I just had to comment on this letter to the editor in the Courier-Journal from a — I kid you not — emeritus professor at the University of Louisville. Here’s some of his fascinating, but definitely unusual, opinion (Hat tip: SB Nation):
My belief is that Kentucky’s coach has planned, through recruitment and coaching tactics, to build a program that smothers and bullies opponents rather than play basketball the way it should be played.
You don’t say! This may come as a surprise to you, professor, but every coach on every level recruits and coaches their team to win in a variety of ways, including smothering their opponents defensively. The late John Wooden did exactly that in his dynastic run at UCLA years ago. Nobody told him he was doing it wrong, because he wasn’t. Neither is Kentucky.
And exactly how should basketball be played, professor? With a peach basket? Where dunks are illegal? As far as I can tell, basketball is substantially the same game as it was when I was a kid with the exception of the 3-point shot, the shot clock, and other more minor variations. Tall, athletic guys are still coveted for basketball teams as they have always been since the first game. Defense has pretty much always been legal in the modern game. So I’m not quite sure what “the way it should be played” means in this context.
Even your fellow Louisville Cardinals fans will no doubt be appalled at your suggestion that there is something wrong with “smothering” an opponent, a skill that Louisville under Rick Pitino has arguably done better and more consistently than any team in college basketball in recent years. So before calling the kettle black, perhaps you should locate a mirror somewhere, and take a peek.
As to the “bullying” charge, well, I have no idea what you mean by that, so I can’t address it except speculatively. If you mean that UK intimidates opponents with their size and skill, then guilty as charged and proudly so. Like every other college basketball program, we try to field the very best team we can — we’re just better at it than most.
Inevitably, this corruption of college basketball will doom the sport at the college level. No team wants to play that kind of program. I don’t understand how Kentucky’s players tolerate the loss of athletic play in their present up-and-down routine where true competition is never achieved.
With due respect to your esteemed title, it beggars belief that you actually know enough about the sport of college basketball to credibly pronounce its doom or judge it corrupt. While observers of the sport who understand the game marvel at the fact that Kentucky is able to function so well as a team playing so many players, your position is that the UK players should be upset about their individual lack of playing time. Has it never occurred to you that the objective of a basketball team is to win every game…as a team? Is it truly beyond your cognition that the proper functioning of a team requires sacrifice of individual players, and that the best teams are composed of players who allow their individual wants to be superseded by the needs of their teammates, and the group as a whole?
And how to respond to your notion of “true competition?” Are you saying Louisville was somehow uncompetitive against Kentucky? My dear sir, let me disabuse you of that notion — Louisville was quite competitive, and had they been better at the fundamental basketball technique of putting the ball in the basket, also known as “shooting” to us basketball purists, they might well have won that game. I think your own school’s coach, who got into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in no small part based on the strength of his performance at the University of Kentucky doing exactly what the Wildcats are doing now, would be incensed at the notion the Cardinals were incapable of “true competition” with Kentucky.
The NCAA should reject this corrupted play before other schools reject submitting their programs to participate.
Ah, the true sportsman in you comes out at last. If the other team is too good, you just refuse to play them! Knute Rockne would be proud. Jim Valvano sings hosannas to you from his grave. I’m confident you have no idea who either one of those worthies were, bless your pea-pickin’ little heart.
I’m guessing the playground was a manifestly unfriendly place for you, professor. Trust me when I tell you teams can’t wait to test themselves against Kentucky regardless of the perceived gap in talent. True competitors do not quail at the sight of a superior foe. If that were so, Buster Douglas would never have challenged, let alone beaten Mike Tyson. Kentucky would’ve never upset Indiana to spoil their perfect season in 1975. Rocky would never have defeated Apollo Creed … Oops, never mind, you drew me into your reality for a second there.
I hope you have a happy, contented life, professor, but may I respectfully suggest you don’t watch college basketball. It’s much too primitive and uncultured for you. Perhaps chess, or croquet would suit you better. It’s just a thought.
Happy New Year.