Posted on: February 23, 2010 10:51 am
Edited on: March 9, 2010 8:42 pm
By Thomas Beisner
Outside of Heidi Montag’s body, there was no more absurdly rapid transformation in the past 11 months than what transpired in Lexington, Ky. When John Calipari accepted the Kentucky job on March 31, 2009, he kissed the babies and smiled with UK legends and called it his “dream job”.
The reality was, though, the Kentucky program was in shambles, coming off their first NIT appearance in 30 years and sporting a roster nearly void of talent and morale after two years of The Billy Gillispie Experiment. In only two years, Gillispie not only tarnished the basketball reputation of the Wildcats with losses to schools like Gardner-Webb and San Diego, he alienated an entire fanbase with his tough-guy routine and mental warfare. Even the most optimistic Wildcat fan knew that Kentucky was not Kentucky anymore. On the court and off the court, Kentucky needed a miracle.
For the Cats, that miracle was John Calipari.
Though the wins have come at a clip that likely surprises even the most blue-blooded Kentucky homer, that's only part of the story of Calipari's success in Lexington. What Kentucky fans really needed was a renewed bond with their team and Calipari had to be the guy to deliver that. Calipari's daunting task was as much about basketball as it was community development. It's also one that he's tackled flawlessly in his short time heading the Wildcat program.
From hiring former Kentucky heroes Scott Padgett and Tony Delk as assistants to traveling from border to border to meet with fans in every town, burg and holler, Calipari has welcomed Kentucky fans to again feel close with their basketball team.
And that’s why people in Kentucky are calling this team “special” – a word that carries heavy reverence in the Bluegrass.
Sure, people are like Patrick Patterson for what he’s done the past two and a half seasons on the court. But UK fans love him for things like giving a stranded woman a ride home for no other reason than it was the right thing to do.
It’s not just that John Wall is a late-game superhero as a freshman, it’s that he sports the highest GPA on the team and an “aw, shucks” humility fitting of a walk-on, calling everyone “sir” or “ma’am”. Also, it doesn't hurt that an impromptu dance inspired celebrity imitations, Photoshopped pictures (Part 1 and Part 2) and had 80-year olds in Pikeville humming "Ice Cream Paint Job".
And, yes, UK fans are ecstatic that DeMarcus Cousins has developed into, arguably, the best big man in the country in only five months. But, they love him for things like campaigning online to change his nickname from “Carl” to “Boogie” and for responding to message boards saying he always looked angry by sporting a giant cheesy grin in fan pictures.
Kentucky fans were going to wait for days for their Big Blue Madness tickets no matter what. It just made the experience richer when Josh Harrellson, Mark Krebs and Darius Miller played cornhole with them.
You see, this team is as talented as any Kentucky team has ever been, but that’s only half the story in Lexington.
And that brings us to Calipari.
It’s no secret – even in Lexington – that everywhere Cal goes, he’s followed by the “v” word. He’s been blasted in print and he’s been ripped on television for his vacated Final Fours and it’s not going to stop anytime soon. There is a stigma attached to Calipari now and, right or wrong, it’s only going to get amplified with each Wildcat win. If John Wall and Co. cut down the nets in Indianapolis this spring, you can bet that the “v” word will find itself again all over your television and sports page.
But, you know what? Kentucky fans don’t care. Not even the teeny tiniest bit.
And it’s not because they’re the crazed win-at-all-costs fans that some think they are. It’s not because Calipari is delivering wins at a pace not seen since Pitino. It’s not because he landed one of the best recruiting classes of all-time in just a couple of months. It’s not even because he beat North Carolina and UConn in the same week or because he successfully defended Rupp Arena against the hated Louisville Cardinals.
It’s because the John Calipari that Lexington sees is not the 12-foot tall, rules-breaking monster that he’s often depicted to be, snatching up every top recruit and leaving a wake of NCAA destruction behind him.
In Lexington, John Calipari is a family man. He’s the guy who lives on a busy street, just outside of downtown and very much in public. He’s a father who openly brags about his two college-aged daughters and his 13-year old son’s basketball games on Twitter. He’s the fan-friendly coach who handed out McDonald’s breakfast to the masses of people camped outside Memorial Coliseum for tickets to his first Big Blue Madness. He’s a guy who helped put together a fund raiser for Haiti in less than 48 hours, which would eventually net nearly $1.5 million for relief efforts. He’s the guy that left his team after a road win in Alabama to fly to Indianapolis and meet privately with a teenager who had suddenly fallen ill – and who had simply requested an autographed picture.
As they like to say on Kentucky message boards, “he gets it”.
