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OSCAR L. COMBS
CATS' PAUSE EDITOR/PUBLISHER
Coaches, like elephants, have unparalleled memory
Decades of frustration were Hooded away in Lawrence, Kan.. Saturday as 15,000-plus Kansas basketball fans Hushed out the Kentucky Wildcats to a embarrassing 150-95 victory that had KU coach Roy Williams running up the numbers until the game's final three minutes.
Going into the contest Kansas had won only two of 18 previous meetings with the Wildcats and this was probably the last chance KU will have in a long, long time to get the 'Cats in their Jayhawk den and turn such a trick.
At least that's what some observers believe, and you couldn't blame UK coach Rick Pitino if he never sets foot in Lawrence again.
Oh, don't get the wrong message; neither Kentucky nor Pitino are so arrogant or big they cannot accept a defeat, even a lopsided one (because there will be others this season). But the manner in which Williams continued to drill the Wildcats makes one wonder why UK officials ever scheduled the game in the first place.
This has to be a nagging question for everyone. It certainly had Pitino burning as he told Kentucky fans tuning in his post-game radio show that this year's scheduling is something he certainly plans to do something about in the future.
And he just wasn't talking about four games in eight days or the current 10-day lay-off.
Everyone in the free world realized this would be the least-talented Kentucky basketball team in modern history. So why in the world would anyone want to stick this group of youngsters (who chose to be loyal and remain during the hard times rather than leave for schools which weren't on probation) with two perennial Top 20 programs in addition to an already committed rugged schedule?
For instance, Kentucky already has a rugged 18-gamc schedule in the Southeastern Conference, plus prior commitments to traditional games with a trio of Top 20 teams—Louisville, Indiana and Notre Dame.
So what happens?
How about adding Kansas and North Carolina as newcomers for good measure? Those two additions would be welcome later on. when some much-needed additional talent arrives. But this year?
Yes, there could be an argument of perhaps those clubs not wanting to play Kentucky once the 'Cats are loaded. That could be true for Carolina, but Kansas has difficulty getting any "name" school outside its conference to visit Lawrence.
It could be argued to compromise, such as playing the first game either next year after Pitino has one recruiting class but while UK is still on probation. But playing this first season is obviously more unfair to UK than it would be unfair to Kansas or Carolina to wait and play when UK is loaded. Plus, Kentucky has done a pretty good job over the years without having either team on the schedule.
Fact is, it was totally wrong and a slap
in the face of both the players and fans to force this team to take on such added power at this time. And you can imagine how embarrassed Pitino is.
Both Kansas and Carolina were in-tersectional rivals for UK at one time or another in the past, but you might read Dean Smith's name all over the new scheduling.
Smith, who happens to be a close personal friend with UK athletics director C.M. Newton, certainly could have made up some early ground on UK's all-time victory lead considering the KU farce Saturday.
At one point a few weeks ago, there was the possibility that the Tar Heels could grab the top spot away from UK when, of all times, the two collide later this month in Louisville. That won't happen now, with Carolina trailing by five games and playing only DePaul and Kansas State before meeting UK Dec. 27 in Louisville.
Given North Carolina's current, but disappointing 4-4 mark, you can still see Kentucky as nothing but easy prey for the Tar Heels in that game.
First of all, there has never been any lost love between Kentucky and North Carolina. The bitterness between the two' schools is hotter than most cold wars considering they haven't met since 1977 in that controversial NCAA East Regional championship game at College Park, Md.
North Carolina, argubly the nation's top program over the past 15 years, still yearns for the one, big record that keeps it from becoming the country's premier program without question. And that is the record of most number of basketball victories by a school.
Kentucky has owned that mark for decades. Carolina has been slowly creeping up, particularly in the early and mid-eighties when Carolina regularly played a light non-conference schedule and more games thanks to the ACC Tournament, than UK.
Kentucky seemed to stem the tide when Eddie Sutton arrived and produced a 32-4 mark. But UK dropped to 18 victories the next season, then went 25-5 in 1987-88 before finishing 13-19 last season, the Wildcats' first losing campaign in 62 years.
While this was going on. Carolina rolled along. Oh, they played some big-name schools, but with only 14 conference games in the ACC, the Tar Heels had numerous opportunities to pile up the victories. And this season began with Carolina just six short of UK.
Which is why Dec. 27 becomes such and important date for fans of both schools. A month ago, no one would dream of UK being 3-2 at this mark. Even a 2-3 mark would have been accepted by most fans. Just as surprising in the other direction is Carolina' 4-4 mark. Most figured the Tar Heels would be no worse than 6-2.
