DEMAREE: Kentucky basketball battling opinion

At the close of another basketball season for the Wildcats, the 'Cats are under heavy scrutiny from the public, both locally and nationally. The most visible college basketball program in the nation is now visible for different reasons. This has stirred a frenzy of public response.

Prior to Tubby Smith resigning to take the coaching position at Minnesota, Kentucky was the source of national scrutiny on a recent national ESPN radio segment hosted by Colin Cowherd, a segment hosted by Dan Patrick, and the Mike (Greenberg) and Mike (Golic) morning show. The locals went ballistic last Sunday on WVLK's local post game radio show hosted by Larry Glover.

Cowherd was adamant in his insistence that Tubby Smith was a good coach but not a "special coach" needed for the UK program. Glover started by hedging on his opinion on whether Smith needed to go.

Years ago, local talk radio was a tool that was not available for the average fan to publicly voice his opinion in complete anonymity. Call that good or bad depending on which side you come down on. The previous WVLK sports director, Tim Woodburn was originally from St. Louis, Missouri and hence not a Kentucky blue blood. He had no particular allegiance to Kentucky. Because of this Woodburn embraced controversy and romanced the more controversial callers for their entertainment value to the show.

Glover, who cut his teeth on Kentucky basketball, is more sensitive to criticism of the program. One of the regular callers on the local talk shows is ‘Chris from Richmond,' who former director Woodburn embraced to the point that when he called, he had carte blanche on the program. 'Chris from Richmond' vacillates like the March weather and was allowed to deliver his cutting Don Rickles type monologue. When things are good he's nice and more serene and when things are bad everybody, coaches and players alike are all, in his words, "Rum Dumbs." Woodburn liked Chris so well that he went out of his way to meet him in the stands during one of the UK football games and he and former guest host Antonio O‘Ferral brought some of Chris' paper sacks with eye-holes cut in them signifying what was once the New Orleans S(Aints).

Conversely Glover has a much shorter rope. The caller goes "Larry ------------" Glover responds, all right Chris, I not going to listen to this anymore of this, Click……

Most of the callers before Smith left, were unfortunately calling for Smith's head. For the most part Glover went on the defense of the program and to some extent, Smith. One caller implied the program needs a change. Larry's reply: "Oh, I don't doubt that – I think sometimes both parties need a breath of fresh air and I think that's probably the case."

Glover implied there's a shelf life as the coach of UK basketball and coaching here is so overwhelming and no coach can coach here forever. At the same time Glover defended the coaching style and the points-per-game average by pulling up on his in-studio computer the scoring averages of teams remaining in the tournament. In some of the cases, there was very little difference.

Admittedly, Glover said he allowed the show to take an unfortunate direction where accusations of unsavory behavior by other top programs, was prevalent. He said that Kansas is on probation for cheating, which has in it a shred of truth. Glover addressed the alleged cheating by one of several callers at that point in the program. Glover said: "If THE reason why Kentucky is falling behind Carolina and Kansas, if the singular reason is Kentucky is honest and the other schools are not, does it change your opinion of Tubby Smith or not?"

The loss, the obvious talent deficiency compared to Kansas, recruiting mistakes, and all the negativity, by the end of the hour long show had taken it's toll on Glover and beaten him down. "This whole argument about whether Tubby should stay or should he go, should he be fired or should he be retained is so tiresome," Glover lamented. "I'm so tired of talking about it, I almost wish Tubby would leave just so we could talk about somebody else for a change."

He got his wish. The talk has switched to Billy Donovan, the latest rumor on who will replace Coach Smith, and the coaching carousel. Word is that the new coach will be named soon, although nobody knows for sure, and despite a few rumors here or there, nothing is certain yet. Kentucky has had only five coaches in the past 75 or so years, and the coaching search will insure that Kentucky remains the most visibile college basketball program in the world.


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