Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Kentucky Basketball: Blame the Fans

Kentucky's basketball team had a pretty poor season this year, by normal UK basketball standards, and I think the fans are primarily to blame.

Kentucky had a great coach in Tubby Smith. In 10 years with UK, he won a national title, won the SEC tournament 5 or 6 times, garnered a #1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament, won 20 or more games every year, and was all in all a great coach that kept Kentucky at the standard that fans have come to expect. Yet, because he had a style of play that was defense-oriented, and because his teams frequently lost early in the NCAA tournament to less-talented teams, fans of UK basketball more or less ran him out of town. He was the source of ridicule and critical comments pretty much from the time he started at UK, and one has to wonder if race wasn't at least partly to blame. Either way, the pressure got to be too much, and he resigned last year and took at job at Minnesota. This year at Minnesota, he won -- again -- over 20 games.

Kentucky hired Billie Gillispie to replace Tubby. They wanted Billy Donovan from Florida, but Donovan declined the offer. Gillispie has more or less been a total disappointment. Give him the benefit of the doubt for having to reshape a Tubby team primed for defensive play into a team with a more offense-oriented style, but nevertheless, one has to assume that a better coach would have turned the team around quicker. UK lost a lot of games early in the season, to mid-major teams who are not as talented as they are. They lost to teams like San Diego, Houston, and Gardner-Webb. At one point, they were an abysmal 7-9. Granted, since January, they have played better, and wound up with a 12-4 record in the SEC, but their final regular season record was 18-12. EIGHTEEN AND TWELVE!! They lost in the first round of the SEC tournament to a Georgia team who was 13-16 going into the tournament. Granted, Georgia ended up winning the whole thing, but that does not take the blame from Kentucky for losing to this team.

One can't help but recognize that the team would have been better this year with Tubby. Tubby never got a seed in the NCAA tournament as low as 11, and Gillispie was lucky to get that. A good argument could have been made that UK didn't deserve a berth in the tournament at all. They are a pathetically average team under Gillispie.

Maybe Gillispie will turn it around next year when he has some of his own recruits to mess with, but I am extremely disappointed in his first year. In fact, he has had, without question, the most abysmal first year of any Kentucky coach in the modern era (Pitino's first year doens't count, as the team was on harsh probation when he took over). Gillispie defintely has his work cut out for him if he wants to stay around.

I just feel irritated at how Tubby was run out of UK by the fans. He is a great person, a model citizen, was a successful coach who kept Kentucky at the standards people expect, and yet none of that was good enough, because he taught his team to play defensively, instead of offensively. And he has proven his worth by winning over 20 games with Minnesota in his first year -- while simultaneously Gillispie struggled to win 18 and keep UK above .500.

Tubby was a class act, while Gillispie seems to be a total clown. Maybe the problem wasn't losing Tubby, but hiring Gillispie to replace him. I guess time will tell. Maybe Gillispie will rebuild my confidence in him in the future, but right now, I think he is a travesty.


Jeff said...

A couple of things...maybe three.
1. Minnesota won 20 games this year not "more than" 20.

2. The very blame you lay on UK Fans for running Tubby out of town you are now turning on Gillispie which i find ironic.

You label this season abysmal twice. If Tubby had ever finished 18-12 despite being 12-4 in the conference these "uk fans" would have cried for a firing and said the exact same thing! You would agree that those fans would have done that and would be wrong for it. Yet here you are turning your venom on Gillispie for the very same reason.

You call Gillispie a total disappointment yet he took a team that was depleted of top level talent and was laden with injuries all season to some of its most influential players but ended the season on a big up swing despite the loss to GA.

You say that under Tubby this would have never happened...that is a statement these "uk fans" you refer to said in regards to Tubby/Pitino. Even more so after he won a national title and they blabbered that it was with Pitino's team. So i would say Gillispie had this "abysmal" season with Tubby's Team.

And you call this team pathetically average...but they were 12-4 in a conference that got 6 teams in the NCAA tourney.

3. I am a big Tubby fan.

Hmmmm, sounds like the pot calling the kettle black Mr. Christmas.

Scott said...

You said: "Minnesota won 20 games this year not "more than" 20."

Fair enough. Either way, it was Tubby's 15th straight 20-win season, including the 10 he was with Kentucky. Furthermore, Minnesota, under Tubby this year, has had the 2nd biggest turn around of any Div 1 team in the nation. They were something like 9-22 last year, and then won 20 games this year.

You said: "Yet here you are turning your venom on Gillispie for the very same reason."

I'm turning my venom on Gillispie because he legitimately deserves it. He is a clown and the team suffered under him. The same was never, ever true under Tubby. The detractors of Tubby basically didn't like him because he had a defense-oriented style of play. That was the extent of it.

You said: "And you call this team pathetically average...but they were 12-4 in a conference that got 6 teams in the NCAA tourney."

This is a fair point. Perhaps I should have called them pathetically inconsistent.

You said: "I am a big Tubby fan."

No you're not, you racist!

Anonymous said...

To call the poster a racist is an utter ludicrious thing to do. This is based on what? One can't look in to the heart of another man on the clearest of days and to call someone a racist based on the above post is the craziest thing I have ever seen. All of your credibility vanished in that one statement and it went a long way in showing your true character, not the poster's of whom you needlessly attacked out of ignorance.

Anonymous said...

To Scott or whatever the stupid name you used...

U ignorance bastard!! you made me ashame to be an UK fan. if you cant come out with some decent respones....then go back to you mama's basement.

Poet my a$$

Scott said...

Anonymous poster # 1: Calm your jets, my friend. The original comment from "Jeff" was from one of my best friends, and the "racist" comment was a joke between us. There was nothing more to it than that.

Anonymous poster # 2: I hope I know you and you are just trying to sound like Dr. Chi or something. Otherwise...WTF??

Anonymous said...

Anonymous #1: My bad.