Tag Archives: SoIn

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INSPIRE | February 2018

screen-shot-2018-01-31-at-1-56-06-pmPhoto of Shannon Burton by Ronnie Louis

I have wanted to have a shot like this ever since I saw the shot of Michael Jordan in this pose when I was a young girl. Basketball was my life once upon a time. I was blessed enough to get a full scholarship to both Duke University and Butler University, and I am still a fan of both awesome schools. Yes, I am a woman. Yes, I can palm a basketball. Strong is beautiful, and I will teach my daughters that until the day I die. This picture means a lot to me personally. It tells a story: my journey. It may be 28 years later, but I still feel like one of the luckiest women in the world to have had this experience. – Shannon Burton

Shannon Burton is a wife, mother, model and lover of yoga pants and evening gowns.

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EDITOR’S NOTE | February 2018

By Angie Fenton

Photo by Christian Watson

screen-shot-2018-01-31-at-2-02-37-pmOne of the best aspects about being the editor of a publication is getting to know the people and places writers and photographers highlight. Sometimes, though, it’s also getting to know the individuals who pen and capture the stories.

I had no idea until this issue was being produced that writer Remy Sisk felt comfortable on the slopes – he skis routes most of us will never traverse. Thankfully, Remy and his friends accepted the opportunity to enjoy Paoli Peaks shortly after a snow storm hit Southern Indiana and Louisville for this issue’s cover story. Remy’s article is a fund read – ride – and I hope it encourages even the rookies among us to put Paoli Peaks on our must-experience stops this winter.

The University of Louisville continues to dominate headlines and not always in ways that are positive, so I hope my fellow Cardinal lovers and sports fans in general will appreciate Jeff Nunn’s piece about the all-star women’s basketball team led by Coach Walz.

If you’re seeking a bit of inspiration, check out this month’s INSPIRE subject, Shannon Burton. She is proof that strong is beautiful. And Jeffersonville High School’s innovative approach to helping young athletes get stronger is a power read, too.

If you made a New Year’s commitment to get in shape but failed like so many of us do, check out Health Corner. It’s not too late to start anew.

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The Cheat Sheet | Ramen Bowl

The Exchange Pub + Kitchen

By Angie Fenton

Photo by Matt Simpson

screen-shot-2018-01-31-at-2-08-38-pmI RECENTLY HAD one of those “close your eyes-I don’t want to talk to anyone-let me savor every bit of this” moments at The Exchange Pub + Kitchen. On the advice of Rod Juarez (who is the general manager at MESA, A Collaborative Kitchen in New Albany), I went to The Exchange for what I thought would be a solo working lunch. Without looking at the menu, I ordered the Ramen Bowl ($16/lunch; $19/dinner) – Rod’s suggestion – and flipped open my iPad. A few minutes later, when my server placed the huge bowl in front of me, all I could do was stare and inhale the aroma.

The beautiful dish was a mix of pork tenderloin, Brussel sprouts, jalapeno, cilantro, green onion, carrots, radish, soy miso, ginger broth and ramen noodles topped with a beautiful egg. After the first bite/sip, I shut my iPad, turned my phone face down and simply enjoyed. In fact, I enjoyed it so much, I lost track of time and was almost late to my next appointment. The combination of flavors, the presentation, the aroma…I’ve dreamt about them since. Not kidding.

Now, I get that the price is pretty hefty, particularly at lunch time, but the portion is massive. What I couldn’t eat – and I wanted to eat it all but simply couldn’t – I took home and served to my two-year-old that night for dinner, careful to pluck out the jalapenos, and ate the rest for lunch the next day.

The Exchange Pub + Kitchen, 118 W. Main St. in New Albany, serves lunch 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday and dinner 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. You can find more information at www.exchangeforfood.com.

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Wiley Brown’s Success at Indiana University Southeast is No Surprise

screen-shot-2018-01-31-at-3-13-55-pmBy Howie Lindsey of 790 KRD | Photos by Danny Alexander

Wiley Brown’s success as the head coach at Indiana University Southeast (IUS) isn’t a surprise to those who know him best. And it’s not really a surprise to those he has barely met.

Brown seems to have that effect on people.

“My grandmother rooted me in hard work, always helping others and putting a smile on someone’s face,” he says with a broad smile of his own.

