I just returned from a holiday function at the home of my wife's new boss. It was a pleasant affair, with lots of food and nice, mature people willing to talk about virtually everything except sports. We drank a few adult beverages, and the host had seven or eight fine whiskies which he opened, and allowed us to taste. Four Bourbons and four Scotches. Even though I am of Scottish descent, I have never acquired a taste for the national whiskey, although tonight I tried a 12-year old Glenmorangie that I think I could develop a liking for.
You will notice that I have not mentioned the Kentucky Wildcats in nearly 100 words. That's because I have no words for what I saw today. It made me very angry, and I can only thank God that we had the function to attend so immediately after the game that I had no time to stew in my juices and write words that I would regret later. Now I am home with a comfortable Maker's Mark, thinking about what I can write that would cut through the woebegone morass of turnovers, missed shots, ineffective defense, and white-hot opponent shooting that doomed Kentucky to it's fifth loss in six games.
This game was a horror, a freak show. It featured a completely hapless team that dismantled our storied program like a Leggo skyscraper, and left the once-proud Big Blue Nation shaking their heads, or rushing to the liquor cabinet for comfort, or venting violently on the Internet yet again. It is becoming a ritual, almost.
I am reminded of the 1984 Robert Redford movie, "The Natural," where the team psychiatrist tries to treat the team's losing ways:
[Cut to the next game, same scene] Losing is a disease, as contagious as syphilis ...
[Cut to the next game, same scene] Losing is a disease, as contagious as bubonic plague ...
[Cut to the next game, same scene]... attacking one...
[Cut to the next game, same scene]... but infecting all.
[Cut to the next game, same scene] Ah, but curable. Now, I want you to imagine you are on a ship at sea, on a vast ocean, gently rocking. Gently rocking. Gently rocking. Gently rocking ...
Will we? When, exactly, will we get better, coach? What did we do better today? C'mon, we are all adults here -- we know what good basketball looks like, and lately we know a lot more about bad basketball than we have in a long time. Explain to us how a team with Patrick Patterson, Ramel Bradley, Joe Crawford, and an assortment of other players loses to a rag-tag group of two-star players and allows a walk-on to light us up for 18 points. Explain to me how a team who averages under 30 percent from the 3-point line can embarrass our man-to-man defense, supposedly taught by a man who eschews all other defenses on the basis that the man-to-man is always the right answer, by shooting an other-worldly 56% from the arc.
Tell me, coach, what the hell is wrong with our team? I don't want to hear about injuries -- even with one arm tied behind our collective backs, we should be able to beat teams like San Diego at home in oh-so-storied Rupp Arena. Tell me, coach. I will believe you, if you will only stop repeating platitudes and start being honest with us. I don't know how it was at Texas A&M, but I do know how it is here in Kentucky, and we don't need coddling and are damned tired of banal B.S. Give us the straight dope, the real stuff. What is our problem, and why are we losing at home to teams ranked in the bottom third of college basketball? You have started everybody on the team but Mike Williams and the walk ons. What is up with this ... process?
Now, some of you will accuse me of getting negative on Gillispie. I'm not. He has only been here a few games, and he is absolutely going to be here for many more. But I am damn sure I have the right to know what the heck is wrong with this team. I am sick and tired of seeing this ... "offense" that is offensive to the very concept of team basketball. For God's sake, coach, just let the players shoot the frigging thing before they can make turnovers. I have never, ever seen such feckless offensive basketball anywhere, and if this is what you are coaching, in my humble opinion, you're doing something wrong. Nobody in the entire universe of college basketball coaches could do less with this team than you have so far, and of that, I am absolutely positive. Is it something you're doing? Is it just the price we have to pay to get where we need to be? What? What is it? We don't lose games like this ... E V E R!
All I am asking for is a little honesty. Tell me this is just what has to happen, that you have to break them down and build them up. I'll believe you. Tell me that you have two seniors who just won't work with you. I'll believe you. Tell me that the team is just having difficulty implementing your system, and we can expect more such debacles before it gets better. I'll believe you.
Just stop telling me, "We'll get better," because if that's true, this team is making almost no progress. This team is exactly the same team that lost to Gardner-Webb, and blew the second half to UAB. I have seen this team before, and I don't like them at all. How many more times am I going to have to watch them? I don't need precision -- a round number will do. Can I expect improvement this year, or must I wait until next? I'm a big boy, and the Big Blue Nation knows that sometimes you have to break a few eggs to make an omelet. We can live with defeat, but we can't live with hypnotic bromides.
Tell us anything -- but tell us something.