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A 17-year-old country boy, turned city slicker six years earlier, arrived in Knoxville, Tenn. on Friday, Sept. 20, 1974 not knowing a single soul on the ground floor of Bill Gibbs Hall in Big Orange Country.
After a couple of hours of waiting in a quite, vacant dormitory, a small, bald man opened the door near the cafeteria end and was carrying two large suitcases.
Behind him was a man over a foot taller with a muscular build of an NBA player.
The Kentucky boy helped the New Yorker, who was actually six weeks younger, unpack his belongings at the request of the associate head coach (diminutive, but very, fiery Stu Aberdeen).
It was a bond that lasted three, long but sometimes short, years and the basketball player would often come into room 56 and ask to borrow, and sometimes return, items he did not seem to have such as a GE Super Radio he could use until his roommate came to town from Nashville with his stereo system.
The only snarl the Yankee gave the Southerner was a comment once that he was the real B.K. since those were the initials of his name and the initials of the first two names for the basketball manager.
It did bring back a lot of fond memories when Bernard King was one of 12 inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame on Sunday in Springfield, Mass.
King was recruited heavily in the spring of 1974, but was not one of the nation’s elite at the time.
That would soon change because after scoring 42 points in his first game at UT, actually an exhibition game, he came back to post a 22-point, 20-rebound effort vs. Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
In the manager’s mind, despite playing only three seasons in K-Town, the King of the Volunteers still ranks as one of the best three players (along with Dan Issel and Pete Maravich) to ever play in the Southeastern Conference.
Memories of college times seldom go away. It seems like yesterday, Tim Harris from Portland, Tenn. gave Bernard and myself a tour around Knoxville that first night away from home after the tears had dried up from leaving Campbellsville’s Elm Street.
Needless to say, King was much smarter than this “country slicker”. I remember the Sunday night, when we were eating the team meal at the Hyatt Regency.
King told the waiter his steak wasn’t cooked properly, so he got another one delivered.
After eating the “fresher” filet mignon, King also ate the one he said he was not cooked properly.
He also was responsible for the Brockman family to get its first color television in 1977 when he tore the one in the UT dressing room off the mount to take to show his girlfriend some of his game tapes.
So, after signing his first NBA contract, King bought a new TV and the one, with the side out but still working great, came home to Kentucky.
It was also sort of ironic that another Yankee, Joe Dunleavy (my roommate in 1978) told me of a young assistant from up North who would make UT a great replacement for Ray Mears, who would be unable to coach the 1978-79 campaign.
“I know the perfect coach for us, but someone they will never hire because he’s only 25, is Syracuse assistant Rick Pitino,” Dunleavy said while we looked outside and saw then Arkansas coach Eddie Sutton going and coming from an interview.
It was even more ironic when Syracuse lost to the Jim Richards-coached Western Kentucky Hilltoppers in a Saturday afternoon in Stokely Athletic Center in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. (The opener that day was when Joe B. Hall used a different second-half starting line-up to beat Florida State en route the NCAA championship.)
Pitino was the 12th person announced at Sunday’s activities while King led off the proceedings. Pitino was an assistant, under Hubie Brown, for the New York Knicks when King played in the NBA.
Notes of interest for some, non-interest to others
• Tomorrow, Friday the 13th, will mark 28 years since this reporter covered the Campbellsville High School at Russell County football game in 1985.
The very, talented Lakers coached by Ron Finley, belted the undermanned Eagles of coach Dave Fryrear, 63-0.
• Someone asked last week, how big-time collegiate football programs can pay buy-outs to FCS teams of over $2 million?
It was reported the other day, that the University of Tennessee grossed $6 million for both the Alabama and Florida games during the 2012 season.
Now you have your answer.
• Looking at National Football League rosters before the first week of action, the University of Kentucky and University of Louisville each had 13 players on active or practice squads. (The old sports ed’s alma mater, Tennessee, had 31 despite some dismal years lately.)
• The crystal ball, which has misfired on the last three Taylor County-Campbellsville football games, picked in January for Louisville to down Kentucky 28-7 on Saturday in Commonwealth Stadium. UK leads the overall series 14-11 as the result of six shut-out wins from 1912-24. However, U of L leads the modern series 11-8, including the last two.