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Don't Listen to the Noise Joker

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By Ira D. Combs Syndicated Columnist
Tri State Sports Media Service Inc.


The Kentucky Wildcats have launched another modest two-game winning streak since the North Carolina loss with wins against Notre Dame 72-58 and Indiana 81-62. The streak should continue through the holiday season with three low level to mid-major opponents of the cupcake variety before they end the year on New Year's Eve in The Ville' with their Little Brother in the annual " Battle of the Bluegrass"basketball style.

In the meantime during that two-week period before the annual blood bath with the Cards our jolly friend from the North Pole Santa Claus will make his annual stop in Lexington and we will all finally learn together if Big Enes and Coach Cal have been naughty or nice during the past year. More on UK basketball later in this column.

Don't Listen To The Noise Joker

We already know the fate of Joker Phillips and Mike Hartline's Christmas presents, neither will be getting any except from Joker's wife and Hartline's parents. Both individuals in my eyes have no one to blame but themselves for their present dilemma. Hartline like any other young adult knows where and when he is in the wrong place at the wrong time and this time under the influence of alcohol. Pardon me sports fans, but I can't feel sorry for someone who created their own problem.

As a matter of fact, I don't see Joker getting any Chrismas cards or presents from the growing list of former UK assistant football coaches and it's newfound fraternity either. I guess that bit of advice that he reportedly took from Coach Brooks about "Don't listen to the noise" didn't hit home with him after just one season. For a staff that supposedly was very chummy with one another during those three elite years (2006 - 2008) of the Brooks' Era it just looks odd from the outside watching them fall like dead pigeons one after the other to the wrath of the new head coach. I guess all those tough bowl wins and rare road wins in the SEC against Georgia and Auburn that most of those five fired assistants were a part of was just all luck or maybe it was all due to the offensive coordinator during that time.

Remember when everyone was calling for defensive coordinator Mike Archer's head on a platter. Enter Steve Brown and everyone was happy for a couple years now it's all Steve Brown's fault just like it was all Archer's in Brooks early years.

Kentucky football can't reload each year with blue chip players because they don't have the recruiting base to do so. The UK's of the world have to build a defense for a short term base and then when a back to back class of players like Myron Pryor, Jeremy Jarmon, Braxton Kelly, Micah Johnson, Trevard Lindley, Corey Peters, and Sam Maxwell graduate they have to rebuild for another short term period to reap the benefits for another two-year term. That's just the lay of the land for UK football. You can fire all the defensive coordinators or assistants you want to, it all comes down to the Jimmy's and the Joe's not the X's and the O's.

Then if you can get really lucky and get both the offense and defense in their lean years at the same time you'll see that 9-3 or 10-2 season that we've all been longing for.

Any college football coach will tell you recruiting the solid football recruits starts with building relationships between the position coach and the recruit. Then bring the team together when you get everyone on campus together for a couple years. How can you build relationships with recruits as well as chemistry between the player and coach when your firing assistants at the rate Joker Phillips is?

Coach Brooks dealt with much more adversity in his first three years than Joker Phillips has in his first, and we all saw how that ended up. It's too late now, but I wish Joker would have listened a little more intently to the advice of his former boss.

What concerns me is that when the head coach starts throwing his assistants in front of the bus, how long will it take before that pipeline hurts him in the recruiting process.

In Joker's opening press conference, he stated that he wants to build on his predecessor's success. Firing the bulk of Brooks staff isn't sending that message to me.

I just hope for Joker's sake, that if things don't get better next year Mitch Barnhart doesn't "Listen To The Noise ".

Back To Hoop Fortunes & A Third Scorer

My big concern at the present time is that Santa will stop in Indianapolis at the NCAA headquarters first before arriving in Lexington.

Regardless of Santa and his trusty reindeers travel plans for Christmas Eve, the week after on New Year's Eve is shaping up to be one royal battle at the new KFC Yum Center. Don't know about you, but I didn't expect to see UK or Louisville either one in the Top 25 come New Year's Eve now it appears there is a great chance that both will be in the Top 15 when the CBS cameras start rolling at high noon that day.

John Calipari has been looking for a consistent third scorer for the 2010-11 edition of UK basketball since early November to go with freshman phenoms Brandon Knight and Terrence Jones. Calipari along with many fans and a few SELECT media personalities across the Commonwealth have been beating down both Darius Miller and DeAndre Liggins to fill this role especially Miller.

