Big Blue Nation is nationally known for being one of the strongest fan bases in the country. But as much as Wildcat Country loves to cheer on its Cats, there are a few people who UK fans love to hate as well. So we decided to compile a top five list of the most hated men in Kentucky – this assortment of players, analysts and coaches is a list that all Wildcats fans can agree on.
1. Christian Laettner
Let’s start with the year 1992. The shot heard around the world. The best buzzer-beater in college basketball history. Pause. Let’s take a look back at what happened before the eminent Christian Laettner shot.
If you know the rules of basketball, then you know that excessive or violent contact is not allowed. And while Laettner was assessed a technical foul, he should have been ejected from the game for excessive contact (stomping) on UK’s Aminu Timberlake. Kentucky fans have been playing the “what if” game ever since. What if Laettner was ejected from the game? Would Kentucky have beaten Duke in the 1992 Regional Final? The basketball world will never know. But that won’t stop Kentucky fans from permanently hating Christian Laettner and the Duke Blue Devils.
Here are some pictures to prove it:
2. Christian Watford
Laettner isn’t the only player who has sparked hatred from UK fans on a buzzer-beater against the Cats. Lets move on to the other Christian, Christian Watford. With barely even a second left on the game clock, Watford hit a game-winning 3-pointer to give Indiana the victory over the No. 1 ranked Kentucky Wildcats in December of 2011.
You can relive that nightmare here:
There are two main differences between the Christian Laettner shot and the Christian Watford shot. One, there’s no referee to blame in Watford’s case. Two, Kentucky fans can’t be too bitter about this game. Let me remind you that it was a regular season game and the Kentucky Wildcats went on to not only beat the Hoosiers in the NCAA Tournament but also, win the national title. I’d say that’s a fair trade.
3. Digger Phelps
Now we move on to Digger Phelps, ESPN college basketball analyst. There are quite a few other talking heads who Kentucky fans don’t like listening to, but he’s the one who stands out due to a specific incident. Check it out:
As you can see, Phelps called out Kentucky fans at College GameDay. A sea of blue presence at away games, no matter the distance, is part of what makes the Big Blue Nation one of the best fan bases. Knowing that, did Digger have the right to call out UK fans? It’s debatable.
But this incident wasn’t just let go by UK fans, it was carried over to seasons to come. For example, Kentucky fans showed their disapproval of Digger during this year’s College GameDay that was held at Rupp Arena by booing him just about every time he spoke.
4. Billy Gillispie
As for coaches, there are two former Kentucky basketball coaches who are still scrutinized around the Bluegrass. The most recent is Billy Gillispie, who coached Kentucky from 2007-2009. According to UK fans, his time at Kentucky is better known as “the dark years.” During his tenure with the Wildcats, the tradition-filled program missed out on the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1991.
Also during his time in Lexington, he was arrested for D.U.I., had problems with the media and reportedly had poor relationships with the players. According to Kentucky Sports Radio, there was also an incident with a member of the team on a road trip. A player who was injured was allegedly told by Coach Gillispie that he was “soft” and needed to walk from the arena to the hotel. He was allowed back on the bus after teammates got off and said they were walking with him. Needless to say, Billy G was not a fan favorite.
5. Rick Pitino
Last but certainly not least, Big Blue Nation’s favorite person to hate is Rick Pitino. The former Kentucky coach had a record of 219-50 with the Cats and won a national title in 1996 with the Untouchables. After losing in the national championship game the following year, Pitino fled for the NBA after hand-selecting a team that went on to win the title in 1998 under the coaching of Tubby Smith. After coaching the Boston Celtics for four seasons, Pitino resigned. Since 2001, he’s been at the University of Louisville.
Here’s an example of how UK fans feel about Pitino:
In case you’ve been living under a rock, Louisville and Kentucky are huge in-state rivals. Pitino leaving Kentucky to begin with angered many UK fans, but the fact that he ended up at the rival school is unforgivable.
He will forever be a traitor in the eyes of Kentucky fans.
Who would you put in your top five?