So, you’ll get no apologies from Kentucky fans for not caring about the “v” word. To Kentuckians, John Calipari isn’t a monster. Like his players, he’s just one of them.
And that’s really all they’ve ever wanted.
Posted on: February 23, 2010 12:41 am
Edited on: February 23, 2010 12:48 am
By: Drew Franklin
Kansas took down what looked like the Norman, Oklahoma YMCA men's recreational team in a 81-68 "not really that close" game. Xavier Henry had the hot hand for the Jayhawks going 9-13 from the field for 23 points while Sherron Collins backed him up with 17 and 6 assists.
The win tonight clinched at least a share of the Big 12 Conference Championship for Kansas and made Sherron Collins and Brady Morningstar the two all-time winningest Jayhawks. Collins could also reach another milestone soon as he is two tattoos shy of ink poisoning.
But, seriously, congratulations to Collins and Morningstar and to the entire team for their sixth consecutive Big 12 title. They're going to make a long run in March, up until they face Baylor or Bucknell.
Looking back at tonight's game, the storyline is not the 13-0 conference record or how Cole Aldrich will block anything within 50 yards of him - it is how terrible Oklahoma is. I honestly thought the Sooners could go the entire game without scoring. I know they miss Mama and Papa Griffin in the crowd and on the jumbotron during EVERY timeout, and I'm sure they miss Blake too, but how could they could they fall so far in just one season? If I'm Jeff Capel, I'm on the phone with Coach K tonight asking for a seat next to Wojo. The Oklahoma basketball program is falling off faster than Mark Mangino on a mechanical bull.
Outside of the game, I couldn't be anymore impressed with Allen Fieldhouse. I've heard all about it on television and in Scot Pollard's glory day stories, but seeing it first hand was an amazing experience. The people here are nuts. Not just the students, I mean, everyone. Mothers, daughters, grandma, grandpa, the fat guy in 232 in the medium Rock Chalk t-shirt that screams during every free throw, the rich people behind the bench, and everyone in between. It is a VERY hostile environment and it certainly lives up to the hype. Although, I think the Rock Chalk Jayhawk chant is a bit creepy. I feel like everyone is about to put on their black Nike's and drink some kool-aid. Liven that thing up a bit.
As for the road trip, we're off to Chapel Hill, North Carolina. We'll be traveling so far over the next two days that NASA has contacted us about assisting the departure and monitoring our travels. Mapquest has it as a 17-hour drive but in my eyes that's just considered hell and I couldn't be anymore excited to feel the flames.
Talk to you soon.
Posted on: February 22, 2010 8:45 pm
By: Drew Franklin
7:30 PMWe're inside the Phog getting ready for the game. Here are a few notes of the pre-game scene:
They line up early.
It felt like about -45 degrees when we stepped out of the Rondo after arriving to Allen Fieldhouse. I barely made it from the parking lot to the front door without my Bear Grylls survival instincts kicking in. I was close to stabbing a wild animal. crawling inside it, and building a fire on the tennis courts.
But, the cold weather certainly didn't keep the students from lining up like the Brothers Jonas were in town. They do know they're playing Oklahoma, right?
As soon as we walked into Allen Fieldhouse, I could feel it. Not the tradition, the history, or the atmosphere, but the Chipotle. I knew it was in here somewhere. I followed my nose past the Jayhawk Wall of Fame, the trophy case, and the Danny Manning fathead to the media room where I found the mecca of college basketball media rooms: a Chipotle Burrito bar.
Phog Allen Fieldhouse, you sure do know how to win a guy over.
Bobby Knight doesn't need new friends.
Knight was in the media room, demolishing a burrito like it was a Metamucil wafer and a strawberry Ensure, and telling the other senior citizens at his table all about the good ol' days. Ya know, back when it was uphill both ways to smack a player or it was only a nickel fine to throw a chair. A few students politely asked Knight for a photo and he shook them off like they were the neighbors' kids trying to play in his yard. Lighten up, old man.
Noah built Allen Fieldhouse right after the ark.
I didn't realize how ancient this place was until I walked up the bleachers. It felt like I might step right through the lumber at any point. Sure, it's one the top three arenas in college basketball but it's also a safety hazard.
Xavier Henry is still committed to Kansas.
We passed Zah-vee-ay in the hallway and it appears that he is sticking to his decision to play at Kansas. You heard it here, folks.
Rock Chalk Jayhawk is about to get underway. I gotta run. See you at the half.
