U of L media day — long form thoughts

Filed the column from Media Day, but in 550 words, you really only can scratch the surface. So here’s the rest of what’s in the notebook.

THE COLUMN: The thing that struck me about this media day was how many of them I’ve been to where faster-paced play was promised, but never materialized or wasn’t sustained. I explore why that has been the case, and whether this time will be different for U of L. Read it here.

THE COACH: Pitino, for all the negative news coming out of the program, is not how you might think, just from all the coverage. He’s relaxed and enthusiastic. I thought one of the more telling quotes when he was on the podium was this one.

“I’ve always had energy. I’ve been through a tough 18 months, there’s no question about it. And now it’s over. I had to do the right thing in a lot of places. I’m also much more tolerant of certain things.”

He then proceeded on a rant on parenting and how kids haven’t changed but society and parents have, which I’ll spare you. But that little peek, that it’s been a tough year and a half, and he’s come out of it a little bit different, was something that I picked up on.

Later, I spent the last 45 mintues or so of the full scrimmage sitting with Pitino, along with the C-J’s U of L beat writer C.L. Brown. And Howie Lindsey was nearby. So my following take on the scrimmage will kind of weave what I saw and some of Pitino’s toughts.

THE SCRIMMAGE: You’ll see in my column that Peyton Siva said Pitino has been a little different this season. He’s not quite so quick on the trigger when mistakes are made on the court. At one point, Siva said, Preston Knowles took a three and missed and Pitino immediately said to keep shooting it, keep getting that shot, “We want to get you 10 threes a game.” At which Siva said he thought, “Oh, man, coach, last year we couldn’t get five.”

So I was curious to see how the scrimmage proceeded. And I kind of wondered if much had changed in the early minutes, when Pitino stopped the action seven times in the first three minutes:

19:28: Gets on Siva to pass the ball to Mike Marra — “He’s wide open.”
19:23: Stops it to correct Terrence Jennings on a screen
18:14: Gets on Elisha Justice for dribbling too much. “You have it too long. You got anybody open? (Answer from Justice, “No.”) Are you fast? (Answer: “No.”) Then pass and go create.”
17:41: Stops play because of a bad pass
17:23: Stops to tell George Goode where to stop running on his post up.
17:16: Stops because White Team took too long to pass midcourt.

After that, though, the game proceeded pretty much like a regular scrimmage, with no coaching stoppages.

The shot clocks are set at 24 seconds, and Pitino did hold to his rule of no more than 3-4 seconds getting the ball past midcourt.

At one point, assistant Steve Masiello got on freshman Elisha Justice for a mistake. Justice said, “My fault.” Masiello answered, “Stop saying my fault. I know it’s your fault.”

At halftime, the White team (Jackson, Kuric, Goode, Smith, Justice and Henderson) led the Red (Buckles, Marra, Jennings, Knowles and Siva) 67-59. I tweeted the score and former Cardinal Larry O’Bannon answered back, “lol film session gonna be ugly for that one tomorrow lol”

In the second half, Pitino wanders over and sits down. He’s impressed with Kuric, who seemed to have the most bounce of anybody until the last couple of minutes. And Kuric was the catalyst for the White win. He scored 40 points and had 8 assists, going 10 for 11 from the free-throw line despite playing 37 minutes in a frantic pace.

Rakeem Buckles made a pair of three-pointers in quick succession in the second half. “He’s really improved his outside shot,” Pitino said. “It’s the most noticeable thing he’s done.”

Pitino was disappointed that Stephen Van Treese sprained an ankle in practice before the scrimmage and likely will be out for Sunday’s first public scrimmage, to be played before a crowd of 22,000 at the KFC Yum! Center.

“That’s really disappointing, because Stephen was really running the floor for us,” he said. “He beats T.J. up and down the floor. He’s really working hard.”

Pitino asks us who we think will win. C.L. Brown picks the Red. White is leading and there’s 5:28 to play. I say if Kuric and Justice and keep getting to the line, I like them.

The White team reaches 101 points, but the $2 million overhead scoreboard at the Bucket clicks back to “1.” Pitino looks over at Kenny and yells, “I guess we should have got the $3 million scoreboard.”

George Goode hits another mid-range jumper, then fouls on the other end and Pitino yells, “George, you’re playing great, but you’re fouling so much that no one will ever see you.” Goode finishes the scrimmage with 39 points and 15 fouls.

