December 3rd 2012
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If your team is going to lose back-to-back games at Kentucky and see a 55-game homecourt winning streak come to an end, then doing it the same week as the new football coach is announced is good timing for it. Maybe John Calipari’s young basketball squad will feel a little less of the weight of the world of Big Blue Nation on their shoulders with so much buzz about the new football coach.
First things first, Mark Stoops is 1-0, as he clearly “won” the press conference yesterday. Stoops came across as a coach with a clear sense of his identity and the identity he wants his program to project. “Physical,” “accountable,” “hard work” were phrases that he used frequently in answering questions.
And UK football fans--and especially former players--loved hearing him dismiss any talk of a “losing culture” at Kentucky and they also loved the statement the school made with the level of production it staged to announce Stoops as the coach. That doesn’t win you any games but this is a fan base that desperately needed to be re-energized and on that count, it is “mission accomplished.”
Freshmen-dominated teams don’t win big in the SEC and neither do ones dominated by sophomores so the youth on Stoops’ first team means fans should understand he’s not going to achieve his ultimate goals for elevating this program in one season. Still, former UK star Tim Couch--who played a key role in advising Mitch Barnhart on the search for a coach--reminded us that significiant improvement in year one is a realistic goal. Couch noted the UK team on which he played as a freshman had one of the worst offenses in the nation and a year later, with mostly the same players but a different approach, Kentucky’s offense ranked among the best in the country.
As for basketball, “identity” is the key for this team right now. Coach Cal is still trying to learn what this team’s best on-court personality is. Clearly, there’s the usual amount of talent there but how do the pieces fit together best.? I’m sure Cal wishes he had a better handle on the answer to that one by now and these next few weeks will be crucial for sorting this out and finding the best solution. I think the Cats will be best if Ryan Harrow seizes the point guard position but wishing for that outcome doesn’t make it happen.
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