How nice was it catching up with the class of 89 at the 20 year reunion?
It was fun. We had a really good time. We try to stay in touch as best we can. Seeing them all together was fun.
Are some of those guys harder to stay in touch with that others?
I hear from Barry Goheen and Booker more than some others. Frank Kornet is a long way away.
You played baseball in college didn’t you almost go pro?
I did play baseball when I was coming out of college. I signed a contract to give up my last year of eligibility.
Do you ever think about what could’ve been if you stuck with baseball?
No, I gave it a good three years. It was interrupted by two years in the Air Force. I gave it a good try but it was during the Korean War in the early 50’s. A lot of guys were in and out of the service. Baseball was so different back then you had a lot of minor league teams and only 16 major league team so it was hard to move. That was also before free agency too so once you signed with an organization you stayed with them.
What do you think about all the steroid problems in baseball now?
I’m not surprised. Baseball turned their back on the performance enhancement drug situation. Whether it was steroids or uppers they turned their back. These guys weren’t dealing with banned substances. They were banned from football and NBA basketball but they weren’t banned in Major League Baseball. Since they started testing they quit using it for the most part. I don’t get caught up in all that.
What was it like coaching at Alabama?
It was a tremendous place to coach. We didn’t have any financial concerns. Football was playing for National Championships every year and the basketball program was winning Conference Championships. We won three in a row. It was a great situation in the 70’s. It was the Golden Era in Alabama sports.
Why did you come to Vanderbilt?
I had been at Transylvania for fourteen years and Vanderbilt was a bigger Transylvania. It was a place that had really great basketball interest, great crowd support and we played in a great league. They didn’t sacrifice the academic integrity at all. The players were students and they had to do their work and graduate. It was a challenge to me and it was fun. It’s the only private school in the SEC and a lot of people didn’t think you could win unless you sacrificed academics and we showed them they were wrong. We had one team that was a tennis ball away from winning a conference championship. We had good teams. It’s a different era too. We didn’t have as many post season games.
Did the academics make it hard recruiting?
Not harder, you knew going in there were some guys you couldn’t recruit so you didn’t waste your time. We looked for kids who could be admitted to Vanderbilt and do the work. When we evaluated talent we evaluated them as students too.
Did you know what had found in Barry Goheen when he was being recruited?
Oh yes, we knew he was special. He was a great student. I think he had a perfect score on his SATs. He wanted to go to school law which he did. He had been on a winning program in Marshall County. He made a bunch of late game shots so it wasn’t new to him. He was very special. He wanted the ball late and we wanted him to have it.
Do you believe in Memorial Magic?
Definitely, it’s a great place. The fans are great and it’s a fun place to play and coach.
Do you think it’s a disadvantage to other teams?
Not really, I brought 12 Alabama teams there. The disadvantage was Vanderbilt under Coach Skinner had very good players and the crowd really got into the game. Coaching on the end of the court wasn’t an issue. I think too much is made out of that.
How big was the win over North Carolina in 1987?
It was a big win for us. Anytime you beat the top rated team in the country it gets you a lot of exposure. We beat Indiana when they were #2. If you look back at the schedule we played back in 89.
Those guys played Michigan, Ohio State, Louisville, Stanford, and North Carolina at North Carolina. That’s how we scheduled back then and it was a lot of fun to play the top teams.
What do you remember about the game against Pitt in the NCAA tournament?
I remember Will Purdue fouling out. I felt at that time we had a chance to win we just had to find a way to do it. Then Barry hit the shot to send it to overtime I thought this is going to happen. It was one of the few times an 8 seed has upset a 1 seed. It was a big win for us.
What about the Kansas game?
We didn’t have an answer for Danny Manning. We did everything we wanted to in that game but he had an unbelievable night. He was great against Kansas State and then they won the whole thing.
Did it make you feel any better when Kansas won the tournament?
Not really, anytime you feel you have a chance to win it doesn’t matter what they do from there.
What do you remember about the shot against Louisville that Goheen hit?
I don’t really remember that one. The one that sticks out to me was the three pointer he took against Georgia when he passed a sure two pointer and dribbled it out to the line. I thought he didn’t know the score but he did. He just wanted to shoot the three (laughs). Does the tennis ball incident still bother you?
Not now, but it bothers me when I think about the players. Vanderbilt had a history of winning the SEC about once every 25 years and there we were and have it decided that way it was tough for me and the players. What would you say to the guy who threw the tennis ball?
Nothing now it was a foolhardy thing to do. There’s nothing you can do about it now. I think the officials handled it very poorly. You should give the crowd a warning if something is thrown on the floor. You don’t assess a penalty on the crowd. But it’s done and there’s nothing you can do about it.
What made you decide to leave Vandy and go to Kentucky as the AD?
I never thought I’d leave Vanderbilt. I wanted to finish my career there. We had it going good and had some good players coming back. But my school, the school I graduated from and played for convinced me I was not only wanted but needed and the need part got to me. I felt it was the thing I ought to do. It worked out well for both of us.
Was it hard the first time Kentucky played against Vanderbilt?
It’s hard. They are all kids I recruited. I had experienced it when I coached against Alabama the first time. I coached against Ken Johnson and kids I recruited there. It’s never easy.
What did you think when Kentucky named their football field after you?
It was a surprise and a tremendous honor. Anytime something like that is named after you it’s an honor.
What do you think about Vandy’s team this year?
I think Kevin does a great job with his teams. They are young this year and I think they’ll be good in the future.
Who do you root for when you’re watching SEC basketball? Are you biased since you have ties to Kentucky, Alabama, and Vandy?
I enjoy the game. It’s one of those things. You think deep down the school you played for and graduated from is the one you want to win but it’s not. I don’t feel bad for whoever loses.
So Kentucky, Vandy, and Alabama are your favorites, the others are fair game?