It was a frustrating weekend to be a Kentucky Wildcats fan. While the football team did beat South Carolina on Saturday night, two coaches were let go the day after the win. Good teams that are in a good position for the future don’t fire coaches.
And the basketball team... goodness. What in the world do we do with this basketball team?
Eddie Gran is the fall guy
The Kentucky offense was nothing short of an embarrassment for most of the season. The Cats were able to pile up yards on the bad teams but, for the most part, the offense was as frustrating as it has been throughout the Mark Stoops tenure.
Saturday night after the win over the Gamecocks, Jon Hale from the Courier-Journal asked Mark Stoops about impending staff changes, and Stoops bristled with anger. The next day, offensive coordinator Eddie Gran and quarterback coach Darrin Hinshaw were let go after five seasons.
To be quite frank, I don’t know if Eddie Gran was the issue when it came to the offense. Stoops talked to the media on Monday and claimed that he was almost totally hands off when it came to the offense. He went so far to say that he never sits in offensive meetings. If we are to take him at his word, then this is problematic all on its own.
I’m not buying it in the least. Stoops has never been shy about the way he likes to play football. He likes to run the ball, control the clock and let his defense do their thing. We all remember the excitement when Eddie Gran was hired because of the high-flying, high-scoring offense he ran at Cincinnati.
What happened to that?
Stoops claimed that the reason Gran wasn’t able to run the same offense is that the defenses in the SEC were just too good for it.
Excuse me, Coach Stoops, but have you seen the offensive firepower that your conferences has displayed the last five seasons? Have you been under a rock?
Mark Stoops is about to hire his fourth offensive coordinator in his eight years as a head coach at Kentucky. Something tells me it’s not the OCs that are the problem.
I think it was abundantly clear that Stoops’ hand may have been forced by Mitch Barnhart when it came to the firing of Gran and Hinshaw. Both of those guys were 100% loyal to Stoops and he reciprocated that loyalty. He said multiple times that he loved both Gran and Hinshaw.
Was it his stubbornness that got his friends fired? We may never know. But we are about to find out next season whether or not it was indeed Eddie Gran that was holding back the offense.
4-6 does not equal 8-4
Some of you may not like what I’m about to say: this was not an 8-4 football team. We aren’t dealing in hypotheticals or “what if” scenarios. We need to look at the reality of the situation, and that reality is that Kentucky wasn’t a good football team this season.
I’ve seen a lot of talk about “Well this would have been an 8-4 season in normal circumstances.” And to that I would say, “Yeah that may be true.”
But this wasn’t a normal situation. It was an all-SEC schedule and many of us, myself included, expected more from this team. I was expecting 6-4 based upon the amount of veteran players returning and there were wins on this schedule that were out there to be had.
Let’s be 100% honest here: Most of us figured Kentucky would beat Ole Miss (new coach), Mississippi State (new coach), Missouri (new coach), Vanderbilt (they’re terrible), South Carolina (they’re terrible), and either Tennessee (they’re terrible) or Auburn (they’re generic).
We knew they wouldn’t beat Georgia, Alabama, or Florida. Nobody was going to fault them for that. But the losses to Ole Miss, Missouri, and even Auburn were, in retrospect, pretty poor losses.
Kentucky had Ole Miss beat and let mistakes cost them the game. They outplayed Auburn for most of the game, but the offense couldn’t do a damn thing in the second half (a sign of things to come). The loss to Missouri was just flat-out bad.
I think Kentucky fans have come to expect more out of this football program, and they just didn’t deliver this season. It wasn’t like they were blown out every game. They had chances to win and just blew it.
Good teams don’t do that.
John Calipari’s team is in big trouble
As the football team struggled, we looked towards the basketball team to make us all feel better. Unfortunately, they didn’t get the memo.
There is no way else to put this other than John Calipari’s team just flat-out stinks right now, and there isn’t a great deal of wiggle room before the SEC portion of the season starts in a month.
It’s quite baffling. Kentucky has a great collection of talent but they’re not a good team. For the first time since 2013, John Calipari doesn’t have a point guard. The team can’t shoot, score, pass the ball, defend a simple backdoor cut, among other things.
I found it in quite bad taste when John Calipari abruptly left his press conference in order to “get on the bus” only to trot Davion Mintz out there minutes later to field questions. And Mintz talked longer to the media than Calipari did.
I can’t quite put my finger on it, but there is something off about this team. There’s no passion or personality. They look scared and/or confused almost all of the time. There is a lack of energy on the court. They don’t communicate with each other at all. There’s no swagger, and they absolutely do not like to get physical.
One could almost look past the loss to Richmond. The Kansas loss stung as well, but they could have won that game.
The loss to Josh Pastner and his welder’s mask is inexcusable. That Georgia Tech team was 0-2 with losses to Mercer and Georgia State. They suck. That may be the worst team Kentucky plays all season.
Even in the years when Calipari’s teams have struggled early, and boy I’ve heard my fill of that BS lately, those teams would have beaten Georgia Tech. Ryan Harrow and Archie Goodwin would have beaten that Georgia Tech team by double-digits.
John Calipari makes almost 10 million dollars a year. The product he has on the court isn’t worth 10 dollars a year right now.
Maybe Calipari will figure it out and flip the such or do his magic tweak. But right now, he looks as confused as the rest of us, and that’s not a good sign.
Calipari told us last Tuesday after the loss to Kansas that he would figure this team out. He had five days to prepare for Georgia Tech and got pummeled in an empty gym.
Josh Pastner became the first Calipari assistant to beat his former boss. Cal is 17-1 against former assistants now.
We all have clunkers now and then, but this wasn’t supposed to be a clunker year. This team has two preseason NBA lottery picks, two highly touted grad transfers, and a diamond in the rough in Isaiah Jackson.
Maybe Calipari misevaluated some of these guys. Or maybe turning over the entire team finally caught up with him. It’s apparent early on that he doesn’t have a transcendent talent that can carry this team on his back. Maybe Terrence Clarke or Brandon Boston can be that guy, but they have a lot of growing up to do and a short amount of time to do it.
For the first time in his tenure, I sense John Calipari fatigue setting in with many fans and media. I love Calipari, and I want him to be here as long as he wants to. He’s earned that and then some.
But I’m not going to pretend like what is going on is OK. I’m not just going to say “He’s going to figure it out” because, at this moment, it’s going to take a lot more than just figuring it out to right this ship.