There's more than one of everything…..


If you missed the show “Fringe” this year, you missed the best new show of the year.  The final scene of the season got quite a bit of news (watch it above) and it got me to thinking.   The ending dealt with Olivia being thrust into an “alternate universe”.  Check the headlines  on the paper shown:  Obamas set to move into NEW White House, an article on a 45 year old Len Bias leading the Celtics to the title, and JFK holding peace talks.  Whoa, alternate universe in deed.  But it got me to thinking.


So in honor of the Magic’s second NBA Finals appearance, my love of the show “Fringe” and the mini circus that has been UK basketball the last two years, I present my version of 3 alternative UK universes.

1)  The Orlando Magic, under second year coach Billy Donovan bowed out of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals in 4 games to LeBron James and the defending NBA champ Cleveland Cavaliers.  The Magic showed a marked improvement from the first season under Donovan, in which they lost in the first round of the NBA playoffs to the Boston Celtics.  Orlando rookie Nick Calathes pulled an eerie deja vu moment when the Magic were poised to win game one in Orlando when Calathes missed four straight free throws down the stretch and allowed Cleveland to come back from a 4 point deficit with less than 20 seconds left.

Elsewhere in Lexington, the University of Kentucky was stunned in the first round of the NCAA Tournament by Western Kentucky.  This was the second straight first round exit for the Catswho have not advanced past the second round in three years.  The pressure is starting to mount for Tubby Smith.  Smith won NCAA titles in 1998, 2005, and 2006.  The last team was lead by NCAA assist leader Rajon Rondo who won the Naismith award twice in his four years at UK.  Smith has been dogged by inconsistent recruiting classes.  In the 7 years leading up to the 2005 title, UK advanced past the Sweet 16 just once.

Smiths 1998 title completed a three peat of NCAA titles by the Wildcats. The first two were won by Rick Pitino, who then left UK to revive the LA Clippers and win 2 straight NBA titles in 2001 and 2002.  After retiring from coaching after 2002 season, Pitino became commissioner of the NBA in 2006.

2)  Led by sophomores Nick Calathes and Patrick Patterson, UK advanced to the Elite 8 and lost a heartbreaker to John Calipari’s Memphis Tigers.  Calipari’s Tigers went on to win their second straight title and PG Derrick Rose announced he is returning to Memphis.  This year was the second year for Donovan, who took over the UK job in 2007 after UK fired coach Saul Smith.  Saul was a controversial hire for UK but was named “coach in waitting” by Tubby Smith after Tubby won his third straight title for UK in 2004.  The 2001 title was the first by UK since Joe B Hall retired after winning his 4th title in 1981.

After Hall retired, UK was never able to recapture its past glory even after hiring “big name coaches” such as PJ Carlemiso, Lute Olsen, Rick Pitino, Gene Keady, and Dick Vitale.  After Vitale’s 8-23 season in 1998, UK lured Smith away from three time NCAA champ High Point.  Energized by number one recruiting classes, Smith instantly brought his brand of high scoring basketball to UK.  After naming Saul as he replacement, Tubby coached one last season and retired in 2005.  Saul’s teams were a combined 27-33 and Saul was fired by new UK AD Tubby Smith.  Smith then hired Donovan from the Louisville Cardinals, who Kentucky defeated in the 2003 title game.

Donovan will be battling Calipari for top recruits again this year as Donovan has landed recruits Eric Bledsoe, Daniel Orton, John Hood, and Xavier Henry.  All SEC point guard Derrick Jasper announced he is returning for his senior year as well and has provided UK with the best PG tandem in the country.   Calipari has benefitted from the new NCAA rule requiring players to stay three years and has added John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins and GJ Vilarino to the Memphis stable.

Just a couple of “what ifs” that we could have been stuck with.  But the one what if I have been thinking about a lot lately is what if UK beat VMI, Miami, Louisville, South Carolina, and Georgia?  That UK team would have finished with 24 wins heading INTO the SEC tournament.

Assume then that UK would advance to the Sweet 16.

Would Barnhart have made the coaching switch with UK “winning on the court but losing in all other aspects” ?  Would we be looking at year 3 of Billy G with no Meeks or Patterson?  Consider what could have happened if UK won those 5 games, all highly winnable.  Would we have a tyrant as coach kept because of a 25 win season?

This reality is my least favorite of all.

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