Mullens understands the passion that makes UK basketball so popular also drives fans to expect a better season than Kentucky had last year. He also knows it is a balancing act when asking Smith to promote the program more, especially since the coach has been criticized so much recently for not being more accessible.
"Everybody can work to grow and improve any program. Part of what we want to see is Kentucky basketball back at the elite national level. Sometimes that involves more national media exposure and some additional exposure, as well as taking advantage of opportunities that are there," Mullens said. "But at the same time, when you are the basketball coach at Kentucky, it is a difficult situation to be in. Often times what you say gets misconstrued or misrepresented.
"There may be some apprehension sometimes by the coach, and I understand it. We want to make sure Kentucky basketball is thought of as the No. 1 program that it is, and one of the ways to do that is take advantage of some opportunities to tell that story. We all need to do a better job of that."
Brooks has struggled to rebuild UK's football fortunes. Yet he's not been nearly as scrutinized this summer as Smith. But with football season approaching, how does the UK administration keep from making players again feel they are playing to save Brooks' job?
"Rich, the team and all the coaches have done a great job moving forward. We understand what was inherited with the football program. Everyone should," Mullens said. "They are building the foundation to make a successful long-term program. We would not have dropped $3.5 million in projects (for practice field renovations and locker room renovation) if we didn't want to help them be successful.
"I think it is starting to pay off, too. Seeing how the in-state kids valued the recruiting process last year was big. What they are doing recruiting is incredible given past records. It is going in the right direction. We just need to continue to see progress. Rich is very clear about expectations he has, and expects."
But might he not deserve to know he has a fifth year already because of the situation he inherited and is trying to rebuild? "It's about right now, is difficult. They are doing the right things to make progress. Now it needs to show up in results. Everybody wants to see wins, Rich Brooks included. But we think the team is ready to win."progress. It is not always about numbers. It is what does it look like. To label and define that