Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Kentuckian of the Year: Honorable Mention

2013 was an extraordinary year in the Commonwealth.  A few years ago -- I'm pretty sure this happened during a game where a UK team coached by Billy Gillispie was getting blown out by UNC -- I was yelling at Matthew on the grounds that Kentucky wasn't "punching its weight" compared to other states with similar resources.  But that has not been the case for several years now.  As you will see from the names below, Kentuckians did some amazing things in 2013:

Wendell Berry (Henry County):  One of the greatest writers in Kentucky history, Mr. Berry should probably be mentioned almost every year in honor of his legendary career.  We should have said something last year, when he gave the annual Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities, an honor described by the National Endowment of the Humanities as "the most prestigious honor the federal government bestows for distinguished intellectual achievement in the humanities."  But this year, Mr. Berry won the Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award for his efforts to promote peace, and we are happy to take the opportunity to celebrate his long effort to promote sustainable communities.

Jeff Walz (Louisville):  2013 was the Year of the Cardinal, and one of the high points of that year was the run by the Louisville Lady Cardinals to the National Championship game in the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament.  The Lady Cardinals were beaten in the title game, but their stunning 82-81 upset of defending champion Baylor in the Sweet 16 should be remembered as a historic moment in the women's game.  Coach Walz has built one of the nation's best programs at Louisville, and has now taken it to two national title games.  The Commonwealth has not yet won a women's title, but Louisville may yet get there.

Kenny Perry (Franklin):  One of Kentucky's greatest-ever golfers, Kenny Perry was not able to win a major tournament during his years on the PGA Tour -- he suffered two heartbreaking losses in playoffs instead.  But in 2013, he won two majors on the Senior Tour:  the Senior Players Championship and the U.S. Senior Open.  At the U.S. Senior Open, he played the last 36 holes in only 127 shots -- which would be an amazing performance at your local public course, much less at the most prestigious Senior Tournament of all.  For Kentucky sports fans, his five-shot victory was one of the high points of the year.

Emma Talley (Princeton):  At the Heath Post, we are extremely fond of all types of Kentuckians -- but we admit being particularly supportive of folks from small towns in western Kentucky.  This year, we enjoyed watching Caldwell County's own Emma Talley win the U.S. Women's Amateur Championship -- the top prize of all for women amateur golfers.  We also enjoyed all the stories about how, like Kenny Perry, she is a great ambassador for the game.  We wish her the best of luck going forward.

Rick Pitino (Louisville):  As I've written before, most Kentucky fans my age have too much of a history with Pitino to fully appreciate what he's accomplished at Louisville.  But I am still stunned that he took the players he had in 2012 and 2013 to back-to-back Final Fours, and to the 2013 National Championship.  All year, I thought Louisville would probably fall short because I just didn't think they could hit enough three-point shots in the big games.  But in the National Championship game, with Louisville down to Michigan, Pitino brought in Luke Hancock from off the bench -- and Hancock goes 5-5 from behind the arc to save the day.  I thought Peyton Siva would blow it -- and against Michigan, Siva had 18 points, 5 assists, 6 rebounds, and only two turnovers.  I thought Louisville's defense-first approach would break down against a hot team -- and Louisville outscored a red-hot Michigan team 82-76 to win the title.  I don't think any other coach could have gotten those results from those players.  It was an extraordinary accomplishment, and Pitino deserves every bit of the acclaim he got for winning that tournament.

Tom Jurich (Louisville):  Last year, Louisville -- Louisville! -- won the Sugar Bowl, won the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship, went to the final game in the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament, and went to the NCAA College World Series.  Oh, and Louisville also got the invitation to the Atlantic Coast Conference that so many other schools had coveted.  It would have been an amazing year for any program; that all of this happened at U of L -- which has a small (though fervent) fan base by comparison to many other programs -- was particularly impressive.  Tom Jurich, the Athletic Director at Louisville, should probably be on this list every year, because he is probably the best AD in the country.


  1. You are right--what a year! And this list didn't even include Steve Beshear, Mitch McConnell or Rand Paul.

  2. I just wanted to make a quick note about a guy who just finished his college football career and is probably the best college football player to come out of the McCracken County schools, Corey Robinson. He ends his career ranked 7th all time in NCAA completions, 9th in NCAA passing yards, and 17th in NCAA total yards. Those are amazing numbers.

  3. That's an excellent point about Lone Oak's Corey Robinson, who then played at Troy and ruined WKU's bowl chances this season.

    Meanwhile, another to note in this regard is Antonio Andrews, a Fort Campbell product who starred for the Hilltoppers and potentially could lead the Miami Dolphins to victory in the Super Bowl next winter.