UK’s football coaches report basketball fever

Buried in spring football, even Kentucky’s coaches aren’t immune from enjoying the run to the national championship for the basketball team.

In fact, Coach Mark Stoops confirmed he’s flying to Dallas on Monday afternoon to see the title game at AT&T Stadium.

“I’m going to go watch the game,” he said when asked his plans for the evening. Stoops also was in Indianapolis for the region semifinal game against Louisville.

Stoops, who also was at Memorial Coliseum for the first two rounds of the women’s NCAA Tournament run, said he’s enjoyed watching Coach John Calipari’s team succeed.

“I have, I really have,” Stoops said after Monday’s practice. “It’s been exciting. We’ve been fortunate here at Kentucky to watch some fantastic games coming down to the wire, so it’s been a lot of fun.”

Calipari’s team provides an important lesson for all athletes no matter what sport they play, Stoops said.

“Just to see them persevere through some tough times and everybody’s on their case, there’s a lot of pressure on them and they just responded,” he said. “They just kept on playing and put their head down and went to work. Eventually it turned and good things started to happen to them. I think a lot of people and a lot of teams could take something from that.”

Did Stoops, who has been part of plenty of big games in his coaching career, have any advice for this young basketball team as it prepares for the biggest game of its career?

“Nah,” he chuckled. “Cal’s got that down.

“Those guys are playing with a lot of confidence, or at least that’s what it looks like and playing loose, so I’m just rooting for them, just there to support them and cheer for them.”

The Cats have turned another football coach (and his young son) into big UK basketball fans, defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot said on Monday.

“I’ve loved it,” he said of the UK run. “I have loved it.

He’s been watching the games, especially the last three all won on big shots by Aaron Harrison in the final minute, on the edge of his seat.

“In a football game, I’m working, so I’m not a fan, you know what I mean?” he said. “So in these basketball games, I’ve just been a straight fan. I’m jumping out of my seat. I’ve got my 8-year-old son, we’re high fiving. Every time they hit one of those shots, I wake up all the other kids.”

About Jennifer Smith

Jen Smith has been a sports writer at the Herald-Leader since 2000, covering everything from high school sports to auto racing to various University of Kentucky sports. A native of Louisville and a graduate of the University of Kentucky (much to the dismay of her Louisville graduate mother and Indiana graduate father), Jen now resides in downtown Lexington with her husband and two young sons. You can follow her on Twitter @jenheraldleader or send her an email at
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2 Responses to UK’s football coaches report basketball fever

  1. Tom says:

    I’d say Stoops’ first game as the Wildcats coach should be one of his greatest memories. Since he hasn’t won a conference game we don’t know if fires we be set, cars over turned, statutes erected. Conference wins in football are about as rare as basketball players graduating.

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