Seems the UK coach and the Big Blue Nation both need a visit with Buddy Rydell for a little anger management.
First, the coach. After Kentucky's debacle on Sunday, it is reported that the UK coach was mad enough to chew iron and spit nails:
Wow. Well, who could blame him? Like most of us who follow UK basketball, he was probably at a loss to understand how a team could shoot 58% from the field (60% in the second half alone), hold the best 3-point shooting team in the conference to 30% from 3 and 41% overall and still lose the game.
But Smith was much more reserved in his call-in show last night, and had very little criticism for his players. But the show has been getting a bit stranger lately, with many of the call-ins being from former UK players and assistant coaches, and not so many from fans. The Lexington Herald-Leader had this to say about the show last night:
A quick perusal of The Cats Pause demonstrates why this is an issue, with manifold comments decrying the show and Smith for not allowing calls from critics.
I have at least two observations about this: One is that many of Smith's most vehement critics care nothing for the fact that he is constrained from responding to many of the comments, questions and accusations an unbridled caller would present. That renders such an encounter inherently unfair to the coach.
The second is that Kentucky fans have never shown any hesitation to speak loudly from the depths of ignorance. It's not their fault - the fans cannot possibly be expected to be familiar with the nuances of running a D1 program like Kentucky, but that won't stop them from assuring the coach that he is screwing it up.
Then there is the Barnhart statement. As JL points out below, our beloved AD has weighed in on the issue with an embarrassingly neutral offering which contains nothing in the way of support for Smith. I guess after hanging out there on the limb with his pal Rich Brooks, Barnhart is losing the stomach for standing up to our rowdy fans. Never forget, it's who you know.
Also mentioned by JL is this article by Rick Bozich, a Louisville sports writer with whom I am reasonably familiar. First of all, Bozich's column is blatant band-wagoneering. Yes, Smith gets paid a lot, but what exactly does that have to do with it? Appeals to greed go nowhere with me. Yes, Smith's recruiting has sucked lately, but it looks to be on a rebound - or was.
Doubtless, this current conflagration jeopardizes that as well. How? Well, Patrick Patterson was quoted in this Herald-Leader article as follows:
Asked whether he'd scratch UK from his list of six schools, Patterson said, "Probably."
Bozich goes on to regurgitate "Rondo" and "promises of change" and all the stuff you can find any day on any message board or blog related to the Wildcats, and how happy everyone would be if Smith would just leave. Pardon me if I find this - ahem - unoriginal.
Will Barnhart pressure Smith? You bet. Is his statement the first shot in that battle? Unquestionably. But that is exactly how it should be. When a coach at UK underperforms, he should be getting pressure from his AD.
My only question is this - Will Barnhart use the same standards and practices with Smith as he did with his ol' buddy Rich? The answer to this question is pregnant with implications not just for the UK basketball program, but for the entire athletic administration and University as well. And please don't bore me with comments about how basketball is "different" at UK - fair is fair. The sports world is watching, and if this is mishandled, the consequences could be far graver than the NCAA probation a few years back.
Here is to Barnhart showing himself to be the consummate professional we hope we hired. It will surely be his greatest test to date.