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Ira's Weekly Column

Ira's Weekly Column
By - Ira D. Combs

Director / Syndicated Columnist
Tri State Sports Media & Promotions Service Inc.

It’s That Time Of Year Again With National Media But I’m Not Buying In
(Big UK Sports Weekend Planned For April 25th , 26th and 27th On Campus)

Here we go again coming off another UK basketball season and instead of the talk turning to UK baseball and softball ( two of the most successful yet forgotten sports teams on campus ) the attention from the various media entities that cover UK sports launch the annual John Calipari to the NBA talk .

It’s really of a moot point and at times i think some of the media outlets and especially several national media personalities do it for obnoxious reasons to simply antagonize the UK fan base .

I personally refuse to buy into it anymore and here is why .

Having had the luxury of being involved inside the UK basketball program for 20 plus years from the mid 70’s to mid 90’s during the four summer months helping run the summer basketball camps with the Joe B. Hall , Eddie Sutton , and Rick Pitino eras I got to break bread on a daily basis with all three of those UK coaches and rubbed shoulders with several other high profile Div. 1 basketball coaches as they come thru town on the annual summer camp circuit speaking engagements to the campers . Being around those high profile Div. 1 coaches in a more relaxed atmosphere like late night coaches mixers , chalk talks , and occasionally picking them up or taking them to the airport I picked up a few tid-bits , traits , and tricks of the coaching trade .

Here is why I think John Calipari won’t leave UK anytime soon .
There are basically (3) items that triggers an NCAA Div. 1 - A head coaches mind on this level :

  1. Having all the intangibles ( home game & practice facilities – friendly budget – winning tradition – players living quarters ) a school needs to recruit and UK is 1st class in all those categories .
  2. Head coach having free rein of running his own program his way and Cal definitely has 100% control of all decisions involving UK basketball .
  3. Top of the line salary / contract among the elite college coaching fraternity members , at last look Cal’s contract was in the 5.2 million neighborhood annually 2nd only to Coach K at Duke .

And last but definitely not least fighting off the annual compatible career moves to the NBA everybody on the outside insist is there but I can’t see it and here is why .

Won’t ever happen again with Calipari just like it won’t ever happen again with Rick Pitino , Steve Spurrior , and Nick Saban . In today’s professional sports world the pro draft handicaps a coaches ability to run his program consistently on an annual basis over a period of time . You can only draft what’s available when it’s your turn to pick and many years what a coach needs isn’t available . Translated it’s much easier and more consistent to have the ability to out recruit your opposition on the college level than to out draft your opponents on the NBA level .

In closing there is one other major difference in actually coaching a college player as compared to the professional player ……………. Egos ………….. the pro players ego and his game in game out attitude/disposition is on a plateau unmatched , many of them are difficult to coach . There are not very many other professions in our American society where several of the employees make more money than the employer . Also , if you really want a challenge in coaching today’s rich athletes try getting involved with a roster full of players who don’t necessarily believe in your system and your way of coaching the game ………… they can head butt with the coach for long periods of losing streaks in the pros until the coach finally gives in and moves on ……………. Ask Rick Pitino , it happened to him in Boston .

Being just a tad past the mid life stage at 55 years of age unless there are some serious unforeseen health issues in the near future of John Calipari his next coaching career decision will be around the age of 60 and it will be whether or not to retire from the coaching profession not go back to the NBA .

Looking Ahead To 2014 – 15 UK Basketball

I guess you can say this section of my weekly column is a little bit contradictory with the above opening remarks but here goes anyway .

Although were only a few days into the official off season of UK basketball it’s never to early to talk about next year and since most everybody in and around Big Blue Nation is racking their brain about who is staying and who is going on to the NBA I thought I would enlighten everyone of my loyal readers on who UK will be playing next year . Obviously everybody knows that UK will be traveling to the Yum Center for next years rivalry game with the Cards and it’s the North Carolina “Tar Heels” turn to come to Rupp Arena in that series . A couple weeks ago the coach at Ohio State let it slip that UK will be involved in another special made for TV series with Ohio State – UCLA – North Carolina - UK with UK’s opponent next year being the UCLA “Bruins” and that entire (3) year series by the way will be played on neutral courts reportedly in Chicago , New York City , and Las Vegas .

Two other interesting games that are set for Rupp Arena this coming season are the return game with Providence College and the Big 12 / SEC Challenge will be at home this season also . Sources close to us at www.combsbrothersonkysports.com are saying it’s all but a done deal that Orlando “Tubby” Smith will be bringing his Texas Tech “Red Raiders” back to Rupp Arena .

Other non conference games will be leaked out thru some of the more aggressive UK media outlets to keep Big Blue Nation hitting their website thru the off season I’m sure .

As usual the SEC schedule will be released late probably sometime around late August early September but don’t expect any surprises or tweaks . It will rotate with certain teams playing UK twice home and home and other teams only making one appearance on the UK schedule . The Cats will not play Tennessee in Rupp Arena this year but only once in Knoxville . The UK – Florida series will continue on with each team playing the other in a home and home series .

UK Baseball Having Turnaround Year Hanging In Top 25

The 2014 UK baseball team except for a couple early season losses against mediocre talent have been solidly entrenched in college baseball’s top 25 for the past (6) weeks of the season and definitely put themselves in place to have a solid shot at a deep post season run going into next weekend’s SEC showdown on the road at Texas A & M . They have most definitely turned around last season’s disappointing performance getting the program back on a solid winning tradition course . Lead by the SEC mid-season player of the year candidate A.J. Reed who has become Kentucky baseball’s version of Mr. Everything leading the Cats in virtually all offensive categories and several pitching stats as well . Austin Cousino , UK’s lightning quick junior CF who leads off for the Cats and sets the table offensively for A.J. Reed and company is also back on course this year from a disappointing sophomore year .

The Bat Cats set at 23 – 13 overall and 7 - 8 in SEC play which is pretty solid numbers for an SEC baseball program although (3) disappointing non conference losses to VMI , USC Upstate , and Morehead State probably will hurt their NCAA resume slightly when it comes time for the NCAA to divvy out the seeds and spots for the teams invited to start the drive to the college World Series held annually in Omaha , Nebraska . This past weekend UK entered play ranked # 12 by Collegiate Baseball but will probably slip a few spots in this weeks poll since Missouri took 2 out of 3 from the weekend series against UK .

Kentucky baseball’s next big home weekend SEC series is April 25th , 26th , and 27th when Gary Henderson’s bat cats entertain the Ole Miss “Rebels” at Cliff Hagan Stadium which will be a great shot at a spring double dip with the UK Blue – White spring football game taking place at Commonwealth Stadium which we wil talk more about in next weeks column .



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