The gnashing of teeth and a lot of bad – really bad – language could have been heard from Syracuse to Florida with stops in Chapel Hill and nearby Duke, and then on to UCLA and Podunk, too, if that high school has a 6-foot-11 center with longer arms than Anthony Davis.
Big name college basketball coaches could be heard screaming expletives to fellow coaches, “Do you believe what that #$%& Calipari is doing now? And with the help of ESPN!”
Calipari already gets the cream of the crop of the nation’s high school seniors – and there he was on one of the family of ESPN networks.
For two hours – TWO hours! – the nation’s recruits were invited to see a free commercial for University of Kentucky basketball: Cal running his Wildcats through a typical day of practice and in effect saying, “Come on down to Lexington. You will like it here.”
And if that wasn’t enough, another national ESPN outlet showed it one more time at night!
An adoring audience of about 2,000 Big Blue fans showed their devotion as Coach Cal, wired for sound, played them like a cheap piano. If he asked the fans for cheers, he got cheers. Anything for Coach Cal and his Wildcats.
Just one thing was missing.
A Rupp show?
Adolph Rupp should have been in Memorial Coliseum, one of two arenas that he built for his UK basketball teams.
Rupp was a hoot at practices, especially if a sportswriter was present. The Wildcats hated to see a guest writer because they knew that Adolph would put on a show for the writer – at the expense of the players.
When Rupp would say something funny – which he often did – his players would turn their backs to him so that he couldn’t see them cracking up. Really, he was a funny man when he wanted to be.
The last year Rupp coached, Louisville Times Sports Columnist Dean Eagle and I watched the Wildcats practice. I had taken the old coach a copy of Tev Laudeman’s book, “The Rupp Years,” an incomparable book on UK basketball.
Eagle and I sat with Rupp at courtside when he said, “They bounce the damn balls and it makes me sleepy.”
Rupp autographed one for me. As soon as he wrote “Adolph F. Rupp,” I said, “Thanks, coach.”
“Well hell, don’t you want to make it authentic? And then he made a swirl beneath his name and said, “Now, it’s official.”
A little later, he called one day and invited me to lunch at Idle Hour Country Club, where most of the rich Lexingtonians belong. (UK pays membership dues.)
When we had finished lunch, I asked the waiter for the check.
“Well, by gawd,” said Rupp. “I wish that you could pay the bill, but members have to pay.”
Back to Calipari and his televised open practice for fans, students and faculty: You can bet your bottom dollar that the NCAA was paying attention and it won’t be surprising if the NCAA passes a rule forbidding such practices. No, make that “nationally televised” practices.
Sandy Bell Present
I doubt if many people noticed a white-haired lady sitting at the press table during the TV scrimmage. She was Sandy Bell, whose job it is to see that the Cats are in full compliance with NCAA rules.
Let UK do something that may give the Cats a little advantage and other big schools will start doing the same thing.
Remember when Joe B. Hall succeeded Rupp as UK head coach? He started taking his team around the state for pre-season scrimmages. They were enormously popular. Soon other schools, including Louisville and Indiana, started doing the same thing.
That bad old NCAA passed a rule against off-campus scrimmages.
Nothing has ever approached what Coach Cal (and ESPN) pulled off. Stay tuned.
I hope that Wayne Martin, who runs TV stations in Lexington and Hazard, has a talk with his on-air stars, especially Dave Baker and Insight’s Matt Jones, and asks them, pretty please, to look up the word “unique” in the dictionary.
UK’s televised practice was NOT the most unique or very unique. Please, guys, you were doing a national telecast for ESPN and your grammar makes our state look ignorant. There are NO degrees of unique. It either is or isn’t.