Ira's Weekly Column
By - Ira D. Combs
Director / Syndicated Columnist
Tri State Sports Media & Promotions Service Inc.
You've Got Another Youth Movement To Overcome Coach Cal , Maybe Your Most Challenging
Cal's New Pups This Year May Have More Bark Than Bite In Their Game
God knows we love you coach Cal but sometimes , well , let's just say it frustrates me when i know we've created our own problem.
John Calipari has chosen himself to recruit the nations physically elite teenage basketball players to college basketball's supposed ( Gold Standard Hoops Program ) for going on (5) years now , yet , he has expected all of those players and teams to squeeze the otherwise usual two to three years experience gained by most college basketball teams into (2) to (3) months each year and surprisingly in two of the first four years it basically happened but even in those two great years their was a couple bumps in the road in the loss column . The 2011 group gave BBN the first real scare of the Calipari era but even that team circled the wagons nicely down the stretch in February and March to a Final Four finish and by the way that team may have actually been Cal's best coaching job since he's been at UK . Last years group was Cal's lone disaster season and to be perfectly honest had Nerlens Noel not went down with 1 1/2 months to go in the regular season it very well may not have been as tragic as it ended up .
This years team may be the most talented of all five of Cal's UK teams especially in physical stature and pure raw basketball skills but right now it appears these young pups may have a bigger bark than bite when it comes to executing during the tough times down the stretch late in games when each possession is magnified . This team simply isn't very impressive at times when it comes crunch time on the boards and especially in getting those 50 - 50 loss balls .
And so far at the free throw line these young superstars are , well , let's just say you can attribute the Michigan State and Baylor losses both directly to misses at the charity stripe .
Even as frustrating as the Baylor loss was early last saturday morning I keep reminding myself that itís still early in the season and I know this team has everything it takes to win a championship except the mental and physical toughness which can come as the season progresses .
As in the past the national media and recruiting services along with Big Blue Nation have put this new group of UK basketball players up on another giant pedestal and everyone expects these young teenagers to handle it with maturity way beyond their age . Now Cal has to bring them down a notch to reality and make them understand that it's the little fundamental items of basketball that creates and produces the championships but most of all Cal has to create an atmosphere within the team surroundings that makes these infant superstars coachable again .
It can be done and I think will when it's all said and done come April ............ but their may be another bump or two in the road along the way with this team .
Right now as we drift thru this week and toward the next big time battle in Chapel Hill , North Carolina with the Tar Heels I pinch myself every morning when I get up and say we could still have Billy "G" pulling the reins of UK basketball .
Remember those years ........ I do ........ and I strongly suggest BBN steps back and take a deep breath and think about where UK basketball was before Cal and where it's at now .
Move On With Future Scheduling And Think Of What's Best For UK And Not The Almighty $$$$
A little over 20 years ago UK athletics director C. M. Newton and football coach Bill Curry changed the course of UK football in state by finally giving in too the long time efforts of U of L athletics director Bill Olsen and football coach Howard Schnellenberger by bringing Louisville onto the UK football schedule mainly to sell tickets and create a few more all mighty dollars for UK's hip pockets all while preaching to anyone who would listen that the series would bring a new identity to football in the Commonwealth and promote high school football even more .
As we approach the end of 2013 you tell me what it's done for UK football and what has it done for Louisville football , that's right , it's done nothing for UK football but lower it's image in state and especially in the fertile recruiting grounds of Jefferson Co. and by the way the state is still producing about 10 to on a good year maybe 14 or 15 Div. 1-A type football players just like it did 20 years ago .
Make no mistake the series jump started Louisville football into the future where it stands today with a brand spanking new stadium and headed into a BCS level conference . Thanks a lot C. M. and Bill at least Tim Couch and his late father Elbert had enough toughness in their blue bones to overcome your shenanigans until you were justly railroaded out of town .
Now were stuck in another Commonwealth football delimma after Mitch Barnhart's brainstorm idea of brining WKU on the UK football schedule . So here we are at the crossroads again four years after a humble 2 - 2 split with the Hilltoppers and dealing with Joker Phillips surprising ineptness as a head coach UK sets at # 3 on the college football totem poll in the Commonwealth .
So as we lay this in your lap Mark Stoops please change this course of direction in scheduling at least for a decade or until you can revive UK football to Rich Brooks standards and look elsewhere because I'm hearing strong rumors that the new EKU president is seriously considering bumping the Colonels up to Div. 1 - A .
While were on the subject of scheduling we may as well make some recommendations to Coach Cal . These neutral site games are turning into another nightmare for our historic basketball program as we now set at 1 - 2 this year after the Baylor loss and by the way let's take a break from these Baylor "Bears" for awhile anywhere . The untold truth with the neutral site games that has never been told by any of the UK coaches who have used them over the years to insinuate that it prepares the team for NCAA tournament games in March .
Bull - hockey .
What it does is it raises the percentage of winning this type game ( because UK's fan base will or has traveled better in recent years than their opponent in these games ) versus playing an opponent on it's own home court . Rick Pitino started it all and Cal has continued it because their huge egos have grown above taking a loss on more occasions than the normal Div. 1 coach . Joe B. Hall took on all comers including Indiana , Kansas , and anyone else who would do a home and home set with the Wildcats . Today's neutral site games simply cheat the season ticket holders out of a couple nights of quality basketball each season all because a few coaches have grown a little bigger than their britches over their careers .
Tragic Anniversary Coming Up That Indirectly Affected UK Basketball
This is one of those eerily scary sports stories that makes you step back and think about how life would have been if fate had not stepped in .
This coming friday Dec. 13th is the anniversary of the tragic plane crash that killed every member of the University of Evansville basketball team in 1977 except one assistant basketball coach . That assistant as fate would have it was asked by another assistant to trade places with him on the plane and go on a recruiting trip that night over in western ky. to watch a high school player that Evansville was involved with . The switch was made just minutes before the team plane departed .
The lucky assistant coach was Ernie Simpson who would go on to the high school coaching ranks in Kentucky and produce one of the most successful coaching careers in the long and storied history of Sweet 16 basketball . Simpson's UK connection was that he sent the Wildcats more players than any other high school coach in the state . Simpson went on to coach DeWayne Casey , Larry Johnson , and Freddie Cowan at Union Co. before they became Wildcats and late in his career Simpson sent the Wildcats Josh Carrier from Bowling Green high school .
I am proud to say that I was befriended by Erne Simpson in the summer of 1979 at UK's summer basketball camp and went on to become good friends with him . He is still today one of the most colorful personalities I ever became acquainted with .