UK players know what rivalry means to fans

December 26, 2003|LARRY VAUGHT

LEXINGTON - Since he's from California, Chuck Hayes didn't know a lot about the Kentucky-Louisville rivalry when he signed with the Wildcats.

That's changed during his three years at Kentucky.

"I knew Louisville was in Kentucky, but I didn't know the rivalry was that big," the junior forward said. "Rivalries usually go back and forth, but this one is different.

"Fans really get into the game. Kentucky people love their basketball and love their teams. Since I've been here, it's the only game that seems to really matter to most fans. Probably most fans also want you to win the national title, but they definitely want you to beat Louisville every year."

Kentucky didn't do that last year. Louisvile beat UK 81-63 in Freedom Hall, and the Wildcats will try to return the favor Saturday in Rupp Arena.


Cincinnati native Erik Daniels knew plenty about the UK-Louisville rivalry when he joined the Cats because he heard about it while he was growing up.

"I watched the games all the time. I knew how big the rivalry was," Daniels said. "I can't speak for other players, buy my guess is that you have to be from around here to understand what this one game means to so many fans. Then again, Kentucky fans want you to win every game."

Daniels says coach Tubby Smith approaches this game like any other. The players try to do the same. Yet the Wildcats know this isn't just another game to those who support them.

"I remember us losing last year. It was a bad performance," Daniels said. "We want to come out and make up for it. We didn't get the results we wanted last year, and we have to change that.

"This is our biggest rival. We know deep down inside that we have to win this game for our fans. We know this is a big game for all the people in Kentucky. We have to get this one for the Kentucky fans."

Daniels doesn't expect anything tricky or different from the Cardinals Saturday.

"I don't think they will change their style for this game," Daniels said. "They will pressure us just like they would anyone else. They want an up-tempo game, but we can handle that pressure, and if we do, we should win and make all our fans happy."

Missing Kentucky: Louisville coach Rick Pitino admitted he made a mistake leaving Kentucky after the 1996-97 season to coach the Boston Celtics during a recent online chat at

Pitino was asked if he regretted leaving UK, or college basketball in general, for the pros.

"Yes and no. I do regret leaving Kentucky because of my Boston experience, but I learned so much going to the pros," Pitino said. "It just made me a better coach. But I don't think my reasons were good enough to leave. I didn't need to take on another challenge. If I could go back, I would have chosen to stay."

However, Pitino quickly put an end to any speculation that he might one day return to UK if Tubby Smith ever left.

"I think right now I'm of the age that if it (the UK job) ever opened, it needs to go to a young coach who is between 35 and 42 or so," Pitino said. "I'll be 52 next year. It's a young person's job.

"First of all, I would never say they would want me. I don't think they would. I would like Louisville to be my last job."

Pitino also said he hopes UK fans remember the job he did and appreciate what Smith is doing.

"Some people will be jealous and others will enjoy my style. But Kentucky has a premier coach, and I think they can look at the job I did and say they had some fun and the teams had some fun," Pitino said. "They are continuing to have fun. I'm proud of what we accomplished."

Central Kentucky News Articles