It's all just laughable, really. And that's not to say I don't love the man, because I do. My wife even thinks the affection could be a bit unnatural. But that's beside the point. It's just that, sometimes, our coach can go a bit too far. And we as fans can all go a bit too far in response. I'm talking about coach Cal, and him saying Kentucky's main goal is to send players to the NBA. I get it. I do. But ... Put me in the camp with those fans who disagree with the sentiment. Still, I love the passion from which the statement comes, you know? I love the idea of Players' First, and I love the idea of lifting these players up to make their dreams come true. I also understand that, in theory, if we accomplish these goals we will be put in the best position to win. Obviously, I can't argue with the results: four Final Fours in five years? Unbelievable. It's only been done twice before - by Wooden and Coach K. I just don't like the way Cal makes the point. It's probably the only situation where Cal has said the wrong thing. (Flashing back to the NBA Draft, when he first brought it up, talking about five players being drafted as being the best day in the history of the program. That's when it first rankled me). And all of this makes me laugh like a crazy person. Why? Because I feel like Cal has earned the right to say whatever the hell he wants about player motivation. And even if it rubs us fans the wrong way, we need to laugh it off. We need to absolutely trust him and not care. It's a clear eyes, full hearts, mouth closed kind of moment for us fans. Let me present the evidence: In six years he's gotten five No.1 recruiting classes, four Final Fours, and a national championship. Last year his team set the record for most consecutive wins to start a season. They won yet another conference and tournament championship. They made another Final Four. And they flat-out destroyed some marquee teams. It was an absolute blast to watch. Now, with another top-flight recruiting class in the bag (including the No.1 player) we're certain to again be a preseason top 5 squad in a season where college basketball will have no dominant team - and the probable No.1 team, North Carolina, will be looking down the barrel of NCAA probation. The point here is the chance for UK to win big is again probable. And I bet we do. The Final Four is another reasonable goal. And then, when it's all over with, I bet we do what makes Cal really happy - I bet we send a few players to the NBA. (Wink). Hey, let Coach say what he wants. If the only thing we have to worry about is what Coach Cal thinks regarding sending seven or eight players to the NBA, then we really don't have it that bad, do we? No, we don't. We've got it really, really, really good. Sure, I may not agree with everything Coach says, but as long as we keep winning, none of that matters. And by the way, are you really naive enough to believe winning championships doesn't matter in a huge way to Cal? Of course it does - he's uber competitive. You know he wants to keep this train rolling. I remember what it was like to not go to a Final Four from 1998-2011. Even though we sent a few guys to the NBA, that drought still sucked. None of us want that. I'm going to bet that before Cal's career is over - heck, probably before Tyler Ulis' career is over - UK will win another title and send another 10 players to the NBA. That's something that will keep everyone happy. And I can't wait to watch - with clear eyes, full heart ... and mouth closed.
Do you have a memorable story about meeting a UK coach? When I was about 9 I remember leaving Fayette Mall with my family. We were driving away and we saw Eddie Sutton going in with his wife. As we drove off, I tried to convince my Mom to stop the car so I could meet him. She would not, and I still haven't forgiven her.
I've been lucky enough to talk with Cal a few times. Here's my favorite pic of us, taken at his Louisville book signing, moderated by our own Matt Jones. Cal looks drunk, and yes - I look like me. With sunglasses.