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Posts from Monday, March 30

UK Coach Rich Brooks diagrams a play on the front of a Maker's Mark bottle.

UK Coach Rich Brooks diagrams a play on the front of a Maker's Mark bottle.

UK receives permission to talk with Calipari

Posted at 3:16 p.m. EDT – Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations

Kentucky has confirmed that it has asked for and received permission from Memphis Athletics Director R.J. Johnson to speak with Memphis Coach John Calipari regarding the head coaching position at the University of Kentucky.

Johnson released a statement earlier Monday saying UK had asked and received permission to officially speak with Calipari.

"We have given Kentucky permission to talk with John (Calipari) about their position," Johnson said in the release. "However, I will tell you that we are elated with the job John has done as our head coach and we will do everything in our power to retain his services at Memphis."

Just a warning to those of you jumping the gun: I'm aware of the rumors and I know you all want something now. I will not, however, post any rumors circulating. If something official comes across regarding Kentucky's vacant coaching position, I will post it. Unitl then, that's all that has transpired so far.

 

Rich Brooks is featured on Maker’s Mark bottle

Posted at 3:15 p.m. EDT – Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations

Rich Brooks has been immortalized in Kentucky lore.

Brooks, as a part of the Maker’s Mark/Keeneland charitable bottle series that supports projects at the University of Kentucky, has been featured on the bottle label of Maker’s Mark.

Brooks, the first coach in program history to lead UK to three consecutive bowl victories, will join forces with the University of Kentucky Symphony Orchestra, Maker’s Mark and Keeneland to raise money for a unique extension program highlighting the performing arts for elementary schoolchildren throughout the Commonwealth.


 

 

“I can’t tell you how excited I am and honored that I was chosen to be part of this and be able to help the music department and help the orchestra get out into the state of Kentucky and expose and make more future bright UK students to come here and learn in what is obviously a great department.”

There is a full news release on the link above with all the details from the announcement, but I wanted to add a few things that didn’t make it into the release.

The bottle is pretty awesome looking (picture will be on the right until we put another post up). The bottle is a solid white color with Brooks on the front diagramming a play. The cap, which is traditionally dipped in red, is dipped in UK blue with a UK ribbon draped over top of it.

The decision was made to put Brooks on the bottle after arguably the three most successful years in program history.

Bill Samuels, Jr., president of Maker’s Mark, attended and joked with Brooks at the announcement that he might want to think about losing one or two bowl games.

“I’ve had the pleasure of going to all three of them and maybe celebrating a bit too much,” Samuels said. “Maybe you might want to lose one,”

Brooks, sitting in the front row, laughed and gave shook his head “No.”

Jokes aside, the commemoration of Brooks will go towards a worthy cause. Maker’s Mark will donate its proceeds from the sales – estimated to be about $200,000 from 18,000 bottles – to an extension program bringing the UK Symphony Orchestra and students from the UK School of Music into public schools and communities throughout Kentucky.

UK is also in the process of securing matching grants that, if sales of the bottles are successful, may create funding for in excess of $1.2 million.

All in attendance, including, Samules, UK President Lee T. Todd, Jr., Keeneland President Nick Nicholson and John Nardolillo, director and conductor of the UK Symphony Orchestra, said they were proud to be a part of the project and honored to feature Brooks on the label.

“We could not ask for a better example than Rich Brooks to be commemorating (the bottle) this year,” Todd said. “When I do write a book – and I do intend to write a book someday – there is going to be a chapter devoted to how he has turned around this football program with class, with character and with continuum improvement.”

The limited edition bottles will be available Friday, the opening day of Keeneland’s Spring 2009 meet. The bottle should retail for about $45 to $49.

As I said before, more information is on the link.

 

Link to Burns’ walk-off shot

Posted at 1:11 p.m. EDT – Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations

Just passing along a link from Saturday’s baseball game of Andy Burns' two-run, walk-off home run against South Carolina. The ninth-inning shot lifted UK to a 5-4 victory in the second tilt of a Saturday doubleheader.

 

Time to move forward

 

Posted at 10:10 a.m. EDT - Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations

 

Some of you might have wondered what happened to the blog on Friday. How could UK's official blog not mention the dismissal of its head coach?

