Joe Louis, the “Brown Bomber,” iconic Heavyweight Champion of the World mid 20th C, defended his title more than a dozen times in a two year period, easily conquering all those comers. Such was the nature of his dominance, that those foes came to be known collectively as the “Bum of the Month Club.”
U of L’s upcoming non-conference home schedule looks much the same, and includes a couple of schools that even the most ardent hoops fan has never heard of. Samford. Hartford. North Florida. St. Francis Brooklyn. Grand Canyon. Eastern Michigan. Kennesaw State. Western Kentucky. Missouri Kansas City. Utah Valley.
Call them the Schleppers of November and December.
While such a schedule can be viewed as giving the finger to season ticket holders paying a Benjamin per ticket as tariff to sit through these tilts, it is also legit for The Rick to say this is what this particular edition of the Cards needs.
The ’15-’16 campaign is is shaping up as the most fascinating yet in the Pitino Era.
As loyal readers know, I acknowledge his Hall of Fame credentials. Yet I often decry his methods, which tend toward the abrasive, old school scolding method of teaching. I hate that he calls out players in the media. The Rick is not a nurturer. Which coaching character trait might adversely affect this crop of Cards.
This team’s potential leaders are first timers. This team’s potential breakout stars are first timers. Talented but uncertain rookies abound. More often than not, it takes players under the coach’s tutelage more than a season to become accustomed to and comfortable with his ways. Any true success for this team does not allow that luxury.
I agree with Pitino in that there is “an outstanding team” somewhere in this mix.
The question is: Will Rick Pitino be able to find the combos and mold them into that achiever during this campaign?
Fasten your seatbelts, fans, it’s going to be a bumpy ride. Where this team will land is far from certain.
* * * * *
Louisville edged Kentucky Wesleyan, 77-68, in the Cardinals’ final tuneup before Friday night’s season opener against Scott Padgett’s Samford Bulldogs.
There were a few signs that good things might come.
After falling behind by six, 20-26, Louisville went on an 18-3 tear for a 38-29 advantage at the break. It was led by the steady hand of David Levitch, who is U of L’s fifth most talented guard, but perhaps its steadiest. It must be noted that he and Mangok Mathiang are the only players on the roster with more than a single season of seasoning under Pitino.
Chinanu Onuaku appeared more alert and focused. At least in spurts.
Deng Adel and Anas Mahmoud had moments, which hopefully were harbingers of big things to come.
Watching them, I was reminded of a personal experience from that time we refer to as back in the day. I retired from real life for a year, during which interlude I managed a rock & roll band, a group that aspired to be a white boy blues band, when there simply weren’t many. It was an earnest ensemble, on the cusp of being talented, but it took awhile.
The lead guitar player came from a bluegrass background. His playing was timid for a good while. Then one night, while they were playing a Muddy Waters’ tune, he broke on through, played a nasty, electrifying solo. The rest of the band and I stared at each other, wondering where it came from, and why at that moment? He kept improving from there.
Those kind of incidents are what Cardinal fans shall be hoping for from Adel and Mahmoud. And Ray Spalding. And Donovan Mitchell. And Jaylen Johnson. And . . . well . . . all the current Cardinals.
Tune in. Take a ticket. Take a seat. But, be patient.
The term, “work in progress” has never been more apt.
* * * * *
Last night’s “crowd,” announced officially and fallaciously as 15,974, was the smallest ever, by a large margin, for any Cardinal game at the Yum!. And might have been the smallest since a blizzard game back at Freedom Hall in the Metro years.
It looked like there might have been 8,000 or so in their seats at tipoff. And perhaps another couple of thousand at most, many of whom left early, starting at the second to last media timeout, when the Cards led 60-49.
Yes, it was an exhibition game. Yes, it was a chilly, wet, yucky evening.
But . . .
— Seedy K