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Sean Woods and The Fear of Extinction

The UK legend and current Morehead State head coach discusses everything from his current squad to Christian Laettner.

NCAA Basketball: Ohio Valley Conference Tournament-Tennessee Martin vs Moorehead State Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

“Pat Riley told us something when he came to visit us my senior year at Kentucky. He said that mans biggest fear is the fear of extinction and the fear of going through life not being a part of something and not being known.” – Sean Woods

Current Morehead State head coach and Kentucky legend Sean Woods is reflective on his role in the infamous 1992 East Regional Final that saw Duke beat Kentucky on Christian Laettner’s buzzer-beater. Although Woods admits that game has had a significant impact on his life, you get the sense that he refuses to let one night or one game define who he is as a person.

Woods is coming off his best season as head coach at Morehead State University which is just an hour drive east of Lexington down the I-64. The Eagles posted an impressive 23-14 record last year under Woods and are 75-63 in his four years in charge of the program and are regarded as one of the favorites this season in the Ohio Valley Conference. He received a contract extension over the summer that should keep him at Morehead through 2019-20 and says he happy to be at a university that believes in him.

Woods looks poised to lead his Eagles to further success in the near future and says, “We’ve won a lot of games and created a buzz and put ourselves in a position to be noticeable.” He said, “Now we’ve got to do the last thing and that’s win one of these deals.”

Regardless of which of program Woods is currently involved with, he still holds great pride in his connection to the University of Kentucky and says the greatest achievement of his career was getting his degree from UK. He also said, “Being able to make a significant impact on one of the richest traditions in all of sports and for my jersey to be hanging up there” as significant achievements in his life.

Woods spoke in great detail about his initial recruitment to Kentucky by current Toronto Raptors head coach Dwayne Casey and says he had spent many summers in Lexington as a child because the entire side of his mothers family were from there which made his decision to play in front of family at UK that much easier. He said, “They were on national TV, ranked in the top five and fighting for a national championship.” He said, “Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?”

He also spoke in depth about his experiences playing under numerous legendary coaches during his tenure including Eddie Sutton, Rick Pitino, Billy Donovan and Tubby Smith.

He said, “The main thing is you have to create a culture of over-achieving by being better than who you’re supposed to be. I got that from Pitino.”

When speaking with Woods, it was fascinating to be taken back to that fateful night in March of 1992 and his role in being a part of one the most memorable moments in the history of college basketball. Although he admits to still thinking about that game often, he seems accepting of his Kentucky team’s role in history.

Woods said, “Did we lose the game? Yeah. But sometimes fate happens.” Woods continued by saying, “It was meant for Duke to win two National Championships and it was meant for Christian Laettner to be considered the best college basketball player ever aside from Lew Alcindor.”

The ESPN “30 for 30” that covered Laettner’s heroics throughout his college career was called “I Hate Christian Laettner” and you would think that Woods would be first in line to coin that phrase for himself, but he takes a more monastic approach when discussing the arch nemesis of his career.

He said, “Christian Laettner is still today the best college basketball player I’ve ever played against and I played against Shaq (O’Neal).”

Many Kentucky fans still wonder what could’ve been for that 1992 squad had that game turned out differently. However, Woods himself seems more focused on his present and future success for his program at Morehead State but looks back with great fondness at how his cards were dealt to him.

He said, “I’m blessed and I wouldn’t change my career for nothing.”