BY KEVIN FARIS Senior-to-be point guard Michael Porter has announced that he will be hanging up his basketball sneakers and not returning to the UK basketball team for his senior year. Instead, he will be graduating from college and preparing for the rest of his life with his wife and their soon to be born child.
Recently, as UK fired Coach Billy Gillispie and eventually hired Coach John Calipari, much has been written about the UK coaching job and every thing that goes along with it. Being the UK coach, you hear over and over, is one of the most stressful jobs in all of sports. The fans are unreasonable, crazy, over the top, obsessed, and the expectations are sky high. While I would agree and disagree with this description of UK fans, I would like to point out that there is a much more stressful job than UK coach. The most stressful job in the Commonwealth is the UK basketball player who isn’t that good.
I am not trying to insult Michael Porter, but I think that even he would agree that he is not a top level Division-1 point guard. Porter is just the latest in a long line of UK players whose mere presence drives UK fan crazy. Saul Smith and Sheray Thomas are two other players who jump to mind from recent teams. The spotlight at UK is BRIGHT and when the choice is made by these young men to put on the Blue and White, a website such as “Michael Porter Sucks” is probably not what they had in mind.
Being the head coach at UK is tough, but at least Billy G. was making millions of dollars per year. Tubby Smith may have taken a lot of heat for recruiting his last two seasons, but at the end of the day, he had a large paycheck and a beautiful home. These players don’t have these luxuries. They make no money, they have no large house, and they have no secretary to weed out the hate mail that might come their way. Porter, over the course of the season, received multiple emails that included “suggestions” for how he could improve.
I will admit that I am not completely innocent in all of this. There was once a time when I joked about taking out Saul Smith’s knee in an effort to ensure Cliff Hawkins more playing time. However, as I grow older (My birthday is Easter Sunday, April 12th! Don’t forget!) my agitation has shifted from the players themselves, who are usually giving a strong effort, to the coaches who are placing them in these positions. There were times this season when I almost felt sorry for Porter.
So, in between celebrating the hire of Calipari, which is GREAT, take a few minutes and think about Porter. He may have had a rough few years at UK, being forced into a role that he was not best suited for, but he has a loving wife, a child on the way, and the rest of his life in front of him. Thanks Michael Porter for the effort you gave the University of Kentucky and good luck.