In November 1985, Kentucky All-American Kenny Walker, began his final season for the Wildcats. It was a time of great change. The team had just finished a dismal 18-13 the year before and then-head coach Joe B. Hall resigned immediately afterward. Soon after, Eddie Sutton was hired. Kenny Walker has to learn how to deal with a new coach and learn a new system. The result was pretty amazing. There are many similarities between the challenges Kenny Walker faced in 1985-86 and what the current group of Kentucky Wildcats face today. In next month's issues of Kentucky Sports Report, the magazine, Kenny Walker writes an article that details the similarities and differences, and shares with the reader his unique insights based on his personal experiences. Below is a brief excerpt from that article: I felt better the first time I sat down and talked to Eddie Sutton. I really liked what he had to say. He talked a lot about what it was like to inherit an elite program like Kentucky and he shared with us the things he thought he could bring to the table with his style of play. He really spoke to me personally about what he thought he could do with the team and what he thought he could do with me individually as a player.
I had just come off an incredible junior season, statistically one of the best individual efforts in the history of Kentucky basketball. Coach Sutton thought he could get the talent around me to raise their level of play and with his defensive philosophy, he really believed that the team we had coming back, which was largely the same team we just had, could really make some noise. He turned out to be right.
So after talking with coach Sutton I reflected one last time. In the end I thought that with one more year, I would mature more mentally and physically. And I also believed that the new coach had a game plan and philosophy that could help me get drafted in the NBA lottery. So I stayed. And I made the right choice.
With a new coach guiding us, we flourished that first year under coach Sutton. As much as I love and respect coach Hall I really think the contrast in styles between coaches Hall and Sutton really benefited guys like Roger Harden, James Blackmon, and Ed Davender. These guys got the benefit from understanding two styles and two philosophies from two coaches. And even though the guys I just mentioned were recruited by coach Hall, I think they really excelled with the change in styles (not to mention being a year more seasoned).
There are probably a number of experiences from 1985 that could be translated well to today. I am sure the players were disappointed, shocked and confused when coach Tubby Smith stepped down. I had the opportunity to speak to a number of the players and relay my experiences changing coaches. I told them I had some of the same emotions that I thought they were experiencing and I urged them to just give it a chance.
For the rest of this amazing article by Kenny Walker, click the link below to subscribe to Kentucky Sports report, the magazine. Also featured in this coming month's issue are:
Larry Vaught Interviews Jacob Tamme
Larry Vaught interviews Keenan Burton
Keith Taylor interviews Joker Phillips
Stephen John interviews new basketball S&C coach Todd Forcier
Rob Gidel breaks down the UK Football Schedule
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