From Chas

ESPN says the two best NBA players are Lakers, with AD just behind LBJ. Are they right?

And their top 25 has five former Cats: 2. Davis, 13. Adebayo, 17. Booker, 21. Murray, 23. Towns. I think some of those are a bit high, but is there any doubt that Camp Cal is the best path to the league?


Before I get done here, I'm going to answer a question with a question, but the NBA player rankings were intriguing to me, both in big-picture and in terms of direct rankings.

First, the financial stress is real and worse than maybe we can even guess, and it's landing in the laps of corporations as large and powerful as the NBA.

Hey, I've forever been a "Let them play if they want to play guy" but the NBA started the shutdown in March when Rudy Gobert tested positive before a Jazz game, and the world — in sports and outside — stopped. In retrospect that turned out to be the right decision.

Now, the pandemic is worse, and the NBA is returning with fewer restrictions. The only reason has to be the financial strain, no?

And while I understand the caution and the questions about the college game — and I offered a late January start several weeks ago — there is more than a little self-servingness in Coach K's wonderings about whether they should be playing when his team is certainly not playing well. (If MJ got the biggest pass for being a jerk in the modern era of pro sports, no coach has gotten a bigger pass than Coach K. Seriously. Sure it helps that there are, what seven former players at ESPN and Dickie V has been a superstar coach apologist since the days of Bobby Knight, but dude is not what he projects. To cue Bender, "Not even close, BUD.")

So the NBA returns in 11 days and never the twain shall meet.

Yes, LeBron is the best. I love the Unibrow, and he's amazingly gifted, but I think Giannis is 2.

And the category that pushes Giannis to 2 for me, is 'can you win a title with him as your 1' because I believe the Bucks could win a title with Giannis as a clear 1. I'm not sure AD will win a LeBron-less title. (And while that line of thinking may feel more distorted today in the era of Super Teams, but the NBA has always been about Super Teams, the diference now compared to the 1980s and 90s is that the players are coordinating them rather than the GMs, and somehow we view that as players taking the easy way. OK.)

In that line of thinking, I believe Luka Doni is a top three or four dude in the league and will win an NBA title as the 1. I also think the KD revenge tour is going to be something pretty dramatic.

As for the Cats you listed, Jamal Murray should be much higher, and that Chris Paul is ahead of him on this list — and that a Zion Williamson resume that is all potential is too — greatly devalues the list, in my view.

As for Coach Cal, dude is gathering great talent, for that there is no doubt. But is he developing that talent at an elite rate or just one of the best at scouting that talent and luring it to Lexington.

And to extend on that, and we all know those cats' stay with your 'Cats last around a few months, but with all that talent that has blossomed into all of those hundreds of millions, has Calipari underachieved at UK.

Because if you took an all-Alabama roster in the NFL, you're the best team in the league and it's not close.

If you took an all-UK roster in the NBA, you're the best team in the league by a fairly comfortable margin.

But you look at the success of the programs that hatched all that talent, and the results are staggeringly divided. Yes, I know football players stay three years and the unpredictability of March Madness can be maddening, just curious of your thoughts.

Great question.


From Mike J

Did you really mean that Gus should be out? What about our Coach Hayseed in KnoxVegas?


From Wilbur

Who is the replacement candidate?

OK, gang, let's cover the back story—

For some clarification, this was part of an interesting exchange on Twitter, and it was in response to a social media expressing my frustration about Gus Malzahn.

But the big picture conversation about candidates is intriguing. Not just at Auburn but up I-75 too. And to the state capitol to our West.

Because if you look around the SEC, the opening now at Vandy and the blistering benches at Auburn and UT are it for the foreseeable future, barring NCAA pulling back the red curtain in Red Stick and seeing some true horrors.

Alabama, Georgia and Florida are set for the foreseeable future. Stoops and Kiffin have earned extended stays in Lexington and Oxford, respectively. While the roller coaster that is Mike Leach will always be just that, the rest of the first-year guys, including Sam Pittman and Eli Drinkwitz have earned high marks in surprisingly better than expected SEC debuts.

Jimbo Fisher at A&M redirected his narrative this season, and we talked about Coach O, who will survive this wretched season because of the 2019 title but may not survive the details of the scandals off the field.

Shane Beamer will get some time to redirect South Carolina, of course, and whomever Vandy lands will too.

But as or candidates. (And while we're here, we love the idea of Will Healy in Nashville. Love it. Energetic. Knows the area. Can redirect sunken programs with enthusiasm and is a dynamite recruiter and a new-age leader. Think it would be an inspired hire in fact.)

But that leaves us Malzahn and Jeremy Pruitt, and the questions of candidates.

(Side question for the group: Would the Vandy job be more attractive for a young coach, at least in terms of expectations and potential springboard? Sure the money is better everywhere else — allegedly, since Vandy almost never releases its coaches salaries — but if you find a way to six wins at Vandy, they're building statues for you.)

(Side question on the side question: Is the path to six wins in this SEC anywhere as close to as difficult as it was even five years ago, never mind a decade ago? There's a hard argument that the SEC right now is Alabama and everyone else. Yes, JTC, Florida has looked great and A&M and LSU are complete unknowns considering the last two years. So if you tier it, with )

To be clear, I truly hope that Gus figures it out and wins 10-plus games next year and never utters another sentence like the post-A&M news conference in which he termed another four-loss season — his seventh straight mind you — as "solid."