Perhaps in part because they have only five players and no subs, the Red team can’t catch up. White surges ahead by 9, and Red mounts a mini-run. But can’t take the lead.

“In all my playing days, as hard as I worked, I could never do what these guys are doing,” Pitino said. “There’s five guys on that side, playing at this fast a pace, with no subs.”

I don’t know how Pitino’s U of L Final Four team came up, but I said something I have thought about looking back at that group, “The more I look back at it, the more I can’t believe that group got to the Final Four.”

“We had six and a half players,” Pitino said. “Otis had a broken foot.”

“And Juan Palacios was a freshman and expected to be a key guy inside,” I said.

“The thing that team had was that we could really shoot it at the 1, 2 and 3,” Pitino said. “If you can do that, it really makes it tough. And if you have somebody who can shoot it at the 4, then you can be really special.”

With three minutes left, the White team leads by 7 and Kuric is gassed. Pitino yells at Masiello to get him out.

“I’ll take Kyle out so it’ll be close,” Pitino said. “I’m going to give you a chance to be right, C.L. Or else your coaching career ends right here.”

But after Kuric leaves, Justice, who has had an off shooting game, buries three-point daggers on back-to-back possessions.

“You think Bozich will ever write a column saying he was wrong about the Bullet when he turns out to play great for us?” Pitino jokes. He’s given Bozich a hard time about Justice before. I can’t remember Bozich saying anything about Justice — except perhaps he’s not the type of recruit that U of L fans expect.

Still, when Klein brings over the final stat sheet after a 125-112 White team victory, Pitino goes to the assist column and asks Kenny if the number is legit. Justice has 10 assists, 0 turnovers.

Preston Knowles led the Red with 29 points, but had two technical fouls. Siva had 25, Jennings 24, Buckles 23. Chris Smith had 26 and Justice 13 for the White.

What’s to be made of it? Well, this early, who knows?

It’s going to be an uphill battle for this group when you look at the Big East talent. The question — as it was last season — is how good a shooting team this is going to be. Beyond that there’s the question of whether it will be able to sustain its fast tempo, and whether it will be able to develop any defense to go with it.

Siva, before the scrimmage, said that one difference in this year’s team is that nobody is quite so concerned with their own scoring. He didn’t reference Samuels or Sosa.

“It’s a good group of kids,” Pitino said.

The public will get to make its first evaluation of how good a team it could be on Sunday.


Reacting to the exclamation point

Lots of email arrived on my column yesterday expressing my frustration with that exclamation point in the KFC Yum! Center name. Obviously, it is part and parcel of the official Yum! moniker, but that makes it no less annoying for me.

A couple of things I failed to mention. One is that my view on the exclamation point was fueled early on by E.B. White and William Strunk’s “Elements of Style,” which states, “The exclamation mark is to be reserved for use after true exclamations or commands.” Or maybe I’m influenced by being old enough to learn to type on a typewriter that had no exclamation point — they didn’t start to put them on keyboards until the 1970s. For me, it was apostrophe – backspace – period. By which time you’re no longer so excited about what you were saying.

Is this a serious issue? No. Is there bigger news? Yes, certainly. Yet I’ll never get over the number of people who will call such a column a “waste of time” when thousands more readers read the exclamation point column than read a column I did about U of L player Greg Scruggs speaking to a group of schoolkids.

They do protest too much! Nonetheless, it was a great group of emails, pro and con, that I got on this column, and I’ll share some here, and thank everyone for reading and writing, whether you liked it or not.

RICK FREEMAN writes: “I despise the name but it’s emblematic of the Almighty Dollar culture in which we live. And Louisville Municipal Arena is a little dry. I haven’t been in the place but I hope there’s a big, fat, photo of Jim Host in there somewhere with words to the effect ‘without this guy you wouldn’t be here’ prominently displayed. Do you s’pose we could coerce Mr. Host to head up the Ohio River bridges project? One of ’em anyway? Get Long John Silvers/Taco Bell/Dominoes Pizza to sponsor it.”

KENNY BLAIR says: “Is news so slow, all you can right about is ! This has got to be about weak of a story I have ever glanced at!”

CINDY SMITH didn’t like it either: “I’m sure you will get flack over this article! Hard to believe you get paid for writing such nonsense! I know everyone has the right to their own opinion, but really! Isn’t there something more important to write about than punctuation? I’m proud of our new arena no matter what name, punctuation, or whatever is on it! I guess you are one of those people that just likes to stir things up and hear yourself talk! Good Luck on your feedback. I’m sure the only agreeable comments you will hear are of course, from U of K fans, go figure.”

