such an individual eager to step up when UofL needed him most.

Chris Mack, the new UofL basketball coach, is the exact opposite of Rick Pitino in many ways. But like Pitino he’s certainly not bashful when it comes to challenges while acknowledging the Louisville job and fan base as among the best in the nation.

Even some of the board’s most ardent critics have admitted that these hires were great choices, giving many of them second thoughts about the motivations of some board members. Could it be that the old money crowd actually knows what it’s doing, cares about the school and wants UofL to pursue even higher aspirations?

The people currently in control have had much to deal with over the past two years, making some difficult decisions. They’ve done it in a difficult environment, and their decisions have not always been popular.  Be they business or civic leaders, they are responsible to putting UofL back on the right path to respectability and prosperity.

Grissom recently decided the board, having successfully dealt with many of the school’s issues, would no longer have to meet monthly, going back to the old schedule of meeting quarterly. That’s another good sign, indicating that the Board of Trustees has high levels of trust in Neeli Bendapudi’s leadership abilities.

Now with so many of the problems in the past, the University can begin to restore many of the relationships that made the progress possible in the past two decades. Bendapudi may be the right person in the right place at the right time, with her unique ability to relate to the old money crowd and the everyday fan and supporter.

Time to look forward again, this time with a deeper base of support.

Christy Brown signals old money crowd to get behind Bendapudi

Christy Brown is the reigning matriarch of the Brown dynasty in Louisville.

Old Louisville money spoke loudly about Neeli Bendapudi’s future as the new President when local philanthropist and socialite Christy Brown announced this week she was giving $5 million to the University of Louisville.

“Our university has today turned a glorious page, and it’s begun a new chapter with the arrival of our fabulous new president,” said Brown as she made a pledge to a new UofL Envirome Institute to study the effects of the environment on individual health.

The matriarch. The grande dame. Christy Brown had spoken. 

Brown was, in effect, announcing her blessing for Bendapudi just five weeks after she assumed the office at the UofL on May 15th. The importance of her actions can’t be overstated. The widow of the late Owsley Brown II is the matriarch of the powerful Brown family dynasty that derived its fortune from Brown-Forman Distillers.

The influence of the Browns and others in the extended family is pervasive. It was Christy Brown, remember, who hosted Prince Charles in Louisville during his four-day visit to the U.S. in 2015. The family also hosted Queen Elizabeth at the Kentucky Derby in 2007.

Christy Brown says Neeli Bendapudi’s presence turns a glorious new page for the University of Louisville.

Making the guest list for Brown’s  parties or events she attends is a must for the socially ambitious. She’s always the center of attention in any activity in which she participates, with ambitious admirers eager to greet and be seen with her.

Standing behind Brown at the UofL announcement were daughter Brook Brown and her husband Matthew Barzun, who was U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain under Obama. Barzun was once mentioned as a possible candidate for the UofL presidency. Also there was Augusta Brown, married to Gill Holland, a prominent Louisville developer credited with developing the NuLu area.

Close family connections with the Browns include the Fraziers, descendants of Garvin Brown, who founded Brown-Forman.  The late Owsley Brown Frazier, another BF executive, gave UofL a gift of $25 million in 2011. It remains the largest contribution in the school’s history.

Another generous contributor was Steve Wilson, married to Laura Lee Brown, cousin to late Owsley Brown II. The founder of 21C Hotels, Wilson was the UofL Trustee who started the revolt against former President Jim Ramsey in 2015. An open records request to UofL indicated that Wilson and his wife had contributed more than $1.3 million before Wilson resigned in 2015.

Sandra Frazier, the daughter of Amelia Brown Frazier and the niece of Owsley B. Frazier,  is a member of the University of Louisville Board of Trustees. She’s also the owner of Tandem Public Relations and, more importantly, a member of the Board of Directors of the Glenview Trust Fund.

The person who runs Glenview Trust just happens to be J. David Grissom, the Chairman of the UofL Board of Trustees. Brown family members and their foundations are known to use Glenview Trust Co., currently managing an estimated $6.5 billion in assets. Clientele reportedly include 500 of the area’s wealthiest families.

Bendapudi has been non-stop coming aboard in mid-May, meeting with one decision maker after another.  Recent tweets included photos of her with power hitters David Jones and David Jones, Jr., of the C.E. & S. Foundation, and John Schnatter, of Papa John’s.

She has also met with leaders of the J. Graham Brown Foundation, the Humana Foundation, the David Novak (Yum!) family, and Kosair Charities, as well as the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor, Senator Mitch McConnell, the Louisville  delegation to the General Assembly, the Kentucky Council on Post Secondary Education, the Faculty Senate, the Staff Senate and the Student Government Association.

Bendapudi has been constantly on the go, touching all the bases with all the decision makers, the people who will make UofL whole again. Having the blessing of Christy Brown is a significant milestone, opening many more doors for the new administration.  A new chapter, indeed, for the University of Louisville.