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Noel Announces He’s Leaving UK For The NBA

mrsec-breaking-newsWell this one won’t surprise many folks.  Kentucky star and freshman All-American Nerlens Noel is leaving UK and entering the NBA draft:

 

“I have loved my time at Kentucky, but I feel that I’m ready to take the next step to the NBA.  I’ve learned so much here at UK and am thankful for Coach (John) Calipari, the staff and my teammates for all of their support.  I especially appreciate the Big Blue Nation and all of the support, prayers and well-wishes I’ve received from them during my rehab and decision-making process.  I’ll always be a Wildcat!”

 

Noel was having the kind of season that would have won him SEC Player of the Year honors before tearing his ACL in a February contest at Florida.  Despite the injury he is expected to go in the first few picks in this summer’s NBA draft, likely first overall.  If he does go first, he’ll be the third Wildcat to go #1 in the four years since Calipari took over in Lexington.

As for the “I’ll always be a Wildcat!” line, Noel arrived on UK’s campus in mid-August.  Eight months later he’s decided to depart.  Welcome to life in a one-and-done universe.

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Phillips Out As Coach At Kentucky After Season

Joker Phillips will not return as Kentucky’s football coach after the season.

The school announced that Phillips, who has compiled a 12-23 record since becoming Kentucky’s head coach in 2010, will coach the Wildcats against Samford and Tennessee to finish the season.

Phillips expressed an understanding of the school’s decision in a statement he released on Sunday.

“We, as coaches, are measured on results. We didn’t get the results we had worked and hoped for, therefore change is needed. In my current 10-year stay at Kentucky, we’ve had some memorable moments as an assistant, coordinator and head coach. We’ve had the opportunity to coach some fine young men and I am grateful to have had the privilege of watching them grow as players, as students and as people.”

I am very appreciative of Mitch Barnart and Rich Brooks for providing the opportunity to have been the head coach here. Mitch is the best athletic director I’ve ever been associated with. He’s fair and honest and he’s “all in” in terms of student-athletes’ well-being. Rich is the best mentor a young coach could ever have. I learned a lot from him in terms of plowing ahead. They are dear friends. Dr. Lee Todd and Dr. Eli Capilouto have both been very supportive. I appreciate the Big Blue Nation and encourage the fans to stay behind their team going forward.

“I love our players and am proud to be associated with them. I expect them to continue the behavior we have asked of them academically, socially and with football. I’m thankful for the staff’s hard work, dedication, and what they have done in coaching and mentoring the players. I’d like to thank my wife and family for all their support and for being behind me 100 percent.”

Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart, who said the search for Phillips’ replacement will begin immediately, thanked Phillips for his time with the Wildcats.

“After much conversation, evaluation and prayer, I have determined that it is in the best interest of our athletics program to make a change in our football coaching staff at the conclusion of the season. I do so with a heavy heart for a man who has served his alma mater for almost 22 years as a player and a coach. Joker Phillips has carried the banner for the Blue and White with honor and pride. I have enjoyed working alongside him and am thankful for his friendship for the last decade. His concern for the entire program, his work and teaching of young people, his humanitarian work, and the friendship we all enjoy with him will long surpass the scoreboard. I want to thank him for all of those things on behalf of Kentucky.”

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Phillips To UK Fans: “You’re Either With Us Or Against Us”

Joker Phillips sounds like a man who’s been seated in a very hot chair.  And then had that chair pushed back into a corner.

Speaking to Kentucky fans at a Louisville kickoff luncheon this week, the embattled coach had an interesting message for Wildcat fans (who’ve not exactly been snapping up tickets):

 

“Big Blue Nation, I’m challenging you.  You’re either with us or against us.”

 

Wow.  I don’t ever recall hearing a coach say something like that to his fanbase regardless of context or mood.  That’s the kind of comment that can make some on-the-fencers say, “Okay, I’m against you.”

But at this point, what’s Phillips got to lose?  His team is picked to finish among the dregs of the SEC and his fanbase is more interested in John Calipari’s recruiting class than UK’s rivalry football game with Louisville.

Maybe that “us against the world” theme will resonate with his players.  Or maybe — and this is the more likely scenario — the Cats will finish just as the prognosticators have predicted and Phillips’ “with us or against us” one-liner will come back to haunt him.

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UK-UL & The Battle Of Kentucky

Tyler B.

“Isn’t it great that two teams from the same state are playing each other in a Final Four for the first time since 1961? It’s so great for the Commonwealth of Kentucky.”

I live in Louisville and the water cooler and elevator speeches this morning about the statement written above, temporarily replacing the early warm weather conversations, is garbage. Kentucky and Louisville don’t like each other, they hate each other. I went to the University of Alabama and nothing oozes more tree poison than the Alabama-Auburn rivalry – nothing comes close – but this one game tops it and is unlike anything we’ve seen in any sport in a very, very long time.

But…

In nearly every “historical” game played the pressure falls on the better team, but as a lifelong UK fan I strangely feel there isn’t any added pressure on UK because Louisville is just another team in the line of fire. The Louisville fan base is simply happy to be in this in this situation because it will go down as an unforgettable season, regardless of the outcome, so there’s no pressure.  If the Cardinals happen to beat Kentucky and lose the national title game, Louisville fans will take more pride in denying Kentucky the right to play in the title game than actually losing in the title game.

If there is any pressure for UK it’s not on the basketball court. To me the only pressure falls onto the shoulders of Coach Cal by proving he’s a great X and O guy, that nobody wants to give him credit for, and that he can win with his one and done philosophy. From a UK fan perspective there is no pressure because this UK team is one of the best basketball teams that has ever played.

