Cardinal Thursday: The Decision & The Game

In Tom McGuane’s seriously hip ’75 flick of his own novel “92 In The Shade,” Peter Fonda’s Tom Skelton drifts back to the Keys to again take up his fishing guide biz. Former U of L thespian Warren Oates’ Nichol Dance remains a rival.

Clients get stolen. Dance’s boat gets torched. Tension ensues.

The film builds to a climax where the two are out by themselves on a boat. Will Dance off Skelton or not? Skelton wasn’t feeling too confidant.

Not unlike what Louisville fans have been feeling while awaiting for oh so long the IARP decision on the fate of the men’s hoops program.

To use another movie analogy, sort of how John Cazale’s Fredo felt getting in that bass boat, heading out in the lake at the end of “Godfather II.”

To Skelton’s surprise, it doesn’t happen. The duo fight over the gun, which falls in the water. They decide to end the feud.

At least in the version your scribe saw when it played at the Vogue back in the day.

But imagine this writer’s mouth wide open gobsmacked surprise when he rented a video of the flick years later. Dance shoots and kills him.

As it turns out, they actually filmed a third ending.

Which is about how many outcomes there might have been when U of L’s fate was finally revealed Thursday morning.

 * * * * *

The you’ve been naughty boys decision to be honest did not come as a surprise here at Seedy K HQ.

But for different reasons than was suspected back when this whole quagmire of a turmoil began half a decade and whole different college sports mindset ago.

This close and engaged observer has been publicly and repeatedly of the opinion that the university would be served well by the firing of Tom Jurich and Rick Pitino, as odious as that was for much of the fanbase, and the total extreme makeover in that building behind Rodan’s The Thinker. The house cleaning.

In a frankly surprising turn of events, like version uno of McGuane’s movie when Dance doesn’t shoot Skelton, Teflon Rick Pitino not only wasn’t penalized, he was totally exonerated.

Go figure. Many heads are still being scratched at that one.

What did obviously inform the decision was the sea change brought about by NIL, and the NCAA’s diminution of power. Despite its previous travails, U of L’s penalties, such as the are, were in line with others recently rendered by the same decision maker. (Except Oklahoma State, which for some reason got a post season ban.)

Unlike Fredo, but just like Skelton who breathed easily when he stepped back ashore to share a brewski with his former rival, the University of Louisville community is finally able to breathe easily.

Of course, there has been other punishment already served. Five years in purgatory, paddling down the River Styx wondering if there would ever appear safe harbor. Considered a national hoops pariah.

Most important, the inability to recruit at levels that would make the program relevant again.

So, if there’s one aspect of the go to the corner for 10 minute timeout in a dunce cap slap on the wrist, it’s the recruiting restrictions.

The perspective here is that the program has suffered more than enough already in that regard.

Yet it is not that serious it seems. New U of L AAD Zach Greenwell advised yours truly last night before the game that the Cards have been docked 7 days out of 100 allowed for next academic year. So, 7%. Acceptable. There are some other visiting restrictions too, but you get the point.

Bottom line: The Future is Now.

At least off the court.

  * * * * *

On the court, in front of yet another disturbingly sparse “crowd,” Kenny Payne notched his first W in the first chair. A difficult 80-73 exhi defeat of the Chaminade Silver Swords.

Despite its troubles prevailing, the Cards did look somewhat improved. On the offensive end anyway. Still tentative but not nearly as nervous as Sunday last, they seemed more comfortable trying to score the ball.

The defensive lapses were, to be delicate, disturbing. Soft.

What was fascinating about the opener was how KP stuck with JJ Traynor, giving him an inordinate amount of PT, even though he really wasn’t playing well at all.

Last night showed why. Despite his slender frame, Traynor displayed his penchant for mixing it up. Six of his 8 boards were on the offensive end. Three at least were of his own misses. He netted half his shots.

Though it eventually won the rebounding battle over the shorter visitors, U of L’s bigs were meek for the most part. The best sequence hitting the O glass, the most encouraging, actually resulted in no points. But late in the game, the outcome still in balance, Syd Curry and JJ both got offensive rebounds on the same sequence, just couldn’t convert.

The well chronicled most serious deficiency of this conglomeration was on full display.

A lack of reliable ball handling guards beyond El Ellis. The Cards leading scorer last evening was the only PG to play in the 2d. Hercy Miller played but a couple minutes before intermission. Fabio Basilli was a DNP.

If you are a Cardinal fan, make sure to include Ellis and his health in your prayers tonight and every night before hitting the sack.

His presence is an absolute imperative.

 * * * * *

Now reality.

A season where it’s hard to predict a whole lot of Ws, given the flaws revealed thus far.

Starting with feisty cross-town rival Bellarmine at 9:00 Wednesday.

Hopefully Cardinal fans will return to the Yum! in the droves they’ve been known for in days gone by.

Otherwise, there’s liable to be more seats filled with Knights’ fans.

— c d kaplan

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