As I sat in my parents’ living room after devouring one delicious piece of peanut butter pie, while celebrating my brother’s 30th birthday. I looked over at my uncle, Corporate Dave as we call him, and said, "Man this is so bad". For context this was directly after El Ellis took an inbound pass, with no one guarding him, and dribbled the ball up the back of JJ Traynor’s leg and turned it over. It was so bad we had Dad rewind to see if the incident was a figment or was it real life. At that moment my wife followed up, not a basketball fan or Louisville fanatic like yours truly and asked, "What does that mean, can you try and explain?" Without much thought my uncle, Corporate Dave replied, "It’s like blackened eggs."
Yes, that was the most analogous thing he could come up with, but it worked. "You would not go into a restaurant and order eggs and EVER except blackened eggs", he said. "That is what you are getting with Louisville Men’s basketball this year." I stopped and thought that was a perfect picture. Corporate Dave took it one step further for my beloved wife. "It would be like walking into Ruth Chris’s steak house. You are obviously expecting top shelf steak, potato, veggies and salad. Maybe a glass of wine and some hot bread. The waiter comes out after you order and delivers to you and your table, you guessed it, blackened eggs!"
Let me preface the continued conversation. I am a 35-year-old who hails from the South End, my friends know me as Butter. I moved across the river to the state that most folks start conversation with "O-H", please stop, barf. Being born and raised a diehard Louisville fan, who was a former athlete that played at high levels, I have compassion for both our players and coaching staff. Also, I have never played one minute or coached collegiate basketball in my entire life. But, I woke up today and could not get blackened eggs out of my mind.
In the following of the Chris Mack era at Louisville, we hired and supported our beloved son, KP. Kenny is a great coach and a better man. He loves people, players, coaches, his family and leads with integrity. As KP mentioned he was split on even coming here from the Knicks. He had a great gig there, imagining he could still be at Kentucky, but he chose to go to a better place for him and his family, with the Knicks. At Louisville he felt compelled to come and people of high-ranking opinions across all basketball (insert any all names) told Kenny you have to take it, you have to go to Louisville, they need you.
Sitting in that living room on Saturday, I will be honest, I had a smidgen of hope. FSU is terrible this year, just like us. They are averaging under 60 points, and losses to equally bad teams. I was like, maybe we have a chance. Maybe we can get our first win. I don’t know when the hope finally left. Maybe it was after we turned the ball over right after half time on an inbound play, or when I watched El Ellis drive down the lane and not take an open layup and try to throw a crazy pass to another teammate. Or maybe it was when Fabio came in and ran a good few series, with Big Syd, for some easy buckets, and they both got pulled. By the way, I am not playing favorites here, these guys have all underperformed and not given the effort to win at this level. But it is hard to see guys repeat the same issues over and over again and they remain on the court. The great Mitch Witten once said, "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result." Well, Louisville basketball is flirting with insanity.
Unmet expectations are a way of life. We as humans deal with them every day. I have a 7- and 4-year-old who live under my roof. They will let you know quickly, if we don’t get in some Bluey their day is not complete. As fans we have expectations of what our team will be. We look at last year. Coach Mack was treated unfairly by the Louisville administration, his mentor and great friend tried to make him dirty when he needed to make a change, and his Dad was dying. Add those up and our players not gelling, you have one of the worst Louisville seasons of all time! Chris did the right thing and exited stage left, and I wish him and his family all the best. He came into a hurricane of a black cloud and had a top 10 team in year 2. With the pieces he left (4 star talent and enough guards at the time), a new coach could have easily come in and competed. Guys, we have played 9 games and only competed in 3 of those games. There is no way, no way any one of us would have thought we would start this year out 0-9. Especially not with KP at the helm.
With Kenny you get the obvious, he is an African American leader. What a great thing for our city. As I live from afar, I see the issues and hot topics in Louisville. Kenny can and could be a great ambassador for change in the Louisville community. Having a black coach is a major plus in my book! Also, Kenny has massive connections in the basketball world and is proven as a coach, regardless of if it has been assistant stints. He is a world-class recruiter and has brought on three coaches that have been on and with championship programs. Those guys are not bad coaches and have successful track records. They have coached up elite talent and produced tons of NBA players.
So where do we go from here? It’s a tough place to be as a fan. Even tougher as an AD and University. But one has to state the obvious and ask hard questions, knowing that change must come, or changes will be made for you. Ok first the list of the facts:
Louisville was under the thumb of the NCAA since Ricky P left, which has finally been relieved (KP should publicly reach out to our HOF coach, it's the right thing to do after allegations have been dropped…step further, Josh Heird should also reach out and welcome coach P too…just saying)
Louisville has a rich tradition and sets only behind UCLA, Duke, NC, and KY
Louisville basketball is the highest grossing revenue school on average over the last 20 years and it's not even close, I repeat its crazy how much money is pumped through this program
Louisville has second to none arena in the Big Yum as Paul calls it, and facilities with brand new Denny Crum Hall (what 18-year-old would not want to be here, are you kidding me)
Louisville’s fan base is top 5 most passionate basketball bases, and our TV ratings show we are the number 1 college basketball city in the country (yes, I know the Cats have a hand in that)
KP was the man most wanted, both far and wide. Although Eric Musselman, Scott Drew, and Chris Beard should have gotten phone calls at least, it probably did not happen.
1. If Chris Mack had started 0-9 and the guys looked like this, would he still have A job?
2. When will KP change his tune in a press conference and start showing concern?
3. Does KP understand that culture can be both good and bad?
4. Where has Syd Curry, who averaged 20 pts a game at the end of last season with the same less conditioning gone?
5. When does Josh Heird call Jay Wright and have A conversation? (Ok that might just be a pipe dream and a rumor, but if I told you 2 weeks ago that I knew Jeff was already coming you would have been like yea right).
6. When do we win a game?
7. What proof do you have that next year will be any better?
8. How long until all Louisville fans and former players call for a change?
9. Will JJ Traynor change his shot to not look like a missile coming out and actually have an arch?
10. When does KP show up one day and kick a player off the team? Or a player leaves?
The questions are obviously maddening and endless. I am not in the locker room, so it is hard to tell what really goes on each day. A former coach and player, David Padgett is quoted to say this type of effort would not have happened under Coach Pitino. Your ass would have been on the bench. But this year's team thus far has obviously not improved, getting worse, and not putting forth the effort needed.
So, as we move forward, please know, I love KP and the hire. I am still behind him. But what changes is he going to make? How is he going to keep the fan base and his boss on his side? You must put butts in the seats and that obviously is not happening. My expectations this year are not even the steak and potatoes and the glass of wine. Maybe just a salad or maybe some spinach queso dip. But all I have gotten thus far is blackened eggs.