Several writers wondered how Yum! would respond, and there were several emails from folks there:

JONATHAN BLUM (Senior VP and chief public affairs officer for Yum!): “Hi Eric! I just read your article, and I must say, I found it very amusing! Congratulations!!! You are a very talented writer! All of us at Yum! Brands and KFC are very proud to have our name associated with this spectacular new arena! We had thought of naming it the KFC! YUM! Center! because we’re so proud, but thought better of it!!! Based on your article, it sounds like you’re in complete agreement with our decision! Thanks again, and all the best, Jonathan! Blum!”

A YUM EMPLOYEE (whose name I won’t give) empathized with me: “I completely understand your hatred of the !. It drives me nuts when I type ‘Yum!’ and Office thinks it is the end of the sentence and capitalizes the next character when it is not the end of the sentence!”

AND ONE MORE, FROM U OF L PROFESSOR BILL STOUDT, who doesn’t work for Yum!, but has a relationship with the company through the school of business: “Because we have many students who do internships at Yum! Brands, I find myself typing that word/punctuation mark combination often. If it makes you feel any better, I think what’s happened to me is that I now use the exclamation point much less frequently in my normal communications. So, maybe Yum has had a positive effect on my writing as a result. Hope it works for you, too.”

Now, a few more non-Yum! responses

DAVE McGUFFIN says he didn’t get his money’s worth:
“I’ve heard about s-l-o-w news days, but a whole column to the YUM! exclamation point? How about at least a couple paragraphs to the question mark. And let’s not forget the colon and his almost twin brother, semi-colon. On a really slow day, you can always depend on the old standard, reliable, and always present: period. I really enjoy your column, but I think you short changed your readers today.”

MATTHEW REYNOLDS: “Eric — this is the worst article you have written in your career! … lol”

SOME GUY NAMED BILLY JOE: “What a stupid article! Maybe! You! should cover some stories in some other city. (Lexington!) I don’t know if you were trying to be cute, or WHAT! But it didn’t work.”

HAROLD FREEMAN was more charitable: “Today’s column was clever and delightfully acerbic. It’s those things because I heartily agree with you, of course. Such a way with words and wit is what sets you apart from legions of sports columnists who merely analyze and pontificate with regard to sports and players, coaches and games, strategy and recruiting.”

ELIZABETH GLASS (via Facebook) writes: “I lived in Hamilton!, Ohio, for two years while in grad school at Miami. Yes, the city has an exclamation point on it. We would always scream it like we were mad or excited whenever we said the city’s name, then quietly and calmly say Ohio. I didn’t even realize the KFC Yum! Center has an exclamation point. It too leaves a bad taste in my mouth, and since I’m a vegetarian, the taste of chicken in my mouth makes it very unpleasant indeed.”

JOE NEIL ROE may be the first person ever to compare me to Rush Limbaugh: “I read the Courier and the sports page every day, and I even read your column, believe it or not; and if negative articles sell newspapers, you must be the most popular person at the Courier. But you are really searching when you can dedicate a column to an exclamation point. It seems that even when you TRY to write something positve, you have to insert just a little negativism in order to make your column readable. Please don’t try to copy Fox and Limbaugh and just tone it down a bit.”

DAVID J. McCLUSKEY SR. says: “That’s the best you can do? Insult a LOCAL company for how it Brand’s its name? That was by far your worst article I have read. You are a better journalist than that and never should have printed that story. Why take a cheap shot at what is probably the lone positive factor going for the UofL (Your cities) Basketball team? The timing and the article for that matter make no sense, unless there is a motive I am not seeing.”

And thanks to TAMMY CURLIN over at The Blood Horse for this: “Just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed your !!!! Column Wed. I laughed and laughed. Always enjoy reading you. Keep up the good work.”

And finally, a Facebook note from JIM MITCHELL, who Louisville folks will remember as one of the top news anchormen ever to grace the city: “Query: why do sports stories need the name of the arena, anyway? To answer the “where?” question, put “Louisville.” I don’t give a hoot what building a game is played in. The flackery-exclamation mark seems a perfect candidate for that old news maxim: when it doubt, leave it out. . . . My theory is that they bought the naming rights, but they can’t buy the news. Quaint, huh?”

