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COLUMN: Gaffe or gumption?

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Sean Woods arrived at Rupp aggravated

By Bob Watkins

One of the Unforgettables, Sean Woods’ tantrum-laced visit to Rupp Arena last week was, well, forgettable. Maybe.
A question lingers. Was Woods’ open mouth policy in Lexington gaffe or gumption? Says here the Devon Atkinson episode was gaffe. All else from Woods was gumption, and guts to speak his mind.
First, trying to show fans (and media) how Pitino-like he is — no back-down — Woods became too feisty on the sideline and gave in to anger. To put hands on a player in anger is taboo forever. To do it in public, witnessed by tweeters, YouTubers, gossiping grannys and Sportscenter scouts, is to walk to the edge of foolishness and jump. Given the venue and communication devices, a one-game suspension is the greatest escape since Steve McQueen motorcycled over the wire.
I believe Woods showed up aggravated. Out of sorts. Offended that current UK players “don’t get it” — don’t appreciate that his place as an Unforgettable in the annals of Big Blue history is ho-hum to those playing in Jay Bilas’ new age.
“The vibe,” Woods said, among current Kentucky players, is disappointing.
That a Kentucky player had no clue about Christian Laetter’s place in UK basketball lore was unfathomable and pushed Woods to the brink of talking about the elephant in the room. One-and-the-League.
Like this question: “These kids come to Kentucky and, because they’re only going to be here a semester or two, they aren’t required to learn a little history about the winningest program in the country?”
Willie Cauley-Stein’s ignorance about Laettner rankled Woods, but more, it is evidence John Calipari’s “players” are not required to know something/anything about basketball history here.
Woods: “There’s just a certain way and a certain look Kentucky basketball players should have. Not have such sense of entitlement. I think today it’s still an honor to wear that uniform.”
A eureka moment. One that begs for epilogue. Reflect hard truth about where the young man’s game as it applies to Kentucky basketball is today. To wit: “Hey man, you had your time. Now it’s our time and we’re not into all this UK history stuff, we’re headed to the league.”
By the time Woods and his team suited up to be fodder for the Wildcats, their coach had to be seething. Then, along came Atkinson who broke all player protocols by talking back to his coach in the heat of a moment instead of taking a seat and sticking a towel into his mouth.
When the game was in the books, tempers cooled and time came for coach spin, Woods retreated. Humbled by his gaffe (Atkinson), he showed some ball coach gumption. He tossed Calipari a bone, praising his success, then went away hoping Morehead State can keep a place in line for another UK check to cash into Morehead State Athletics account.

STOOPS WOULD BE A FIT
Since Mitch Barnhart probably couldn’t get Pat Fitzgerald away from Northwestern anyway, a candidate Kentucky’s director of athletics interviewed last week for the football job, looks to be a good one.
Lots to like about Mark Stoops, beginning with his current job title, Defensive Coordinator at Florida State. Maybe Barnhart has come to grips with the Rule of Iron in the SEC: To win in this league, defense does it. Period.
• Stoops. Before the 2012 season, for what it’s worth, television analyst Kirk Herbstreit put him among the top five defensive minds in college football today after Nick Saban, Gary Patterson, Bo Pelini and Will Muschamp.
• Stoops is young at 45.
• One of six children, four of whom played then became football coaches, Stoops learned sibling survival skills early and grew a passion to compete.
• He played in the Big Ten at Iowa, then coached on the Iowa staff.
• Before this season, Stoops told a reporter, “Sure I have aspirations to be a head coach someday. I’m just always trying to improve myself and be the best coach I can be.”
The college coach carousel has barely started to turn, but it’s already gotten interesting.
Stay tuned.

UNEMPLOYED SYMPATHIES
Our sympathies go out this week to the unemployed including:
• Derek Dooley, who had a $5 million buy out.
• Joker Phillips, who gets $2 million-plus for two years.
• Best (and most outrageous) for last, ex-ball coach at Auburn, Gene Chizik will receive $208,333 per month through the end of 2015.
Comment: Auburn University deserves Bobby Petrino.