Posted on: February 22, 2010 6:00 pm
Edited on: February 22, 2010 6:01 pm
By: Drew Franklin
Lawrence, Kansas is known for a booming music scene. The city was named one of the “best lil’ college towns” in America by Rolling Stone. The magazine also named a Lawrence radio station as one of a top ten “Stations that Don’t Suck.” The New York Times said Lawrence had “the most vital music scene between Chicago and Denver” and Lawrence’s “Replay Lounge” was named one of GQ Magazine’s top 25 bars/venues in the country in 2007.
With all of this good music surrounding the KU campus, I thought it would be a good idea for the College Basketball Road Trip to see what kind of music the Jayhawks listen to.
New Apple technology allowed me to tap into various Jayhawk iPods from my MacBook in the Kia Rondo. This is what I found:
Bill Self: “My Old Drunk Friend” – Freakwater / “So Many Men, So Little Time” – Miquel Brown / “It’s Raining Men” – Weather Girls
Cole Alridch: “A Country Boy Can Survive” – Hank Williams Jr. / “Smile Away” – Paul McCartney / “Hello Big Man” – Carly Simon
Sherron Collins: “I Love College” – Asher Roth / “Hey Nineteen” – Steely Dan / “Sweat” – Inner Circle
Xavier Henry: “X Gon’ Give It To Ya” - DMX / “Walking in Memphis” – Marc Cohn / “Keep Changing My Mind” – The Carpenters
Markief Morris: “Lydia the Tattooed Lady” – Groucho Marx / “Me & My Brother” – Ying Yang Twins
Brady Morningstar: “You Drink, You Drive, You Spill” – NOFX / “White Kids Love Hip-Hop” – MC Chris
Tyshawn Taylor: “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting” – Elton John / “Suspended” – Matt Nathanson
Danny Manning: “Back Where I Come From”- Kenny Chesney / “Don’t You Forget About Me” – Simple Minds
Scott Pollard: “I Wanna Get High” – Cypress Hill / “Role Model” – Eminem
Kirk Hinrich: “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” – Poison
Raef LaFrentz: “La Mer” – Charles Trenet / “Comme d’habitude” – Claude Francois
Paul Pierce: “As Good As I Once Was” – Toby Keith
Jacque Vaughn: “Where’d You Go?” – Fort Minor
Wilt Chamberlain: “Nobody Saw It” – Kipp Hayes / “Sledgehammer” – Peter Gabriel
Posted on: February 22, 2010 1:59 pm
Edited on: February 22, 2010 2:01 pm
Posted on: February 22, 2010 1:03 pm
Edited on: March 9, 2010 8:43 pm
By Thomas Beisner
Each morning, the CBS College Basketball Road Trip team will stop spooning each other in their Motel Six beds, grab a couple of bagels and hit the road in pursuit of their next college basketball destination. Their dossier and agenda are to remain top secret. However, I went to high school with one of the writers from Viva Laughlin and CBS forgot to take back his keys. Here is what he found…
Location: The sixth-largest city in Kansas, Lawrence proudly declares itself a college town. And, like any college town, it lends itself to being easily abbreviated and tagged with “Vegas”. Unfortunately for Lawrence, Kansas, Larry Vegas has been claimed about 250 times already, according to Google. And I’m pretty sure someone named Larry Vegas sent my wife a Facebook message asking if she wanted to pose for photos. On second thought, Lawrence is just fine.
Traveling Distance: The trip from East Lansing to Lawrence is a daunting one, but not one that our weary road warriors will back down from. Now nearly halfway through their trip, they’ll pack up the Kia Rondo, watch Kid Rock wave farewell in the rearview mirror and travel 750 miles to where our fair game came was birthed from the athletic Canadian loins of Dr. James Naismith. In the process, they’ll bid farewell to C.M. Tomlin, who will return home to make room for Matt’s ego, which has grown considerably since having two columns on the CBS Sports college basketball page yesterday.
Song Birds: College basketball is rich with tradition and each school has their calling card. However, there is, perhaps, no more famous signature chant than KU’s “Rock….Chalk….Jayhawk….KU” ditty. The chant is usually recited after singing the alma mater and is followed by the fight song. According to the Kansas site, it was originally “Rah, Rah, Jayhawk, KU” when created in 1886 and later took on “Rock Chalk” as a tribute to Lawrence’s limestone. It also says Kansas fans eagerly await Lady Gaga’s “Rock chalk, rock chalk chalk, rock chalk, rock chalk chalk” remix.
Acronym Confusion: The University of Oklahoma is referred to as OU. The University of Kansas is referred to as KU. As the kids say, I’m HMS (for the rest of you old guys, that’s “shaking my head”).
