Next in our Q & A sessions with former UK greats is a point guard from the 1984 Final Four team, UK star Dicky Beal. This is my first, but hopefully not my last, so I may not be as polished as Tru or Ken, but I have so enjoyed doing this. After talking to Dicky for just a few minutes the first time we spoke, I felt like I was talking to one of my old friends. He is truly one of the nice guys in the history of UK basketball.
Since this is the kickoff weekend for the NCAA Tournament, I thought it would be appropriate to have someone who has actually been there as the subject of this Q & A. Dicky was a four-year member of the Cats from 1980-1984, and has assists on his record to the famous Twin Towers of Sam Bowie and Mel Turpin, as well as Kenny "Sky" Walker and others. The Cats were 96-24 during Dicky's tenure, and his time at Kentucky culminated in Big Blue's 1984 Final Four run.
As a graduate of Holmes High in 1980, Dicky came to UK after taking Holmes to the Kentucky state tourney, and a 33-3 record that year. He gave Cat fans game after game of memories for years, and led the Cats to the SEC regular season championships in '82,'83, and '84, as well as the SEC Tournament Championship in '84. His teams never missed the NCAA Tournament ( I don't think it was allowed in those days), and Dicky was voted the MVP of the Mid-East Region in 1984. His 1983 team still holds the UK tournament record for FG% at .556. His 14 assists against BYU in the 1984 Tournament are still the team high in the NCAA's. In that same tournament he dished out nine assists and had six steals against Louisville, another UK tournament record. The Cats were cut short in their quest for the NCAA championship that year by Georgetown ( 'nuff said):
ABC: Dicky, on April 28, 1980 you were featured in the Sports Illustrated "Faces In The Crowd" section for leading Holmes High to a record of 33-3, a trip to the semi-finals of the state tourney, and a scholarship to the University of Kentucky. You were a high school star who was already a Kentucky legend at that point, what brought you to UK over other schools?
DB: The tradition speaks for itself. I grew up watching UK. Every kid wants to be a part of the best program in the country. Today, I feel fortunate to be apart of the UK family.
ABC: UK beat a tough Illinois team at Lexington in the 1984 Regional Final of the NCAA's, during which coach Lou Henson swears you traveled, and a game that led to a rule change from the NCAA concerning teams playing at home. So did you really travel, or was Henson wrong?
DB: I didn't travel. I didn't lift my pivot foot. Coach Henson was wrong. To Illinois credit, they were the most physical team we played all year. It was a wonderful feeling winning the game, knowing we would be in the Final Four.
ABC: John Wall's game has been compared to yours in that you are both extremely elusive on the court, and Coach Hall has said you would be the perfect fit for the new Dribble Drive Motion offense that Coach Calipari is famous for. What do you think?
DB: I think Coach Hall is a wonderful person. He was tough on all his players, but he wanted us to become good and productive people outside of basketball. I get the same type of vibe from Coach Cal. I think the DDMO offense would be right up my alley. I get excited when I see John push the ball!
ABC: How much of this year's team have you seen? Have you been one of the former alumni that Coach Cal has tried to rally around the program this year?
DB: I have seen about seven games in person. I've seen every game this year. Coach Cal has been awesome! He is kind to everyone and encourages former players to come around. He understands the tradition and respects former players as well as the Big Blue fans.
ABC: You played on the team that sent Auburn and Sir Charles Barkley packing at Vanderbilt's Memorial Gym in the 1984 SEC Tournament. You posted seven assists, some of which were to some amazing shots by Kenny Walker, Melvin Turpin, Sam Bowie, and Co. What do you remember about that game and what is it REALLY like to play on that court?
DB: I remember Kenny hitting the game winner. What people don't know is Jim Master and I switched spots. The game before (Alabama), we ran the same out of bounds play. I received the ball. This time Auburn denied me the pass. We had the play set for Kenny. Instinctively, I went to Jim's spot to set the screen. Jim kept his cool and made the pass to Kenny. Kenny made the shot. Playing at Memorial gym is my favorite arena. It's so unique and very loud.
ABC: We all know that March Madness is upon us, and everyone knows that the Cats are setting atop the East region to start this thing, after winning both the SEC Regular Season, and Conference Tournament. What is it like to try to prepare for what is coming with the #1 seed, and the expectations that come along with it?
DB: It's an honor to be the #1 seed. It's something that's earned. You have a target on your back. Expectations are always high at UK. It's all about executing and playing hard. You know your the best team. It's time to show that your the best.
ABC: Other than winning a National Championship, what else would you like to have been a part of at UK while you were there?
DB: I wish I was a little more mature. I enjoyed my experience at UK. I wish I would have worked harder in the classroom as well as on the court. I was fortunate to get my degree. I gave Coach Hall headaches. Today, he and I talk about the past. I thank him for helping me to understand the importance of education. He was a tremendous coach and father figure.
ABC: There has been both good and bad publicity for the Cats this year, with much of the bad centering around their immaturity due to their age and inexperience, but Coach Cal has gone on record as saying he will take talent over experience any day. How much harder is it going to be for these guys in this tournament as freshmen?
DB: Coach Cal has been there before, He will make his guys understand the importance of laying it on the line. Defense wins championships. Kentucky has the most talent in the country.
ABC: What was your favorite moment at UK?
DB: My favorite moment was beating Illinois. That victory propelled us to the Final Four. Getting the MVP of the Mid-East region was icing on the cake. I never expected it. Seeing my teammates, coaches, family and fans celebrate is a memory I will never forget.
ABC: Coach Hall has become a "Grandfather" type figure to the University now, as well as to some of the players and the fans. We all see the guy in the commercials making "Whitaker Bank Shots" and inspiring the Cats at various events. But what was he like back in 1980? Was he the same jovial and philosophical guy he is now? How hard was he on the guys in those days?
DB: Coach Hall was tough back in 1980. He was difficult because, he wanted everyone to succeed. That meant taking care of business on and off the court. He was all about building/testing your character -- he was not jovial. But to his credit, he made us band together as a team. We wanted to protect each other. Have each others backs. I know he liked when we played hard and unselfishly. That's why we were so successful -- Coach was tough, but he taught us about life. Responsibility, teamwork and commitment to doing things right. Those are values I still hold today. I have the utmost respect for Coach Hall.
ABC: This one is an open question for you Dicky to say anything you would like to the fans, tell them where you are now, what you are doing etc.
DB: To the UK fans, Thanks !!!! I will always be a part of the UK family. I feel the support today. I really appreciate the kindness that UK fans show. It blows my mind that people remember certain games or plays I made. Not only myself, but other former players as well. It's true when you hear UK fans are the best. I have memories that will last a lifetime. Today, I'm an Allstate agent/owner in Independence. I really enjoy helping people meet their needs.
For everyone that reads this, Dicky has an agency in Independence, Kentucky. When taking to Dicky, I could tell that he doesn't like to capitalize on his fame from his UK days to earn a living, so I am going to do a little bit for him. In order to become an agent, he had to go through some of the most vigorous background checks, testing and schooling you will ever see, Just getting the title is a big honor. If you are in the Northern Kentucky Metro area,or anywhere else in Kentucky for that matter, stop in and see him. I guarantee you that even if he can't help you with your insurance needs, he won't hurt you, and you too will have the privilege of talking to one of the nicest guys I have ever had the honor of talking UK sports with, or any other subject for that matter. As a licensed agent, he can write insurance for anyone in the state anywhere, so if you want a chance to have one of the all-time UK greats as your insurance agent, feel free to call him or contact him at the address and phone number below. His website address is here.