Also appreciated hearing through Facebook from BOB EDWARDS (“Good one, Eric”), CD KAPLAN and everybody else who weighed in on Facebook and Twitter, and to C-J colleague JOE GERTH, who sent along the reminder that, alas, the Chick Inn is no more. If you haven’t already you’re welcome to join me on Facebook and Twitter for discussion and updates through the day.

Thanks to all for the comments.

The show must go on: Pitino replacements

By now the news is well-known. Like Larry King and Oprah, Rick Pitino has quit his own television show. (Details here.)

All right, technically he’s taking a year off. I believe that’s what Kevin Costner said he was going to do after wrapping The Postman in 1997. Now he’s trying to hawk oil extractors to the U.S. government.

Perhaps, as “Seinfeld’s” Kramer did when his fake show on the Merv Griffin set ran aground, Pitino is simply taking time to “retool.”

Regardless, what we’re left with is a show with no star. But like “The Office” sans Steve Carell, they can’t just let it die. U of L sports information director Kenny Klein says they’ll replace it with a highlights-feature type show hosted by Drew Diener. All well and good. Diener does a good job at everything.

But I have to agree with former Pitino show sidekick Terry Meiners, who said the idea of a coaches show without the coach sounds, “pretty antiseptic.”

I’m nothing if not helpful. Here, as a public service, I offer the TOP 10 CANDIDATES TO FILL THE SLOT FORMERLY HELD BY THE RICK PITINO SHOW (prospective hosts in parentheses).

10. Coach vs. Wild — Low level basketball basketball administrator is dropped alone into the middle of downtown Louisville with only his stipend from the previous season to sustain him. (Host: Shabaka Lands.)

9. Entourage — Friends of the head coach living the high life (Host: Vincent “Chase” Tatum).

8. Chapelle’s Show — Totally basketball unrelated, but man I wish he would come back (Host: Dave Chapelle)

7. Lost — Highlights from near-misses on the recruiting trail. (Host: Marquis Teague)

6. Extreme Makeover: Bridge (Season) Edition — Designers come in and re-do Pitino’s team while he is not looking. (Host: Patrick Henry Hughes)

5. That 70’s Show — Taking the whole thing retro. (Host: Denny Crum)

4. Mad Men — Clash between a couple of PR-savvy high-rollers. “Get out of here and move forward. This never happened. It will shock you how much it never happened.” (Hosts: Tom Jurich, Terry Meiners).

3. Curb Your Enthusiasm — A show from the U of L fan perspective. (Host: Guest fans.)

2. Arrested Development — “This is a story of a rich program that lost everything, and the one coach who had no choice but to keep it all together.” (Host: Ralph Willard. Now we know why he left the sidelines — to focus on the TV project!)

1. $#*! My Coach Says — Hidden camera, documentary style. (Host: Well, I’m usually free Sundays)

NOTE TO READERS: Yes, I am aware you will have your own possibilities. Please be advised, we try to stay family friendly here. So while I am prepared for your “Sex In the Cities,” your “Big Loves,” your “How I Met Your Mothers” and your “Cougartowns,” we’re running a family outfit here. Nonetheless, thanks for reading.

Pitino takes a year off from his TV show

U of L pulls Meiners from its broadcasts, events

Strange day in local sports media.

University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino confirmed to the C-J’s Rick Bozich in New York today that he is taking a year off from his television show on WHAS-11. Pitino told Bozich that while he was unhappy with certain aspects of WHAS coverage with the Karen Sypher extortion trial, that is not the reason for his taking a year off. (He added that he was unhappy with certain aspects of The Courier-Journal’s coverage, but still talks to the paper.)
It’s an unusual move, to quit your own television show. And it should be noted, that half of Pitino’s base salary is devoted to media, marketing and public relations duties, a total of $1.25 million in the coming season.
Here’s the clause of his contract concerning that:
These sums shall be compensation for the Employee’s personal participation in public relations, fundraising, arena development, pre- and post-game radio programming, one weekly radio and television coach’s show during preseason, regular season and postseason. . . . Employer assumes responsibility for negotiating said programming, and shall retain all talent and expense fees. Employee shall make himself personally available for all programming negotiated by the Employer pursuant to this Contract. Employee and Athletic Director will mutually agree that said programming will not conflict or cause undue hardship with direct duties relating to coaching the sports team.
Read the full contract here.
By my calculation, if there are six “marketing and media” components under that $1.25 million payment, then Pitino’s TV show appearances are worth $208,333. Wonder if he’ll forego that?
U of L sports information director Kenny Klein says the Pitino show will be replaced by a magazine-type U of L basketball show to be hosted by Drew Diener.

