Once again, Sean Woods' team
And lost it.
I’m not talking about the game this time.
I’m referring to the opportunity to be recognized as a program on the rise.
When Woods was hired as Morehead State’s head coach, he proclaimed that he had aspirations of Morehead State becoming “the Gonzaga of the South,” meaning that it would eventually make consistent national noise as a mid-major.
He made the wrong kind of noise on Wednesday night during the Eagles’ 81-70 loss to Kentucky in Rupp Arena.
The Eagles were being recognized, but it was because of negative attention toward their coach.
Fox Sports South aired the game live and caught most of the sequence that set Twitter feeds, Internet blogs and YouTube ablaze.
Devon Atkinson, a senior who transferred from Brunswick Community College in 2011, had just fouled out. As he was coming off the court, Atkinson must have said or done something to set his coach off. Or so it seemed, as an assistant coach looked to also be fired up at Atkinson as the point guard neared the team huddle.
Woods said something to Atkinson and then shoved him forcefully in the back towards the bench. The assistant grabbed Atkinson and pulled him away from the head coach, but Woods wasn’t finished. He basically walked and talked Atkinson to his seat before leaving for a moment. Woods then returned, knelt down and delivered some words face-to-face. The guard appeared to then be fighting back tears.
“He gave everything he had and he let his emotions get the best of him a little bit,” Woods commented on the situation after the game, “and I just had to let him know that, hey, it’s not over. We’re still in the game. Now you’ve got to figure out a way to calm down and cheer your teammates on.”
Some may consider that statement ironic or hypocritical, but then again, the only ones who know the whole story are Atkinson and Woods.
He’s a fiery guy, and as he put it, an “ultimate competitor,” but Woods probably would have been better served to delay his reaction and save it for the locker room.
Players, though, said they aren’t bothered by his unique intensity.
“It’s coaching,” said senior Milton Chavis, who poured in 23 points on 9-of-15 shooting. “You’ve got to accept coaching as a player and it instills mental toughness. I like it.”
“It doesn’t make us uncomfortable,” said Drew Kelly, a junior who tallied 10 points and five rebounds. “We handle it very well and it gets us better.”
Twenty years ago, Woods made the shot before “The Shot” in what most deem the greatest game ever played — an NCAA regional final between Kentucky and Duke that ended with Christian Laettner’s buzzer beater in a Duke one-point win. Woods made an incredible runner to put Kentucky ahead moments before. He’s known as one of the four “Unforgettables” in Kentucky basketball lore.
Woods nearly pulled off another unforgettable, by outlining a game plan that nearly upset Kentucky — his alma mater, a top 10 team in the country and the defending national champions.
The aggressive, foul-laden Eagles were physical and ferocious. Early in the first half, they turned a 6-0 deficit into a 23-12 lead in less than 11 minutes.
“You’ve got to give Morehead credit,” said Kentucky coach John Calipari.
“They just came after us, got up under us, got body-to-body, were hand-checking ... We needed it.”
In the end, Archie Goodwin's 28 points and Alex Poythress' 20 (including 8-of-8 free throws) were too much for Morehead State. The final tally on fouls: MSU 32, UK 12.
The Eagles gave the Cats fits for much of the night.
Unfortunately, it was one particular fit by the coach that caught the nation's attention.
The good news for the Eagles: It looks as if Woods will win more than he loses at Morehead State. As long as he keeps his cool.
AARON SNYDER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2664.
Once again, Sean Woods' team
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Locals struggle to make impact
Some days you are the windshield and some days you are the bug.
It is a saying that proved to be all too true for Rowan County on Friday night at the KHSAA Class 2A State Track and Field Championships at the University of Louisville’s Owsley Frazier Cardinal Park.
Fairview senior Kennedy Womack wasn’t her consistent self in Saturday morning’s state tennis semifinals at the University of Kentucky’s Hilary Boone Tennis Complex.
As a result, the top seed fell to Lexington Sayre sophomore Madeline Rolph 6-1, 6-0.
Womack was obviously disappointed with her finish, especially after losing in last year’s state finals, but she was happy for her good friend Rolph.
If Fairview could have fielded a combined track and field team at Saturday’s Class A State Track and Field Championships, the Eagles and Lady Eagles would have had a record day. Instead, the Fairview girls had to “settle” for fifth, while the boys’ claimed 10th.
Womack eliminated in semifinals
Top-seeded Kennedy Womack was eliminated in the semifinals of the State Tournament on Saturday at the University of Kentucky tennis courts.
It looked for a while that a questionable call may have determined the outcome of the game, but in the end, it was just an afterthought.
Boyd County finds senior spark
Losers of four straight, Boyd County was searching for something positive Friday night before beginning postseason play Monday night.
Doubles teams head to semis at state tourney
With rain staying away, the KHSAA State Tennis Tournament got into full swing on Friday afternoon.
Semifinals and finals will be held today at the University of Kentucky Boone/Downing Tennis Complex for boys and girls singles competitions.
McKnight hurdling to Georgetown
Fairview’s Paige McKnight is known for jumping hurdles. She cleared a pretty big one on Thursday.
In front of friends and family at Fairview Elementary School, McKnight signed a letter of intent to run track for Georgetown College.
Several area schools will be represented at State Track and Field championships
Local track and field athletes are ready to try to carry region competition success onto the state stage.
Several area schools will be represented at this weekend’s State Track and Field championships at the University of Louisville. The Class 2A meet is set for today at 3:15 p.m. and Class A competition is scheduled to begin on Saturday at 8:15 a.m.
EAST KENTUCKY BASKETBALL HISTORY: Reflections on 'The Shot'
Paintsville High School legend J.R. VanHoose is also an eastern Kentucky basketball sports historian. This is one in an ongoing series of stories.
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