Sitting behind an unassuming desk in his modest office inside the IUS Athletics offices that are attached to the Grenadiers’ home gym, Brown echoes his grandmother’s words: “Someone you meet may be going through something worse than you are.”

Brown’s quick smile and warm demeanor combined with a strong work ethic and his extensive basketball knowledge have formed a successful mix for the IUS Grenadiers the last decade.

Under his direction, the Grenadiers went to seven consecutive National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics tournament appearances from 2007-8 to 2013-14. Brown has led IUS to six River States Conference (formerly known as Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletics Conference – or KIAC) tournament titles, and he has been named KIAC Coach of the Year three times (2010, 2012 and 2014).

When you ask Brown about his coaching success, he deflects the praise.

“The two Hall of Fame coaches I have trained under – that’s a good way to start,” Brown said.

And truly,Brown has learned from two of the best.

screen-shot-2018-01-31-at-3-14-18-pmHe spent 15 seasons at the University of Louisville in various capacities, from strength training to interim assistant coach to outreach coordinator. His tenure bridged the years between Denny Crum and Rick Pitino.

Brown says he learned from both Hall of Fame coaches.

“Coach Crum, I took his strategy in scheduling,” Brown said. “We play a tough schedule in the beginning and you learn from them. That’s Coach Crum’s philosophy. And then, hopefully, by the time you are at this point, your team is moving in the right direction. Those games that you have when you blow teams out, you just don’t learn from those games. You learn early against tough teams, so when that happens at the end of the season, you already know from earlier how to handle it.”

This year’s Grenadier team played well, but took losses to Bellarmine, Lindsey Wilson and Georgetown. They learned from those games and won 9 of 10 games from Nov. 30 through mid-January.

From Pitino, Brown says he learned to focus on getting his team just right for a run in the postseason.

“Coach P always had his guys ready for tournament play,” Brown said. “He may not have played a tough early schedule, but he got them ready in different ways, and by tournament time, they were always tough.”

On the sideline, Brown is a little closer to Pitino than Crum’s Cool Hand Luke persona.

“Coach Crum was always so laidback, on the court and off the court,” Brown said. “Now, I’m not like that on the court, but he would also tell us all the time: ‘You guys are grown men, and you came here to play college basketball. I am going to let you play.’ That is what I try to give to my guys now. And Coach Pitino as well. He would reign them in, in the beginning, but when it got to conference play and then tournament play, he would loosen that string up and let them play. You have to play loose at the right times.”

Brown explained, “Really I learned from both coaches that you always have to let the talent show. I try to let my guys go. As long as they play defense and rebound, I’ll take a few bad shots every now and then. I want to let them show their talent.”

His ability to work with players is really his coaching hallmark.

“I think one of the reasons he’s such a successful player’s coach is because he’s done it,” IUS Athletic Director Joe Glover said. “He’s been there at the highest level and knows exactly what they’re going through as student-athletes.”

Brown’s knowledge for the game was evident to the players back when he was a strength coach at UofL.

Marques Maybin, former UofL star and current host of Midday with Marques Maybin on 93.9 FM said, “You hate to be so cliché with Wiley Brown, but you know he just knows. All you have to do is talk to him for three minutes, and everything that comes out of his mouth is right. It’s hard to doubt him because he did it as a player and a pro. Everything about Wiley Brown says he’s knows basketball, especially Louisville basketball.”

It was that basketball knowledge, combined with his connections in the local basketball scene, that made Brown so attractive to IUS a decade ago.

“I’m very blessed. I really am,” Brown said. “I have a great job here. I loved my time at the University of Louisville, and I was fortunate to use my experience at the University of Louisville to get this job here. … This school to take a chance on a coach who had never been a head coach before. I had coached AAU basketball, but they gave me a shot.”

Brown took the reins at IUS and ran with them, winning 24 games in that first season and more than 200 games since taking over.

“He wanted to be in that position for a long time, and when he got his opportunity he has taken advantage of it,” Crum said. “I am really proud of him. It’s a good place, a nice university and it’s close to home here. I don’t know where he could have gone that’s better than that spot.”

Brown understands Kentuckiana’s basketball culture and knows where to find the right players to add to his roster mix. Every player on the IUS roster is from an easy drive to New Albany, nine from Kentucky and eight from Indiana.

But Brown’s success at IUS isn’t just a product of Crum and Pitino or his local connections. His success has come from years of hard work.

