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Image 4 of The Cats' Pause, "April 12, 1986"

Part of The Cats' Pause

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97w Gate' Sutton ys First Year Leaves Bluegrass Buzzing UK Fans Have Past And Future To Dwell On In one year we've seen Eddie Sutton strut his stuff for the University of Kentucky. There's been such a positive carry-over that it has Wildcat fans itching for more. . .even with the 1985-86 collegiate hoop scene history. Yet, during the upcoming summer Kentucky fans will be looking back joyously on a 32-4 campaign as well as predicting what Rex Chapman and Reggie Hanson will add to next year's ballclub. But Sutton's Stumps (remember, you heard that here first), Smurfs or whatever you want to call them went beyond expectations of most experts. In less than 12 months the man with the funny hair style: won 32 games (including 21 against SEC opponents), lost only four games, selected Coach of the Year by AP and Kodak (coaches' poll), named SEC Coach of the Year and took Kentucky, the Nick Nicholas Cats" Pause Columnist SEC regular season and tourney champions, to the Southeast Regional finals. Heck, with those list of achievements even a 'Mr. T', 'Don King' or 'Tiny Tim' look wouldn't bother the most conservative Wildcat supporter. At his last weekly press conference with the local media Sutton seemed a little stunned. That's understandable being that this version of "Meet the Press" was assembled less than 72 hours after his Wildcats were upset in the finals of the Southeast Regional. Sutton, meanwhile, was in a jolly enough mood to talk about. . .well, anything anyone asked about he responded to — mostly questions revolving about his first Wildcat team to next season's possibilities. To say the least, an abundant of issues were touched upon during a Tuesday afternoon at Wildcat Lodge. Here's some of the things you might be interested in on what the former first-year UK coach had to say about college basketball in general. (Don't worry folks, he's not leaving. . .former meaning that he's now recognized as Kentucky's second-year mentor). Upcoming Agenda — Looking For An Assistant Question: What about Eddie Sutton's schedule for the next three or four weeks? Sutton: We've already signed two quality players in Rex Chapman and Reggie Hanson. We do need to sign a couple more young men that can take up some of the slack that we lost. After that I will be trying to find an assistant coach to replace Leonard Hamilton. I'm so pleased that he will now be coaching my alma mater (Oklahoma State). I told Leonard that if you don't win then I'm going to be an alumni that's going to get on your case (Sutton laughs). I'm happy for Leonard. We've had many applications but we've not talked with anyone; I will as soon as we get the recruiting out of the way. Question: Will Roger Harden be on the bench next season as a graduate assistant? Sutton: Our commitment to the University of Kentucky, just as it has been everywhere I've been, is to make sure that all young men that perform as a student/athlete receive their degrees. Roger will not be able to fulfill his academic requirements by the ('86) spring semester. If he doesn't make it in the NBA and decides to come back here as a student assistant then we would be most happy to have him, because he would be an asset to our coaching staff and I do want him to get his degree. Question: Having already signed Chapman and Hanson, what's the maxium amount of players you could sign during the spring period? Sutton: We would have six scholarships available, with the loss of our three seniors. I don't think we'll sign six players unless we got a chance to sign a 'Godzilla', and they're aren't too many of them around. But if we can find quality human beings and quality players then we'll sign everyone we can this spring. I would hope that we could sign a couple more players. Sutton Says Godzillas Are A Rare Species These Days Question: Are there any centers, or as Al McGuire calls them 'Air Craft Carriers', available? Sutton: I call them 'Godzillas.' Question: Are there any Godzillas out there? Sutton: Not to my knowledge. There are some quality players still that have not committed, and we're working very hard to try and convince them that Kentucky would be a wonderful place for them to further their education. Question: How do you feel about recruiting players from outside the United States? Sutton: I have mixed emotions. It seems there is a trend to recruit players from foreign countries to programs, not only in basketball but you've seen it probably in the beginning in track and field more so than anywhere else. If we were able to recruit someone that I felt would fit in with our program then I'm not opposed to it. But at the present time there are no players like that on our recruiting list. I've had coaches in the past that wanted to take recruiting trips outside our country to see if they could find one. (Sutton smiles) Question: Were you surprised with Hanson's performance — earning MVP — in the Sweet 16? Sutton: Not really. Reggie Hanson will be a very fine player for the University of Kentucky. I was very pleased that Pulaski County won because of Reggie and because Coach (Dave) Fraley is a very fine coach. All the teams that made it to the final 16 should be congratulated. We were pleased that Pulaski County won because of Reggie. Question: It's been mentioned that the NCAA 'stacked' the deck against your team in the NCAAs. Wliat are your thoughts on the pairings? Sutton: I don't think the tournament committee stacked it intentionally. It just worked out that: here's Davidson which hasn't been in the NCAA for many years and they were on an emotional high; Western Kentucky hadn't played the 'Cats since 1971 and Roger Harden Eddie Sutton it was a very important game for them; then to turnaround to play Alabama for a fourth time and they are an outstanding ballclub; and then have to play LSU. It was just one of those breaks of a tournament draw. No one, in the history of the NCAA to my knowledge has ever had to play 23 teams from their league in one season. You can only go to the 'emotional well' so many times. I don't think you'll ever see it again — a team having to face 23 teams in a league which would rather beat Kentucky (than anyone else). It would be like North Carolina in the ACC, Georgetown in the Big East, Indiana in the Big Ten, or Louisville in the Metro — if they had to play 23 times against (conference) teams. . .that's tough. And, in my opinion, that certainly did wear on us a little bit in the NCAA Tournament. I had to root for LSU (against Georgia Tech) because they are a member of the (SEC) institution, but we might have faired better had we played Georgia Tech, just to see some new faces. 'Cats Were Ready For Bengal Tigers Question: Could you sense that your players weren't emotionally ready for LSU in Atlanta? Sutton: No, no. Our team was ready to play and they played very hard. I could never fault this basketball team, in the 36 games we played, ever not being prepared — emotionally or physically — in any way. They played hard. There's days where the ball doesn't go in the hoop; (and) we made some mistakes defensively down the stretch. When we got ahead 51-47 I thought we had the game won. LSU took a couple of shots that I'm sure Coach (Dale) Brown would term 'marginal'. They got away with it because we didn't do a good job of boxing out on the defensive boards, and they were able to convert two baskets. But, our ballclub was ready to play. Question: Have you given any thoughts about next season's team? Sutton: I do believe we'll have a good basketball team next year. It will be a different type of ballclub, the personality of the team will be different. But you have to believe with three starters returning and with players like (Cedric) Jenkins, (Robert) Lock, (Richard) Madison and (Paul) Andrews being a year older, they can take up some of that slack left by our graduating seniors. And, we'll hope that some of the newcomers can also do that. I'm optimistic about next year; I'm not sure we can win 32 games but I do believe we will be a force in the SEC. Question: Some coaches have qualms of starting underclassmen ahead of up-perclassmen. Do you have any qualms about that? Sutton: I have no reservations whatsoever. Everything we do is determined on the practice court. If a freshman can convince the coaching staff that he's better than an upperclassman then he'll get his rightful role as a starter. I'm sure you're leading up to Rex Chapman. He will be given his opportunity to play. Without a doubt he will be a great player for Kentucky if he'll continues to work like he has at the high school level. When you start October 15th, if you put five players out there and if you ask me I'm going to put five upperclassmen ahead of him. I'm not going to put him out there in the starting lineup when we've got guys that have already given one year to [Continued On Page 18]