Secondly, WHAS radio host Terry Meiners has confirmed that he has had some cold relations with U of L since publishing a piece critical of the university’s ticket distribution in the new arena, and won’t be involved in the various U of L broadcasts and events that he has been in the past.
I’ll have more to say about this in a blog coming soon, but want to hear what Terry has to say about the matter.
Pitino told Bozich today that relations between the two friends are fine. But I’ve been watching criticism Meiners has had of U of L in recent months, and can’t say the move is a surprise.
I saw some opinions that U of L athletic director Tom Jurich is trying to “control the local media.” In this situation, that isn’t exactly the case. In this situation, he’s trying to control the message coming out of his own in-house media. As with any of us, if you criticize your employer in public, you’re probably not going to last long.

Still, it’s a move that in the end does more harm than good for Louisville. A certain amount of criticism comes to anyone in public life. It’s the criticism that actually validates the praise when it also comes. If all you get from a person is praise, then that person’s opinion of you over time becomes discounted.

Meiners felt strongly about the ticket issue, and his point was valid.

Meiners was in as difficult a position as anyone in the Louisville media throughout the Sypher trial. To his credit, he didn’t back away from the subject in his afternoon radio show on WHAS, and he has continued to speak out on issues he feels important to U of L fans and his listeners, particularly the ticket issue in the new arena.

While a lot of people pointed to strange exchanges between him and Pitino in his halftime interviews of games televised on WHAS, many of those were the two of them just trying to generate talk and, for want of a better term, just messing with people.

UPDATE: Meiners said on his show today that his relationship with Pitino is still friendly and that he remains a U of L fan and financial booster, but that he ruffled some U of L feathers with comments he made about arena ticket distribution. He said he didn’t agree with Pitino’s decision to take a year off from his television program, but said he believes that decision has nothing to do with him. About the only shot he took was introducing and finishing his segment on U of L with clips of songs by Tom Petty, clearly a poke at Jurich — although, as Meiners pointed out, today is Tom Petty’s birthday. Conveniently. More to come . . .

U of L-Cincy: Postgame thoughts

The Keg of Nails is headed back for Cincinnati, and the University of Louisville will find plenty to dissect on this game tape. No one will be immune from the obligatory looks in the mirror.

— The poor kicking game and two missed field goals.

— Some delays in getting play calls to the field in key situations, leading to the burning of all three second-half timeouts.

— Defensive blown coverages, continued struggles against the pass and the inability to stop UC late in the game even when everyone in the stadium knew that running plays were coming.

— Failure of both execution and play calling in the red zone late.

If you’re going to lose, I guess it’s good that you can’t pin it on any one group. It was a team loss. But that’s not really the story of this game.

Cincinnati has a good chance to win a third straight Big East championship. And U of L stood right with the Bearcats. It took some breaks to stand right there with them, but the Cardinals did.

Video: Strong on the national stage

U of L coach Charlie Strong on his team getting to play on a national stage in Friday night’s ESPN2 game against Cincinnati. (Sorry for my video bobble at the start. That’s what happens when you get a print guy shooting video!)


Video: Charlie Strong on confidence

In this Courier-Journal.com video, University of Louisville football coach Charlie Strong answers whether Saturday’s 56-0 victory was his team’s most complete game of the season, and what the confidence from the win could mean.


Video: Cards ‘not rebuilding anymore’

Senior offensive lineman Greg Tomczyk was asked about the progress the University of Louisville is making in its rebuilding project after today’s 56-0 win over Memphis, and Tomczyk said the team is way past rebuilding mode.

“We’re playing to win,” he said. Watch here:


Video: Deion Branch on U of L honor

Caught up with Deion Branch after his No. 9 was honored during the University of Louisville’s win over Memphis yesterday at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. Branch was a star wideout for the Cards in 2000 and ’01, and went on to win a Super Bowl MVP honor with the New England Patriots before traded to the Seattle Seahawks. . . .


Louisville-Memphis live chat

Attention ESPN3 viewers: Join C.L. Brown and me, plus some of the writers from Memphis, for today’s game …

Louisville vs. Memphis

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