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Something new to hope for in ‘09

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By Bob Watkins

New year, new hope, new dreams, new possibilities, a new president who knows how the game should be played. And a classic quote and a Maybe You Missed This.

NEW. President-Elect Barack Obama: “Nothing like a good pick-up game of basketball. When everyone’s passing the ball, playing together and you’re making a few shots. Just makes you feel good.”

OLD. Maybe you missed this: Birth of Basketball.

A story from Clayton, Missouri two years ago tells us about basketball’s infancy. A detailed evolution of a childhood game, Duck on a Rock becoming America’s game, basketball.

Hellen Carpenter Chesterfield, Missouri, 74 at the time, was granddaughter of inventor Dr. James Naismith, discovered in her basement five boxes of documents, photos and items handed down from her mother Hellen Naismith Dodd.

Carpenter’s findings included Dr. Naismith’s handwritten diaries and typed notes on rule sheets that “open a new window on the birth of one of the world’s most popular sports,” the story said.

They reveal details about her grandfather’s invention, including his Eureka Moment when he remembered rules from Duck on a Rock, a Canadian game he played as a child and applied to his new game.

Naismith recorded basketball’s birth in the winter of 1891. Teaching at a school in Springfield, Mass., he was training young men to be instructors at newly formed YMCA centers opening around the country. He needed an indoors game for winter months.

Naismith nailed two baskets to balconies on either end of a court in the school gym and posted 13 rules on a bulletin board.

A journal entry: “I busied myself arranging the apparatus all the time watching the boys as they arrived to observe their attitude that day. I felt this was a crucial moment in my life as it meant success or failure of my attempt to hold the interest of the class and devise a new game.”

Naismith’s game caught on, but adjustments were made. Bottoms were cut out of the baskets and backboards were added behind the baskets so students couldn’t stand in the balcony and knock away shots from opposing teams.

Noting that his students were schooled to play soccer and hockey, Naismith noted in his journal, “... it took a lot of reminding to keep students from tackling a player when he got possession of the ball.”

Basketball’s popularity became more wide spread when Naismith’s students introduced it at YMCAs around the country. The rest is history.

Before his death in 1939, Naismith knew his game was a success when basketball was adopted as an Olympic sport.

CLASSY PITINO

Rick Pitino showed what a classy person he can be recently, tipping his hat to Dr. Tubby Smith.

Louisville’s coach affirmed what some of us have known for years. Kentucky’s 1998 NCAA title winner was Tubby Smith’s team and Tubby’s players. Pitino went further saying he could not have coached the ‘98 team to the NCAA title.

Pitino thus marginalizes Tubby detractors who somehow persuaded themselves Tubby won with Pitino’s players.

After all, Pitino’s players were recruited by Billy Donovan, Ralph Willard and Tubby Smith.

Jewel in the crown of UK’s title drive - March 22, 1998, Region final against Duke, Tubby put a coaching clinic on Mike Krzyzewski. His Wildcats overtook the Blue Devils, sent them home to Durham.

BOWL GAME BONUSES

Football bowl game bonuses. Rich Brooks deserves one. Working in space occupied by Nick Saban, Urban Myer and Mark Richt, whatever Kentucky’s coach gets beyond regular pay, he’s earned it.

Bonus for director of athletics Mitch Barnhart? What for? UK’s non-SEC schedule was laughable, setting an open date between Middle Tennessee and Western Kentucky was poor, and scheduling a night game in mid-November (Vandy) was a hardship for faithful fans.

WORTH REPEATING

Tim Masthay, Kentucky’s All-SEC kicker told the Lexington Herald-Leader last week: “... we’re not just living for ourselves. As a student-athlete, you have so many opportunities. I’ve just been able to take advantage of meeting a lot of great people along the way who have provided me with avenues to give back.”

HOPE TO SEE IN ‘09

• An ESPN two part series. First two hours on John Wooden, Adolph Rupp and Henry Iba, followed by two hours on Bob Knight and Pat Summitt.

• Denny Crum is rediscovered and recognized as one of college basketball’s premier coaches refutting an ESPN poll last November that offered 15 nominee list that included Roy Willliams, Don Haskins and Eddie Sutton and left out Crum.

Haskins and Sutton?

Crum coached two NCAA title winners, the U.S. Olympics team and is a hall of famer.

• Kentucky football: Would like to see a win over South Carolina and/or Tennessee.

• Steve Kragthrope gets a break.

• A UK schedule at Rupp Arena worthy of the faithful. Savvy UK fans are weary of duck shoot Decembers against law firm-sounding Lamar, Longwood and Stoney Brook.

• Basketball. Kentucky at Louisville this weekend. A tie. Just kidding. We hope for a classic worthy of SRO and scalped ticket price.

• More Dick Vitale. ESPN-watching basketball fans, because of Vitale, have re-acquainted us with joys of the mute button.

• I think we have seen Billy Clyde Gillispie at 18 years old and his name is Landon Slone. More please.

• I hope clever Rick Reilly cajols media into embracing across-the-board ban on reporting sizes of contracts for professional athletes and coaches.

And ...

• I hope 2009 is the year when promising college coaches like Turner Gill at Buffalo, move up the D-I job ladder the quality of his character and job skills eclipse newsworthiness of color of his skin

As a nation and news media, we need to get over it.

And so it goes.

You can contact bob Watkins at SprtsinKy@aol.com