I can't imagine a Kentucky basketball fan not being happy right now. I mean, what's not to like? The 'Cats won the school's eighth national title, Anthony Davis was the runaway National Player of the Year, UK ran the SEC regular season table, the team won a national record 38 games (tying the 2008 Memphis squad), and Kentucky beat UofL not once, but twice, in the same season (gotta love that), and looking forward, John Calipari has more-of-the-same talent scheduled to arrive in Lexington for the foreseeable future.
Am I happy and satisfied and content? You betcha. But I'm not only happy for myself, I'm also ecstatic for several different people, from folks connected to the UK basketball program, to the fans who have waited 14 years for another Big Blue banner to be unfurled in the Rupp rafters.
So follow me after a jump for a sampling of those ...
... I'm most happy for:
John Calipari, perhaps more-so than even the players who earned the right to be called champions on the court. Even though he would never publicly say so, a championship could be construed as Cal's way of waving his middle finger at his critics, of which there are a surprisingly high number, and those who doubted UK could or would win a title with so many young players playing key roles.
Monday night's win cements Cal's legacy as a National Championship winner, and one of the great coaches of his era, and for that, I'm happy for Coach Cal. But I do offer Calipari this humble message: UCLA is only three away.
Darius Miller, the lone four-year senior; who endured a tumultuous freshman year under Billy Gillispie; who survived almost three-full years of questions detailing his sometimes uneven offensive output, for that, I'm happy for Miller. And when one adds in the fact Miller is a genuinely nice cat, who stabilized a talented group of 18-year old superstars into a championship outfit, I become more than happy for Miller, I'm genuinely overjoyed for Maysville's new favorite son.
Miller, though, will forever be remembered by 'Cat fans as the deferential Wildcat without a selfish bone in his body, who gave up his starting spot without a whimper or even minor complaint, in this, his championship senior season.
The rest of the Kentucky Wildcat lineup, from Spider man, to Terrence Jones, to Jarrod Polson, to Brian Long and Sam Malone. This team, perhaps more than any other recent-vintage UK squad, defined, personified and perfected a team-first, individual-accolades-second attitude. For that, they all deserve every great thing that comes their way, and believe me when I write, all of the players have a lifetime of greatness headed in their general direction.
This team will now be remembered as the squad who brought banner No. 8 to Kentucky, proving sometimes youth is served.
The unmatched UK radio duo of Tom Leach and Mike Pratt, because it's them who bring to life the game Kentucky fans adore so much. When one listens to Leach and Pratt, one can hear the love they have for the program and the players alike, which is just one reason I wouldn't trade listening to Leach and Pratt for a front row Rupp Arena seat.
Mitch Barnhart, because he brought Billy Gillispie to UK, realized he screwed the pooch, and rectified the mistake by bringing to UK the man most well-suited for the demands of the most scrutinized and imperious head coaching position, perhaps in the world. Take a bow, Mitch, you hired a national championship coach. For an athletic director, it doesn't get much better.
Mr. Wildcat, Bill Keightley, who might not have been present in carbon form, but he was there, in New Orleans, taking it all in from the best seat in the house.
Joe B. Hall, for it was him who continued the Kentucky tradition without skipping a beat after the "retirement" of Adolph Rupp. In addition, Hall has been a tremendous counselor for John Calipari and unparalleled ambassador for Kentucky basketball, as he continues to leave his indelible mark on the most tradition rich college basketball program in the land. Seeing his smile after the game just added to the already momentous occasion.
All of the ex-UK players who continue to loudly and proudly support the Wildcats, many of who weren't lucky enough to win a title of their own.
The support the Kentucky basketball program gets from its ex-players is remarkable. The sheer volume, the number of ex-UK players who actively support the program in many different ways, is mind boggling. But just as important, it's the ex-Cats, who as players, lifted the program to the top of the mountain, for it was their blood, sweat, and tears which were shed in Alumni Gym, Memorial Coliseum, and Rupp Arena in an effort to elevate the UK program above all others.
DeWayne Peevy, the UK basketball Media Relations director (he's also involved with the K Fund and sports marketing), operates the most important college basketball program in the nation with extreme competence and a deft touch. Peevy lives and breathes Kentucky basketball, and runs the empire with an iron fist, which is, after all, the only way to manage that which so many want to cover.
Ashley Judd ... one just knows she is through the roof with excitement (but hey, Ash, when is Mr. Judd getting on board the Big Blue Wildcat wagon?).
The Wildcat fans, who without fail, every year, show-up at games, watch on TV, buy UK gear by the bushel, and live and die with every basket and turnover, for them I am most happy. Why, because the players, coaches, and administrators are all just keeping the tradition warm, while the fans are here forever. It's the fans who are responsible for the long-term health of the program. It's the fans who demand excellence, and it's the University that responds in kind (at the risk of great wrath).
Without a commitment to demanding excellence, first brought to life decades ago by our great grandfathers, the UK basketball program would not be the gold standard of college hoops. The fans' fervor and relentless dedication to supporting the 'Cats is what has allowed Kentucky to excel on the hard court for 80-plus years, so enjoy the championship after-glow Wildcat fans, because moments like this are meant to be richly savored, for whence it will come again is a question only answered by time.
Thanks for reading and Go 'Cats!