Not me (I'm very much satisfied with Miller and Liggins) as a matter of fact as Miller entered the UK media room for interviews after the UK-IU game it looked as though the constant expectations from everyone had started to wear thin on him. His body language and facial demeanor reflected to me that he really dreaded facing the media again for the same questions that he has been receiving over and over since his freshman year.

I've been one of his biggest supporter's and will continue to be. But even I felt guilty and ashamed to have been associated with some folks who have beaten this drum for 2 1/2 years.

Let's look at his game really closely and then step back and rationalize. Going into this week's game against Mississippi Valley State, Darius Miller is one-tenth of a point from averaging 10.0 points a game and 5.0 rebounds a game. To make my point more conclusively he is 16 for 30 from behind the 3 point arc. That's above 50% for you folks that are mathematically challenged. And he has 3 more assists than turnovers. All that and he's a small forward who doesn't even have his hands on the ball 3-5 seconds out of each possession.

Now you go to any of the Top 25 programs internet site look at their team and show me a third scorer alternative that does more for their team than Miller has. The whole mindset with the fan base concerning Miller is because he's one of the rare Kentucky boys recruited into the program in recent year's and he came from the same school that Chris Lofton came from.

Everybody dumped the Lofton mistake on Miller's shoulders and expected him to make up for it. That was and continues to be very cruel and unfair to Miller.

It wasn't Darius Milller's damn mistake it was Tubby's! Not to mention several more like Shelvin Mack another former UK coach made. But that's all behind us now, thankfully.

If Big Blue Nation and Coach Cal don't back off Darius Miller you're going to send this young man into a state where he's not considered inconsistent, he may actually be a liability.

It's never ceased to amaze me how the vast UK fan base can be so unrealistic and judgmental with one player when right before their eyes another player is playing his heart out and overachieving and very few are tooting his horn.

Josh Harrellson has produced a double-double in two of the last four games. Tomorrow morning when you look in the mirror ask yourself if you actually thought this past summer that Josh Harrellson would average in double figures in points and rebounds in a stretch of games that included North Carolina, Boston University, Notre Dame, and Indiana. I don't think so!

Yet, all anybody wants to talk about is what Darius Miller hasn't done. Instead of what Josh Harrellson has done. When all along both have been a vital part of a team that's overachieving to the max.

I sure hope Santa the good Lord or somebody will Free Enes! Because, I don't think Miller or Harrellson or myself can take any of Big Blue Nation's negative mindset much longer.

Go to for more coverage of the Kentucky Wildcats and KHSAA Sports.


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Comment by JBR on December 15, 2010 at 11:54pm

I agree with your theory on the football assistants...and understand what you are saying.  I'm not gonna act like each and every decision Joker made with each coach was great, because I do not know.  But, what I do know is football...and  I was a Brooks supporter when that was not en vogue to be...but this defense was bad...and it was much worse than it should have been.  The sideline and fundamentals coaching was horrendous...and you cannot just blame it on the kids when they are not taught or motivated properly.  I'm not going to go into a ton of details because I have written them all before...yes, the schemes are also bad, but you can take one player as an example...all the talent in the world, all the potential in the world, and he has not been developed or taught in the least.  He is allowed to stay on the field, despite making the exact same mistakes and bad plays against Tennessee (the last game of the season) as he did the first game of the year.  That player not only consistently plays bad, but is left in each and every game...and then, late in the season, he is interviewed and thinks he is having a great season.  Who is coaching this kid?  That is only one are correct, it is not all x's and o's...but motivation, teaching, accountability...and Brown does NONE of those things.  Case in list several players above that were extremely good players at UK, and have gone on to continue playing many of those players were rated higher than the obvious player I am talking about in my example??????  THAT is the difference...under Brooks, these players were developed better.  I know that Brown was here then as well, but a DB coach, for much of the development of these guys...and honestly, these guys just layed it on the field and played better for Brooks...they respected him, he held them accountable, and they played harder.  So, Ira, I respectfully disagree with the assessment of Brown and that continuity argument.  Joker is losing the fan base...and I think that he had to make the move.  I know it may not be politically correct to say that, but money and butts in the seats are the bottom lines...and while fans are often wrong about things, they were not about our was bad.

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