I wrote on the very site a few months ago, before the season played out, that Alabama would go down as potentially the greatest college football teams to every play if they could beat LSU in the Super Dome. Bama did so in a dominating fashion and, even without winning the “SEC” football tournament, with some time and perspective I believe last year’s team will be viewed as just that.

In late February I compared this UK team to the 1996 UK team – many whom consider one of the greatest teams ever – and wrote the 1996 team was better. But if this team returns to Lexington with national title #8 for it will be on the short list as one of the greatest college basketball teams ever

Has winning a game just to land a spot in the national title game ever been so anti-climatic? (You mean Ohio State and Kansas are in the Final Four, too?)

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The outcome of this game will permanently alter the opinion of two coaching giants inside the Big Blue Nation forever. So, yes, there is pressure but if falls directly on the coaches and none of the players.

A Wildcat win recasts Rick Pitino as a mere footnote in the robust and biblical book of UK basketball, something that will eat at his ego for the rest of his coaching and personal life. He did tremendous job at UK and returned it from the dead, but for the greatest coaching job a HOF coach did to be a footnote at arguably the best collegiate program has to be painful. While his personal image has been destroyed in the past 24 months, an unforgettable loss to a former “protégé” at the empire he used to rule would be sting just as devastating.

But the real pressure is on Cal to win the next two games and bring back title #8 to Lexington for a variety of reasons:

1)      A national title moves his coaching resume past Pitino’s at UK after only his third year

2)      Cal gets the respect he deserves as a tremendous bench coach

3)      Softens the “guilty without evidence” charges at UMass and Memphis

4)      Moves up a few rungs on the ladder of greatest college coaches

5)      Coached potentially the greatest team in college basketball history

6)      Proof his one and done philosophy works and can no longer be questioned

UK is by far and away the best team in the country and will find itself on the short list of greatest college basketball teams ever if it wins two more games. Reminding me of the great Alabama football team from last year, this UK team is like group of mercenaries strictly following orders from a commander and then delivering a scorched earth approach to everything. A well-rounded unit doing its job with little flash or flamboyance, the emotionless faces on the UK players can’t hide their addiction to winning or inability to show no mercy. At the end of the day they simply want it more than any other team.

So… Assuming this team wins its next two games it moves ahead of the ’96 team and goes down as the greatest team UK ever let’s look at how this team ranks nationally in key categories:

-          W-L Percentage & Scoring Margin: #1

-          Scoring Offense (#20) & OFG percentage (#10)

-          Scoring Defense (#25) & DFG percentage (#1)

-          Rebounding Margin: #8

-          Blocked Shots: #1

-          Assist to Turnover Ratio: #35

Here are the players doing it, none averaging more than 10 shots per game:

 

Anthony Davis: 14.3

Doron Lamb   13.6

Terrence Jones: 12.6

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist: 12

Marquis Teague: 10

Darius Miller: 10

Returning to the main point of this article, never has a rivalry game had so much at stake for two coaches when it comes to perception. And as UK fan I’m giddy because in a few days Pitino becomes a UK footnote and I can look down on the Louisville program as the little brother forever. Louisville has absolutely no chance in this game and loses 73-63.

UK goes on to win the title and Cal becomes what everyone outside of Lexington doesn’t want him to be:  The best coach in college basketball right now.

 

Tyler B. works as a communications specialist for a Louisville, Kentucky company.  A lifetime SEC fan – long before it became “acceptable” to cheer for every team in the conference – he plans on writing several books about college football that have a fantastic chance of never being written. 

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UK players wear black in mourning of Cal’s mother

Kentucky
Content provided by Jerry Tipton on UK basketball.

UK players wore black socks and block wristbands against Boston U Tuesday night to signify their mourning. Calipari’s mother, Donna, passed away at age 74 on Sunday.
Before the game, Calipari tweeted his appreciation of the gesture.
“It means a lot to me and is another sign of the kind of superb young men we have in our program,” he tweeted. “Thanks to all of (the Big Blue Nation) for your support.
“I’ll coach with a heavy heart tonight. But I know my mom is watching from the luxury boxes with a whole crew of UK luminaries cheering along with her.”

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Condolences to Cal, whose mother passed away

Kentucky
Content provided by Jerry Tipton on UK basketball.

UK Coach John Calipari just sent a tweet saying his mother, Donna, had passed away.

Here is the tweet: “As most of you know, my mom, Donna, has been battling cancer for several months. On Sunday, she lost her brave fight.”

In follow-up tweets, Calipari said, “”On behalf of my dad, my two sisters, Ellen and all of our family…we want to thank the Big Blue Nation for all their prayers, cards … Your warmth uplifted her and all of us.

“We hope you will all respect our privacy during this period and know that we are grateful for being part of the Big Blue family.

“God bless and thank you.”

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Barnhart says he has not been contacted by Kansas

Kentucky
Content provided by John Clay’s Sidelines.

From UK’s Cat Scratches blog:

“Being a Kansas native with family in the area, having gone to Ottawa University in Kansas and my wife, Connie being a Kansas alum, I have many ties to the state,” Barnhart said. “We have received calls from friends and supporters of the university about the athletic director position at Kansas. I have not been formally contacted by the University of Kansas. I am 100 percent focused on UK Athletics.”

. . . “We have made progress in many areas over the last eight years, but we need to provide our coaches and student-athletes with the facilities to compete at the highest level,” Barnhart said. “We have initiated the process of building a new track and are now focused on how we can upgrade Commonwealth Stadium and our football facilities. Our 22 sports receive unbelievable support from the Big Blue Nation and our fans deserve championship level success across the board.”

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