Toto, I don’t think we’re on probation anymore: Over the past two seasons, Kansas went 64-11 and won a national title. During that time, Kansas was also on (minor) probation. Does that mean that Kansas was the first school to win a national title while on probation? I don’t know. CBS wouldn’t fund an intern for the trip. It should be noted, though, that the probation had nothing to do with the academic records of Darrell Arthur, who was found to have not technically graduated high school after beating a guy who supposedly didn’t take his SAT in the NCAA title game. You do know neither of the A’s in NCAA stand for academics, right?
Serious Statistical Breakdown: Mark Mangino ate this part. But only after he subjected it to unfair mental torture.
Carry on my Wayward Son: Since this past summer, Tyshawn Taylor has been the leading scorer on Team USA, broken his finger fighting the football team, inspired a hot new video game, had his Facebook taken away for posting transfer threats and earned a starting spot. That’s more ups and downs than Danny Bonaduce on a pogo stick. But, if his 17 points against Colorado is any indication, Taylor is gassed up, aight? Point plankn.
Celebrity Fan Power: Kentucky has Ashley Judd, Southern Cal has Snoop Dogg, Texas has Matthew McConaughey and Temple has Bill Cosby. Kansas? They have former Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie, who has been popping up at Jayhawk games lately to root for his buddy Bill Self. Should he be in attendance tonight, it’s a win-win for the road trip crew as Drew can finally get the name of the rehab program that encourages traveling from college town to college town and Tomlin’s replacement in the back seat could end up being a former Big 12 and SEC Coach of the Year. You in, Clyde? Pit stop in Lexington tomorrow…
On a personal note: As a Kentucky alum, I found this part of Bill Self’s Wikipedia bio unnecessarily harsh: “Self joined Larry Brown's coaching staff at the University of Kansas, replacing the position vacated by John Calipari”. Vacated? Low blow.
Agenda: Just like a night at the Playboy Mansion in the 70’s, the guys will look to get inside and get their senses wrapped around what Wilt Chamberlain left behind. There will be rocking, there will be chalking and there will be Jayhawking, whatever that may mean. But, most importantly, they will pay heed and they will beware of the Phog….or at least all the Phog puns, of which there are thousands.
KU, the expectations are high for this trip. You’re 26-1, you’re #1 in the nation, your program is dripping in history and your center is missing one of his front teeth. Anything thing short of an epic 24 hours will be a major letdown.
Lawrence, Kansas, let’s do this.
Posted on: February 22, 2010 10:37 am
--- We were in the car for the United States-Canada hockey game last night, but I hear it was quite a show. It wont overtake curling and biatholon for me as the Winter Olympic sports I am bizarrely fascinated with, but to have our own mini-Miracle on Ice is still impressive. I just hope that Kurt Russell can find time in his busy schedule to do a "Miracle" sequel in 2030.
Posted on: February 22, 2010 12:15 am
Edited on: February 22, 2010 12:24 am
By: Drew Franklin
11:30 PMOur day began with honeybuns, sausage patties, and cheese omelettes in the Breslin Center media room and ended with a sad airport goodbye to Tomlin, who is heading home after his four-day leg of the trip. But don't be sad. Goodbye isn't forever. He will continue to write for the remainder of the time from the road trip's control center. He just got a sweet promotion from Kia navigator to head of team and location scouting. You should be happy for him.
Tomorrow, Matt and I will travel to Lawrence, Kansas to see the #1 team in the land take on Oklahoma in the ESPN Big Monday matchup. It should be a blowout but we're looking forward to checking out Phog Allen Fieldhouse for the first time. It is one of, if not, the best college basketball environments in the country and we're looking forward to seeing it firsthand. Just hearing about it isn't good enough for us. We need to take it all in ourselves to see if the hype is real.
But before we get to Lawrence, we will get a good night's rest at the Fairfield Inn in Terre Haute, Indiana. I don't know if it's the exhaustion from the Spartan atmosphere, the Cracker Barrel in our stomachs, or the loneliness without our third man, but this is as far as we could make it from East Lansing before giving up for the night. Another 7+ hours of driving are on the schedule for tomorrow before we get to the Phog and we're ready for whatever comes our way.
- Will we make it to Kansas in time for the game?
- Will the Kia Rondo handle Missouri from end-to-end?
- Who will take Tomlin's seat?
- Is Bill Self handsome in real life?
- Will we stop in East St. Louis for a pickup game?
- Why does Sherron Collins sweat so much?
- Will we see Nelly?
- What's that smell?
All of these questions, and more, will be answered tomorrow. See you then!