Full Steam Ahead for the Kentucky WIldcats

by on March 7th, 2015
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While serving my country in the U.S. Army I met many people from all over the country. Often other soldiers would ask me where I am from. When they found out, I was from Kentucky, most replied with the same names of KFC, Horse Racing, and Kentucky Basketball. Many people from around the nation have heard of the Big Blue Nation. Lets take a look at how an era of a coach can effect the program as a whole.

When I was younger, I remember growing up in the “Rick Pitino” era of UK Basketball. Times were booming for the program. The Cats were putting out impressive numbers and players were going to the NBA. Everyone was in awe about UK. Getting new recruits was a breeze, many young basketball players wanted to play for the program because of its high prestige and it had a coach that has proved himself. A few years went by; Pitino, was riding a high horse and decided to go to the NBA and coach. From 89-90 to 96-97 Pitino ran a face paced game that the crowd enjoyed. The next coach was something much different.

Orlando “Tubby” Smith was in charge of replacing the popular Rick Pitino. Tubby did however win a National Championship with the Wildcats, many believe that it was because he was riding the tails of the Pitino Era, and since the Wildcats was on top of NCAA it is hard to argue against it. The people gave Tubby ten years. He coached the Wildcats from 1997-2007. He never produced another championship. Many fans did not like his style of play, as it was not similar to that of Rick Pitino. For me it was 10 depressing years for the program. The University of Kentucky then hired a nightmare of a coach.

Billy Gillispie was in charge of the Wildcats for 2 years (2007-2009). He was unable to produce anything within that time. In addition, for the first time in 18 years the Wildcats had to set out of the NCAA Tournament. This was a sad time for me. I had seen the all time most winning school in turmoil. For over a decade, the fans had lost interest. After losing so many years, watching as it seemed to get worse and worse. It was time for a change of pace. Kentucky needed the faced paced plays and a coach that would inspire the players to play their hardest. Finally, on April 1, 2009, John Calipari replaced Billy Gillispie as Kentucky’s Head Coach.

John Calipari brought with him one of the all time best recruiting class. In his first year, he made an impact on the Big Blue Nation. He passed Adolph Rupp’s record with the most consecutive wins to start a season as a Head Coach at Kentucky. On December 21, 2009, he led Kentucky to be the first program to reach its 2000th victory. He made a name for himself, by bringing UK up to #1 in the AP Poll on January 25, 2010. For me, this is where UK basketball should be. I was happy that the Wildcats are back on top.

In his first year, he did so well for himself. He broke records, raised 1.5 million to aid the country of Haiti during the aftermath of a natural disaster, and brought The Kentucky Wildcats back up to standard. He went to the Elite 8, but could not take home the championship. The next year after losing many of his star players, he brought with him another top notch recruiting class. Now it seems like the golden days of UK. Recruits were flooding into the school. He battle hard again in his 2nd year, getting stopped short yet again, this time making it to the Final Four.

Big Blue Nation is in full swing now. John Calipari, now in his third season with the Wildcats, is loaded with talent yet again. After losing most of his star players yet again, he has managed to recruit another class that can compete with the best of them. Calipari has UK ranked #1 currently. Can the Wildcats hold the rank and fight their way to a Championship year? I surely hope so.

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