SEC excited for another basketball season

October 24, 2009 10:21:00 PM

Danny P Smith -


BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Two things excite Southeastern Conference Commissioner Mike Slive about the upcoming basketball season. 


One is the influx of new men''s coaches (Anthony Grant at the University of Alabama, John Calipari at Kentucky, and Mark Fox at Georgia) and the other is the television agreement with ESPN on SEC Network. 


Slive, a basketball fan, had plenty of reasons to smile Thursday at SEC Media Day. 


"I think we''re on the verge of something special here," Slive said. "It''s exciting for me personally. It''s a busy time of the year (with football), but (Thursday) is a nice interlude to think about basketball and to see some old friends. It''s a good day and before you know it, we''ll have a game to play." 


Coaches and fans also will have a lot to watch on television. 


For the first time in SEC history, each of the 96 conference games will be televised live as part of the league''s 15-year agreements with CBS Sports and ESPN. Almost half of the SEC''s league games will be distributed nationally, with ESPN or ESPN2 showing 27 games, ESPNU having eight and CBS Sports five. 


The regular season SEC men''s schedule begins with Mississippi State''s game at the University of Mississippi at 12:30 p.m. Jan. 9 on the SEC Network. 


Former MSU Athletic Director Larry Templeton, who now serves as consultant to the SEC for television and digital rights, said the new television deal creates "incredible exposure for basketball. 


"Our coaches and basketball fans are in for an unbelievable experience this coming season with the opportunity to see every conference basketball game on several different nights during the week," Templeton said. "I think the SEC mark across the country is being exposed more than it ever has before in its history." 




Coach Cal''s voice 


Kentucky men''s basketball coach John Calipari raised his voice in response to a reporter''s question at his table during SEC Media Day. 


It caused his center Patrick Patterson to look up from across the room as if to say "what did I do now?" 


Calipari''s forceful tone is something Patterson has been getting used to in practice. 


Patterson said it''s important not to take any Calipari rant personally. 


"He may be yelling, but it''s really a lot of encouragement," Patterson said. 


Patterson said Calipari has a passion for the game and has fit right in in Lexington. 


"He can walk down the street and he''s mobbed by fans wanting his autograph," Patterson said. "He''s already doing commercials. Everyone loves coach Cal. He''s the man." 




More to prove 


Some of the SEC''s most talented players -- Patterson, Mississippi State''s Jarvis Varnado, and LSU''s Tasmin Mitchell -- opted to return for their senior seasons and put potential NBA careers on hold. 


Varnado and Mitchell said they just weren''t ready for the next level, while Patterson wanted the chance to play for a coach like Calipari. 


"It was because of coach Cal and the dribble-drive offense," Patterson said of his decision to return for his senior year. "It was about expanding my game and getting better in the areas I needed to the most." 


Patterson also said he could look into the eyes of his teammates and realized the Wildcats had the opportunity to win an SEC Championship and get into the NCAA tournament. 


Kentucky has been predicted to win the 2010 SEC championship in a voting of a select panel of conference and national media members. 




Fox gets Bulldogs'' attention 


One of the first things Mark Fox had to do as coach at Georgia was to use Sanford Stadium as a disciplinary tool. 


When things weren''t going the way Fox wanted, he took the Bulldogs on what he called "a tour of the football stadium," meaning he had the team run the stands. 


"You can see a lot of Athens from up top," Fox said with a grin. 


Georgia senior forward Albert Jackson said it was one of the hardest things he''s ever had to do and Fox made his point to the team. 


"I knew if I could make it through that, I could make it through anything," Jackson said. 




Bragging on Vanderbilt 


The media has predicted Vanderbilt will finish third in the SEC Eastern Division, and coaches like Calipari and Tennessee''s Bruce Pearl said the Commodores should be one of the league''s better teams. 


"I hope those guys are right," Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said. "They may be just short of something to say."