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UK Basketball: Accepting the Silence ... it will all be over soon


We are a microwave society.  I don't think anyone will dispute that notion, but within the sub-culture that is the Big Blue Nation, we are a "supersonic" microwave society ... we want answers, and we want them yesterday.

Well, it wasn't yesterday, it was at the SEC Tournament in Tampa two weeks ago:

"We are not going to do any kind of evaluation of the basketball program until after the season is over.  I'll leave that up to Mitch (Barnhart) to do the evaluation, sitting down with the coach, and then they'll come to me and we'll talk about anything they want to talk about."

So says UK President Lee Todd, in a quote that should answer the questions coming from cyberspace, as well as the print media, on why UK Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart hasn't issued a statement amidst the firestorm of uncertainty surrounding the Kentucky basketball program.

If that's not clear enough for us in the Big Blue Nation, Mitch Barnhart said this when asked to expound upon his statement regarding employees of the Athletic Department's need to exercise some "self-examination," "self-awareness," as well as a need to make "adjustments:"

"That's a conversation for me and Billy at the end of he season."

So, taking Todd and Barnhart at their word, one has to assume that such a meeting will take place, and out of said meeting a decision will be reached on the future of Gillispie, and the UK basketball program. 

Not before the season ends ... not today ... not yesterday ... not UNTIL THE SEASON ENDS.

This is why I don't understand all the clamoring among the Wildcat faithful for a statement from Barnhart.  Folks, he's made his statement, there is no need for another one.  Regardless of how much we want to hear a clarification or expansion on what was said a couple of weeks ago, I doubt one is forthcoming.  Todd and Barnhart have said what needs to be said, to this point.

Gillispie's Response

Regardless of how some UK fans feel about this whole "when the seasons over we'll evaluate" stance of the Athletic Administration, Billy Gillispie certainly seems sold on Todd and Barnhart keeping their word, because he's in major spin control mode:

"We're not far from being a great team.  I wouldn't doubt that it'll happen in this tournament (the NIT)." 

"They have a chance to be great.  They've worked as hard as any group in America on a daily basis.  We didn't always compete every single possession like we needed to, but a lot of that happens with experience."

"These guys are very inexperienced ... very young.  That's the only reason we didn't make it into the NCAA Tournament."

 "We're not far from being a great team ... They have a chance to be great ... These guys are very inexperienced ..."

Gillispie, in all of those quotes, is pointing to the future. 

He's saying that given time, this team, along with the '09 newcomers, will be much better than the current crop of 'Cats.  But, will these, and other statements coming from Gillispie, plant a positive seed with Barnhart concerning the direction of the program?  Who knows, but it's seemingly clear that Gillispie wants to coach at Kentucky, and he's attempting to justify the team's shortcomings, and the season's multiple disappointments, with a not-so-veiled "youth-excuse" characterization of the '08-'09 squad.

Does Winning Truly Cure All Ills?

More to the point: Will winning the NIT, or at least getting to Madison Square Garden for the NIT Final Four, be enough to quell the growing rebellion of change among UK supporters?

It's an interesting question, no doubt, and one I don't pretend to know the answer to.  But, it will be much harder for Barnhart to justify firing Gillispie if the 'Cats end the season winning six of seven games, or something along those lines.

Or will it?

Some comments, both public and (some) private, have suggested that Barnhart's alleged unhappiness lies not in the win-loss column, but in the image and attitude put forth by UK's head coach:

It's been dissected and discussed ad nauseum: Gillispie's run-ins with ESPN's Jeanine Edwards; Gillispie's sometimes discourteous treatment of "The Voice of the Wildcats" Tom Leach; Gillispie's reluctance to cater to the boosters, thus bruising their fragile egos; Gillispie's dressing-down of all-around good guy Rob Bromley: and Gillispie's sometimes dismissive style when dealing with fans' questions during his weekly call-in show (for some perspective, folks need to replay some of Rick Pitino's barbs pointed towards some of the callers into his show when he led the 'Cats).

Will an NIT run to New York somehow lessen the above offenses?  I'm not sure, but some would surmise that it would make Gillispie's sometimes caustic manner much more palatable.

Which of course makes those folks hypocrites. 

We either want our head coach to win and lose with class, or we don't.  We either want our head coach to treat everyone with respect, or we don't. 

Our feelings on Gillispie's attitude shouldn't waver with every win and loss; we shouldn't vacillate based on winning streaks, or losing streaks.  Our wants and desires related to the head coach's comportment should be rock solid.  Our expectation of the University of Kentucky's head basketball coach should not change one iota from what it was two years ago, prior to Gillispie's arrival.

Trusting Mitch

Mitch Barnhart has proved to be a patient man.  Patient to the point of enduring unwarranted criticism for sticking with Rich Brooks when most fans and media members were screaming for the UK football coach to be fired after his third season.

Perhaps patience with Gillispie is also called for.  After-all, he's gone from an after-thought at UTEP and Texas A & M, to the most analyzed and critiqued person this side of the President of the United States, at UK.  But isn't two years enough time to make the requisite adjustments?

I think, regardless of how UK performs Monday night, and in any subsequent games this season, that Gillispie needs to assure Barnhart in their post-season pow-wow that he's capable of adapting to the culture of UK basketball.  Right or wrong, without that assurance, I'm not sure Barnhart will exercise the same patience with Gillispie, as he did with Brooks.

Happy Birthdays

I want to wish a Happy Birthday to my nephew Preston, and my now two-year old daughter Abby.

Thanks for reading, and Go 'Cats!