 

Well, first of all, I'm sure most of you found plenty of other news sources to get the information. If there is one thing certain in this state, when it comes to UK basketball, there is no shortage of news.

 

Secondly, given the magnitude and delicacy of Friday's situation, every working person that was available to help out was needed Friday. Unfortunately that came at the blog's expense. I could have posted some thoughts late Friday and Saturday, but instead, I thought I'd take a different approach.

 

Whether you were for or against the decision to fire Billy Gillispie, you surely had an opinion, and a strong one at that. I'd be lying if I said I didn't have an opinion too. We all have one. But instead of give some emotional, biased view, I wanted to take a step back and look at the weekend from a broader view.

 

Now that everybody has had time to digest everything that transpired, there is one thing UK fans are going to have to do if UK is going to recover from this weekend: move forward.

 

You can think what you want to after this weekend. You might believe that Billy Gillispie was the savior of UK basketball - as we he was pronounced by some upon his hire on April 6, 2007 - and that he wasn't given enough time. Maybe you think Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart and President Lee Todd pulled the trigger too soon and didn't give Gillispie a fair shot.

 

Or maybe not. Maybe you, like Barnhart, believed too much damage was done to be repaired, that the philosophical differences between what UK wants and what Gillispie wanted was too much to overcome.

 

"There is a clear difference in how the rules and responsibilities overseeing the program are viewed," Barnhart said Friday. "It is a gap that I do not believe can be solved by just winning games. It is a philosophical disparity that I do not believe can be repaired and again, the chemistry is just not right."

 

Whatever your opinion is, it's time to refocus and move forward to the next chapter in UK's history. UK, Barnhart, Todd, Gillispie and everybody involved in the situation already have.

 

Each took the high road this weekend and did their best to leave behind what could have been a nasty saga.

 

Sure, Barnhart and Todd would have been the first to tell you that they didn't like the way Gillispie was handling the responsibilities of the coaching job and even said on Friday those were some of the main reasons behind his dismissal.

 

And yeah, Gillispie would have probably liked more time to correct the situation. But Gillispie actually handled the situation very well at a news conference he called Saturday. He could have bashed UK for getting rid of him after two years and came out and gave his side of the story. But he didn't. He was all laughs and smiles and said he was ready to "get back to work."

 

So it's time for everybody else to do the same.

 

You might think, "Well it's easy for him say just move on because that's what everybody is forced to do. He's not supposed to have an opinion one way or another since he writes for UK."

 

My opinion? I'll be honest. I think it was due time for Gillispie to go. From where I sit, I can tell you things were likely beyond repair. Barnhart sensed that a move had to be made to get the basketball program back on track, and yes, I think he made the right move.

 

I also believe that he made the right hire two years ago. Since the rumors and fiasco started to build up a few weeks ago, people were quick to say that it was Barnhart's fault in the first place for making the hire.

 

I for one disagree with that, because I think that at the time, Gillispie was truly the right pick for the job. Now things obviously didn't pan out like most would have hoped, but it's easy for everybody to second guess when all the cards come crumbling down (no offense to Louisville).

 

A few people questioned the speed of the hire a few years ago, saying it was a quick hire to save face after Billy Donovan and Rick Barnes dropped their names from consideration two years ago, but that was largely a minority.

 

Most embraced and loved the hire, some even calling Gillispie a savior.

 

As SI.com proclaimed on April 6, 2007, "Billy Gillispie was the best coach for Kentucky. Not just in the 24 hours after Donovan passed and Barnes took his name out of the running, either. The whole time."

 

But that doesn't matter anymore. We could argue everything that has happened over the past two years for days, but it doesn't change where UK is now.

 

Whether you liked the move or not, Barnhart did what he thought was best and is trying to repair the program the best way he knows how. He'll be diligent in his search - he's asked for Mike Pratt's help in the process - and I can guarantee you he's looking for a home run hire for the 22nd coach in UK history.

 

Say what you want about the guy, but nobody cares more about this program than he does, as he should. (A quick note: I've personally seen just how emotional he can get over UK sports, whether it is a loss in basketball or giving up a single run in baseball. He bleeds blue).

 

But the final point is this: now that we've all had a chance to think, reflect and digest every angle, person and thing that happened this weekend, it's time to move forward and get behind the program once again.

 

Based on the new coach rumor mill, it's safe to say most of you already have.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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