And you know what, maybe 9-4 is solid, but for $7 million per, no one should be expecting 'solid' Gus.

As for Pruitt, we all knew, didn't we? There were flashes of course, and there were highlights on the recruiting trail, but we all knew, deep down, how this was going to play out.

And as the losses mount, Saturday has to be make or break in the moment, extension be damned, for Pruitt right? A seventh straight loss this year, and one as a 16-point favorite against a gutted Vandy bunch with an interim coach, a female kicker and as many opt-outs as opt-ins would force the Haslams to get out the checkbook, pick up the bright Orange phone that rings directly into Fulmer's mobile and say, "It's time whatever it costs."

Still the year has been a disaster off the field for Pruitt's program too. Sure, the Baton Rouge thing is a million times worse and makes us all question the 'turn-the-head' culture that programs far too often ignore because we don't accept four-loss seasons as anything but frustration and failure. Sure, there's universal complicity — either directly or indirectly — across major college sports.

Of course no one is condoning the scandals that happened at LSU, which sound eerily similar to the scandals that happened at Baylor that got Art Briles sacked. But you don't go from zero to felony assault gang. You go rom zero to paying players or nudge-nudge on a grade or "Sure go see Whosehispants for a suit to that banquet" or "Yea, I know a guy at the Dodge dealership."

Then the entitlement flows and worse yet, the players have leverage because they know they got the cash, the grade, the suit or the Charger on the download, and you have to help them out of bigger and way worse instances because te coach is in it too.

Wow, this got wicked long and off the rails. Where were we?

Yeah, Pruitt. Aside from the losses, there has been the dreadful management of the QB position. There was the terrible optics of the assistants not named Graham and Martin refusing to take pay cuts like everyone else in the department. There was an in-season position coach termination, which likely should have sounded more alarm bells at the time than it did. There was the on-the-down-low extension, which should have sounded more alarm bells at the time than it did, too.

And now the single thing that had given UT fans hope that Pruitt was going to be able to fight like heck and raise the program from his apathetic doldrums — his recruiting acumen — is faltering. The Vols class is in shambles from what it was a few weeks ago as we speed into a complete abyss of a recruiting cycle filled with dead periods, no contact and the rich continuing to get richer.

As for candidates, well, I think we are a year away from that discussion in Auburn and Knoxville, to be honest. The financial strain on schools right now is simply too great. Granted, if UT gets housed Saturday against Vandy, all bets are off, but still.

The names out there are the names we all see. Freeze, but does AU want a guy who runs the same offense that has found success against lesser competition mainly because there's a real chance Gus kept the wrong QB for the Tigers? Or the dude at Coastal. I don't think Matt Campbell from Iowa State is going anywhere.

The scary thing about it, is while there are a slew of jazzy names, look at the majority of hires in the last few years and everyone of those dudes was the Coach du jour. (Hmmm, that sounds good. I think I'll have that.)

And guys like Harbaugh, Fuente, Herman, Frost, Holgorsen, Norvell, Fleck, Collins, et al., were viewed as slam dunk, home-run hires at the time. Now, not so much.

In my mind, if you're Auburn and/or Tennessee, the question is what can you afford?

Can you afford to be on the spin cycle of mediocrity (or worse in UT's case) while Alabama, Georgia and now Florida continue to build on current or potential powerhouses?

Or can you afford to call Urban or Bob Stoops and do what Mal Moore did more than a decade ago and pay whatever it takes to get a legitimate difference maker atop your program?  

From Jules

It's true that I've watched less but this is the deal: Because of the Corona (side note, is there a longer running Christmas commercial that is such a reminder of the season? Hooray for Christmas Lights in a palm tree.) the teams that are bad are really bad. And it's odd that it includes LSU, but so it is. Watching UGA and Carolina wasn't even very fun bc they just didn't have enough players. So I actually do sorta think this year has an understood asterisk, the good teams haven't been challenged each week like they should have been, especially not now. They certainly will be in the playoff, that should be good football, but the rest of the season, not so much. However, I'm thankful they have been out there.


Valid points all around, but the Christmas commercial is a wheel house where I get mail.

Wow, the Budweiser Clydesdales on the sleigh with the cases of CoCola is an all-timer too.

And speaking of actual Coca-Colas, well, they have crushed Christmas commercials for years if not decades. And the "I'd like to buy the world a Coke" sing-a-long is aces.

I would complete the traditional Christmas Rushmore of Corona, Budweiser and Coke — yeah, not exactly as Biblical as gold, frankincense, and myrrh huh? — with the Hershey's tandem of M&Ms and the Kiss bells.

Now on the other end, the holidays — especially these holidays — are already emotional enough, can we please dial back the iPad commercial where the little boy facetimes his sister in the military and mom starts squalling? (Side question: The word squall really feels like it needs a 'W' no?)

Great question.

Gang, I will have the Rushmores and the NFL picks — which are now smoking for whatever that's worth — before lunch.

Have a great weekend, and thanks as always for your time and your kind words.

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Jay Greeson