CONCERNED FANS FOR
October 8, 2006
INTRODUCTION AND HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE
We are UK basketball fans, and our collective Big Blue love goes back over 70 years, spanning from the 40s into this new millennium. We have observed the work of Coaches Rupp, Hall, Sutton, Pitino, and Smith and we have cheered for the Wildcats throughout the years. As UK basketball fans, we insist on clarity when it comes to the players who wear the Blue and White. No one should ever assign any of the criticism that we make toward the leadership of this program to any player, past or present. As always, the players at UK have our love and respect.
Today, we are concerned fans because we see the UK program slipping under Coach Smith's care. We are not alone, and we are confident that many members of the Big Blue Nation share our concerns. A major Pro-Coach Smith UK message board recently conducted an online poll to determine how many fans still support Coach Smith and to estimate the strength of that remaining support. About 49 percent of fans wanted Coach Smith to step down now, and another 27 percent were only willing to allow Coach Smith one more year of the same.
Adolph Rupp built the University of Kentucky Basketball Program upon his standards of excellence. Coach Hall honored and sustained Rupp's tradition of excellence through the 70s and mid-80s, and UK remained an elite program. When Coach Pitino arrived in Lexington in 1989, the UK Basketball program was in disarray. UK had removed its previous coach, players were leaving, and the NCAA placed substantial sanctions on the program for two seasons.
Pitino arrived with a formula for success, recruited great players to implement it, and taught his players to execute it. They engaged “the enemy” with Pitino's tactics and strategies, always displaying a confident swagger. Pitino Ball instantly energized the UK fan base and the program. Pitino's six tournament eligible teams lost a heartbreaker in the Elite 8 in 1992 and earned three subsequent Final Four trips, with one runner-up and one championship. Throughout the Pitino era, the team displayed steady, measurable improvement with each new season. When Pitino moved on following the 97 season, UK was clearly one of, if not the premier program in the land.
Coach Smith arrived in Lexington in 1997 and took the reins of this premier program. In his first season, some fans noticed changes in the style and quality of play as the pace slowed, the offense became less efficient, and the defense became less effective than the Pitino teams of 1992 to 1997. Yes, Coach Smith's first team did win the big prize in 1998. No one can deny that fact. Nevertheless, as Coach Smith began to recruit his own players and put his own fingerprints upon the UK program, the pace and quality of play continued to slide culminating in the 2006 season at 22-13, and an early out in the round of 32.
UK basketball is no longer the premier program that Coach Smith inherited, and UK no longer resides in the elite group of programs. Grey Doyel has included UK in his Top 10 Flops for the upcoming 2007 season. Concerned fans have concluded that Coach Smith must step aside now, not after another year, for UK to rebuild this program once again to elite status. Even the most ardent Coach Smith supporters recognize the deterioration that has occurred in Recruiting, and Coach Smith's record is clear with respect to Player Retention and National Competitiveness. Concerned fans, players, and the press also point to style of play being a factor.
FOOTNOTES PART I:
The 1990 and 1991 teams were not eligible for the NCAA
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