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The Cats' Pause
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Editor and Publisher
OSCAR L. COMBS
Associate Editor _MIKE ESTEP_
JIM "PANCHO" EASTERWOOD
Contributing SEC Columnist
Contributing SEC Columnist
ELMORE "SCOOP" HUDGINS
National Recruiting Columnist
National Basketball Columnist
LARRY DONALD Kentucky Basketball Recruiting
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OSCAR L. COMBS
CATS' PAUSE EDITOR/PUBLISHER
Push any button for Wildcat news
This will be like one of those 900 numbers you dial when you want to know a lot about a particular subject, but will probably feel like you really didn't learn what you thought you would.
^ If you want to read about Jerry Claiborne's retirement, push button No. I.
islf you want to get the gossip on the football coaching vacancy at the University of Kentucky, push button No. 2.
>sIf you want to read about "Pitino ball" and how it sent 25,000 or so Indiana Hoosier fans home worrying about the future and not being able to enjoy a two-point victory, then push button No. 3.
is If you want to read about the status of UK president David Roselle and his chances of remaining on top at the University of Kentucky, push button No. 4.
>slf you want to read about how UK's brash new, but well-experienced coach out of the NBA has already served notice that he'll not be intimidated by Bobby Knight, even in front of 25,000 home-standing puppets, push buttom No. 5.
slf you want to panic, push the operator's number (on our 900 system we can afford only five programs, we just haven't reached Jose Canseco's phone yolume yet) and ask for assistance in dialing either Arizona's Lute Olsen (you remember him , don't you?) who is at the bottom of the Pac-10 standings with an 0-2 mark and it's not even January, Dean Smith for being upset by Alabama or Dale Brown trying to explain why his Tigers lost to Kansas.
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Let's begin with button one. Two dollars for the first minute and $1 for each additional minute please.
Jerry Claiborne surprised many folks last Tuesday by announcing his retirement, saying he no longer felt up to the recruiting wars and wants to spend more time with his family.
It was a gracious decision and one in the best interests of both his family and the university. But don't confuse this move as meaning Kentucky will immediately begin throwing 80-yard touchdown passes and winning eight or nine games a season.
But it will give Kentucky a new look and new hope, perhaps a mirage, but at least a change.
What Claiborne accomplished here in eight years will not be fully appreciated for many years. We all tend to take things for granted that are expected in life. One group of people that won't have to wait 20 years to benefit from Jerry's presense are his players.
The scene, according to several players, when Claiborne met with the team was an emotional one, one in which they openly expressed their affection for the man who truly cares for his people.
As one assistant noted at the Commonwealth Stadium offices while Claiborne was announcing his retirement across campus, "Coach could have been
more popular with the fans had he wanted to sacrifice some assistants, but that's what so special about coach. He has tremendous loyalty to his staff. He's a great, great person and he'll be missed." The coach making those comments was one who abilities have not been questioned by fans or media.
Claiborne later said he came to Kentucky with a clean understanding of how tough the job of rebuilding Kentucky would be. He said his immediate goals were to build facilities and restore respectability to the program. He obviously succeeded in both.
Jerry also said he felt UK could compete in the SEC on a regular basis if Kentucky could keep all the state's top prospects at home each year. He pointed to this area as one in which he and his staff had not been totally successful.
And that, of course, has been and always will be the problem with Kentucky football. No coach in America could come to Kentucky and sweep the entire recruiting crop every year. Heck, that's not likely to happen two out of three years because there are too many variables. It's just unrealistic.
But for all those out there who believe the Kentucky football problem is rooted in the heels of Jerry Claiborne, well, they'll have to turn their attention to another direction. And if past history is any account, look for basketball and Rick Pitino to be the center of attack.
But today, we take our hat off to Jerry Claiborne, a man of great moral philosophy and one that I hope continues to have a strong relationship in some capacity with the University of Kentucky. There are far too few Jerry Claibornes in college sports and we'd be mighty fortunate to keep him around these parts.
Thanks Jerry. It was a job well done.
' ? '? ? Button two please.
Who's going to become the new Kentucky head coach? At first there were two, now many and the list is growing although athletics director CM. Newton says there is no list, not a short one nor a long one. But two names have been prominent.
Mentioned most often are Howard Schnellenberger of Louisville and Mike Gottfried of Pittsburgh. Toss in names ranging from Earle Bruce, ex-Ohio State coach now at Colorado State, to former Wildcat and current NFL assistant Dan Neal to Northern Illnois Jerry Pettibone to EKU's Roy Kidd.
Perhaps it wouldn't be fair to eliminate any of those since that's a task for Newton and his screening committee, but the fans and media will, so here are a few of those opinions floating around.
Let's go in reverse order.
Kidd's name has been mentioned before, eight years ago when Claiborne was hired and the time before when Fran Curci was hired. It's doubtful he'll be given serious consideration, given the
passover the other two times.
Pettibone has good bloodstock and through third parties has indicated his interest in Kentucky. He has done a tremendous job in turning the Northern Illinois program around in such a short time.
Having been associated with the likes of Bud Wilkinson at Oklahoma (as a player) and Tom Osborne at Nebraska (as a coach), Jerry has quickly earned his stripes. Age 50 would be a drawback in some quarters except the fact that everyone's frontrunner in this case is also past the 50-mark.
Jerry has Kentucky ties, going back to when he played with Jim McKenzie at Oklahoma, but those may not be close enough. Kentucky could certainly do much worse, and his Nothern Illinois team ranked high in the national offensive statistics this season, but he's a longshot at best.
Gottfried was (perhaps still is) one of the early frontrunners. His ties are obvious, once a coach at Murray, turned programs around at Cincinnati (for a short time) and Kansas before going to Pittsburgh.
UK basketball strength coach Rock Oliver is such a close personal friend that Oliver and his wife named their son after Mike. Pitino and Gottfried are close friends and Pitino even made a trip to Pittsburgh a few weeks ago and caught the Pitt-Miami game as a guest of Gottfried.
But almost as soon as the camera lights went off on Claiborne's press conferense, Mike's name surfaced and critical reviews took over. The press has been particularly tough on Gottfried the past year. Various national media people at the Big Four Classic in Indianapolis had less than glossy remarks about Gottfried.
There is no question Mike is interested in Kentucky. Reasons from wanting to return to Kentucky (some say his wife would like to return) to getting out of Pittsburgh. But today, Gottfried's star is not as bright as it was a week ago.
Neal is the longshot with local ties, an alumnus and a young coach looking to make the big leap. His candidancy is apparently being pushed by a small group of football die-hards including a vocal group that now lives in Florida.
Neal thus far has refused to talk about the Kentucky vacancy, saying the Eagles are in a race of their own and he doesn't want to detract from the NFL season at this time. A longshot at the beginning, Neal could move up.
Which brings us to Howie, a former UK great who almost became the UK coach eight years ago instead of Claiborne. And it came at the height of his coaching career when he was coaching of national champions Miami.
Howard toured the Kentucky facilities according to some, was ready to take the job except that there was a personality conflict with then-athletics director Cliff
(Continued on page 3)