“Everything Wiley Brown has he earned with hard work,” Louisville Assistant Athletic Director Jim McGhee said. And McGhee, a 40-year staff member at UofL, knows all about hard work. “Wiley worked hard at every spot and worked his way up. And he can work with anybody.”

The roots of that work ethic go back to Brown’s hometown. When introducing himself to crowds or in interviews, Brown likes to start with the line, “I’m from Sylvester, Georgia.”

“My hometown means very much to me. It is still special to me,” Brown said. “I don’t know if I could live there today, but my older sister lives there and my younger sister lives there. My grandmother, who raised me, passed away a couple years ago. And my mother, they passed away about a year apart. … I still go back to visit.”

Brown and his three siblings were raised to value hard work.

“My grandmother always said, ‘There are going to be some bumps in the road, but how you get over those bumps is what will make you the man you are going to be’,” Brown said. “I grew up like that – we didn’t have very much, but we didn’t know it.

“We always made the best of it, and family is the most important thing. I love going back home to visit my sisters. That’s my roots. That’s where I started from and why I am where I am today.”

Brown was a standout athlete from the very beginning. He was an excellent football player, but basketball seemed to be his first love.

“We lived in the projects in my early years, and there was always basketball goals there. The rims didn’t stay on for long, but in those days, it wasn’t concrete for the court. It was dirt. We had dirt courts back then,” Brown recalled. “We didn’t have nets on the rims, so you didn’t know if it went through or not in the dark. Playing like that always made us stronger.”

Louisville discovered Brown on a tip.

“We had an alumnus and traveled in that area, and when he didn’t have anything else to do, he would go to the high school games,” Crum said. “He told me about this kid who played football as a tight end and defensive end. He was an all-state athlete, but he wanted to be a basketball player. We went and talked to him, and he came to Louisville.”

Football was still an option to the very end.

“I was either going to go to the University of Georgia or Florida State, but some things happened with the coaching situations there, and Coach (Jerry) Jones came down to watch me play,” Brown said. “Coach Jones used to coach in Tifton, Georgia, and he knew the area. He brought me up to Louisville, and I fell in love with the area.”

And the area fans fell in love with him, too.

As a sophomore, Brown helped Louisville win the 1980 NCAA Championship. He started all 36 games for the Cardinals, playing alongside fellow legends Darrell Griffith, Scooter and Rodney McCray, Derek Smith and Jerry Eaves.

“We’re still close to this day,” Brown said. “We keep in touch all the time. We always make sure we rally around each other, stay in touch and keep up with each others’ lives. We have stuck together even today.”

During his time in college at Louisville, Brown and teammate Derek Smith are credited for “inventing” the high five. Let him explain.

“I tell all the youngsters, ‘I know you all weren’t alive when I played, but just go and look up who invented the high five,’” Brown said. “They always look it up and then say, ‘Coach, I can’t believe you invented the high five.’ That’s a crazy story, and I’ll go to my grave still telling (it). I tell my son that his father helped invent the high five.”

Brown explained further: “We would always do the low five in practices, of course, but Derek Smith, my best friend, said one time, ‘Give it up high,’ and from then on we generated all that excitement and momentum throughout everywhere we played. So, the high five was invented just from a moment in practice when we were slapping hands. You gotta understand it was me, a 6-foot-8 guy and another 6-8, so why would we do the low five? So, we just said, ‘Let’s throw it up high,’ and that’s exactly what happened.

“We played on national TV all the time, and then you saw a lot of other teams start doing it, too. It’s something to be proud of. I’m absolutely proud we started something that caught on throughout the nation. It goes down in history. We still do the high five today.”

After Louisville, Brown returned to football. Then, Dick Vermeil and the Philadelphia Eagles came calling.

Brown was a pioneer for college basketball stars switching to the NFL. What is now more common place – guys like Tony Gonzalez, Antonio Gates, Jimmy Graham and WKU’s George Fant – was remarkable in the 1980s when Brown was under contract for two seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles.

After the NFL, Brown spent time playing professional basketball in Spain, France and Italy. But when it came time to settle down, Brown came back “home” to the Kentuckiana area.

“This area has embraced me, and I love this area, too,” Brown said. “That’s what I hope happens with the guys at Louisville now, too. I know the fans will embrace these players at UofL now and treat them like family like they have always treated me like family.”