Had such taken place, Carolina would be only two victories shy of UK at this
moment. Each has two games before the historic showdown. There will be no new leader come the morning of Dec. 28. But scheduling certainly made it a possibility going into the season.
The return of Carolina to the schedule, even given the circumstances, was not nearly as shocking as the reappearance of the Jayhawks .
Former UK coach Eddie Sutton made the first move to eliminate Kansas even though UK owned a-16-1 edge. Prior to his first and only trip to Lawrence as the UK boss, Sutton said he wanted to play more intersectional games in big cities, like New York, Chicago and perhaps Los Angeles. He didn't achieve some of those goals, but he did schedule the likes of Hawaii and Syracuse and was on the verge of playing DePaul before his exit.
His argument on not playing Kansas was that the game offered UK little in the form of assisting its recruiting program. Seldom, if ever, would UK be recruiting kids that far in the midwest and coaches usually want to play non-conference games either for national television or where they might someday recruit.
And as exciting as most of the UK-KU games have been, only one was nationally televised and that was back in 1981 when Kentucky won in an ESPN game. For some reason, a UK-KU game just hasn't excited the network people. So why Kansas again?
There is the tradition, no doubt about it. Kansas ranks right up there with Kentucky and North Carolina in victories. But save Larry Brown's (another ex-Tar Heel) short, successful, but controversial NCAA championship era, KU had been in a downhill trend.
But Kansas, which never wanted to drop the series, kept wanting to reinstate the games. Perhaps it was Sutton's departure that brought the series back. Perhaps it was the arrival of Newton and his desire to bring back a series which had been so immensely successful from UK's viewpoint on the court.
And perhaps it was Roy Williams' arrival in Kansas a year ago, coupled with Sutton's departure this spring and coinciding with Newton's arrival and the friendship that exists between Newton and Dean Smith.
The Smith connection again pops up when you consider that Williams was one of Smith's top assistants for years at Chapel Hill. In the name of fairness, the decision to play Kansas this year probably had nothing to do with Smith, but it sure makes good food for the hoop junkies, doesn't it?
Perhaps the move to add the Dean Smith-related powers to the schedule was strictly a positive move to have one of. if not, the nation's greatest playing schedules.
This scenario could be traced back to last spring's abbreviated basketball banquet when newly hired UK athletics director C. M. Newton promised the players he would create a great schedule
for those who remained.
Little did the players realize it would produce a modern, record-setting UK loss this winter that will probably never be duplicated again. Actually, one should omit the word "probably" but then, never is forever. On the other hand, let's be honest and go ahead and say this is a record that will live forever.
Of course it didn't have to be this way. Most coaches or schools would have called the dogs off at say 35 or 40. But not Roy Williams, not Dean Smith's chosen dis.iple At the very least, he could have put his three unused scrubs in long before the final 3:31 of the game and KU clinging to a "narrow" 139-90 lead. With 14:00 left in the game, KU led by 30 (100-70) and with 8:53 left, KU led by 38 (117-79). At the 6:17 the margin was 41 (124-83) and still no sign of any scrubs other than his regular eight players.
The margin went to 49 (139-90) with 5:03 left and still no sign of the scrubs. Then, finally at the appointed time of 3:31. Roy. the missionary, decreed that enough wound had been inflicted on the Wildcats. The Kansas scrubs finally entered the game.
You gotta be kiddin'!
Will Pitino and his young non-seniors remember this one?
"That's a dumb question," to borrow one of Pitino's best phrases you'll later read below.
? ? ?
After the game.
Pitino was quick to point out he had nothing to do with the schedule, and he didn't mince words about his displeasure with the current setup.
In fact, when questioned about the scheduling of Kansas shortly after the 55-point loss in Lawrence, Pitino bristled, "that's a dumb question. You know, I don't think I'm thinking about that right now."
But you still wondered.
"...let me see, yeah, I'll go back and work on my schedule," he said.
But by the time he arrived for his post-game radio show with Cawood Ledford, his temper, though collected and cool, still took a back seat to his concern about the scheduling. He made no attempt to dodge the still hot topic of scheduling.
There, he again emphasized his disappointment with the schedule and promised a change in the future. He offered no specifics, but one easily got the message.
If the series is not continued after next year (and our guess is, it won't be), don't place all the blame on this one game. The humiliating score added the insult, but the groundwork had been made weeks ago.
Pitino had privately told people around the UK program several weeks ago he doesn't see the Kansas series fulfilling
(Continued on page 27)