Of all the accomplishments in Brown’s life story – the NCAA title, the high five, the NFL, pro basketball and coaching success – he was quick to say what he is most proud of: his four children (Nina, Breauna, Wiley Jr. and Caleb) and getting his degree.

“When we walked across that stage, it was special,” Brown said. “It was an amazing feeling. My top highlights: getting my degree, having my kids, winning that championship. … I tell my guys all the time, ‘Please don’t take this for granted. Please focus on getting your education. It can take you a long way, a lot further than this basketball game will.’ “

Brown made the UofL honor roll twice and graduated with a degree in communications, health education and Pan-African studies in 1992.

“It is very, very important to me that they get their education,” Brown said. “It was instilled in me at a young age by my grandmother. And then when I got to Louisville, to see an All-American graduate in four years like Darrell Griffith did, that spoke volumes. It really did. Derek and I, when we went off to our professional careers, we came back and got our degrees. … I want all my players to get their degrees.”

Glover said he values Brown’s focus on academics: “The thing that I believe sets him apart is he truly looks at all those players like they’re his sons. He goes to bat for them and it’s really not just about basketball. It’s more about life and making sure these young men succeed and get their degree.”

Brown has led IUS to success on the court and off, but he’s not done yet.

“I got a taste of the Final Four a few years back, but I want more. I want a national championship here,” Brown said. “I’m telling you, I can hear this ringing in my ear. When we won our national championship, Darrell Griffith was on that stage, and he said, ‘We won the national championship. But that also means we are No. 1 in Bulgaria and Sweden and everywhere.’ It doesn’t make a difference if it is an NCAA championship or a NAIA championship, being No. 1 means you are No. 1 everywhere you go. No one else is the NCAA champion that year. No one else is the NAIA champion. I would love to win a national championship here.”


“ IT DOESN’T MAKE A DIFFERENCE IF IT IS AN NCAA CHAMPIONSHIP OR A NAIA CHAMPIONSHIP, BEING NO. 1 MEANS YOU ARE NO. 1 EVERYWHERE YOU GO.”

– WILEY BROWN

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The Mind of a Maniac

By Jim Bieryscreen-shot-2018-01-31-at-3-30-57-pm

Let me begin by stating this is not a “collect your participation trophy and orange slice” type of sporting event I am going to discuss today. Not even close, my friends. This is a soul-crushing, spirit-testing, physical and mental test that not only tries to crush the will of its participants, but actually can leave them thinking they cannot possibly be able to finish what they have started — and many don’t!

Even the titles of these events can be intimidating. Would you be excited to compete in something called a Tough Mudder or Warrior Dash? How about a Spartan Ultra Beast? The event I mentioned last includes a total of 30 miles of course that presents participants with 60 plus obstacles in order to complete the course in one day.

What I want to focus on is what it takes physically and mentally to not only attempt one of these ultimate events but what it takes just to train for an event. This sport demands participants to be at their absolute best in their upper body strength, cardio endurance and the ability to block out rain, mud pits, freezing temperatures and changes in rough terrains and elevations. This is not the obstacle course at the Battle of the Network Stars.

So, I set out to try and understand what the mindset is for these athletes. As a very, very competitive person, I can relate to having to push yourself well beyond your comfort zone to reach that level of determination that is needed to overcome pain, injuries, even insecurities that may limit you not only in competition but in life.

What might surprise some people is that there are a good amount of women taking part in these races. Although it really shouldn’t. When the going gets tough, tough women get going! I’m sure we all know that you take the strongest man you know and give him a little case of the flu, and you have just created one of the biggest babies you know, whining about his fever, can’t make his own food, needs to be waited on hand and foot.

As I was researching this story, I was introduced to one tough mudder (pun intended). My wealth advisor Kim Knight has raced many, many times, including some races that required her to crawl through mud underneath barb wire that was electrified. She did this alongside several former Marines and told me she had the perfect person to talk to: Allow me to introduce Nicole Austin, who grew up in Michigan and played many sports including soccer and basketball, and was on the women’s rowing team at Michigan State University. While at MSU, she attended a class that required her to choose an event that took her beyond her comfort level and write about the experience. She took part in what is called a Spartan Race, which is a three-mile course that started with having to jump over a four foot wall. This race ignited Nicole’s love of competing in ultimate races.

My goal was to uncover the mental toughness it took to overcome pain, failure, and self-doubt. All of these things are common fare in this sport. Like a lot of athletes, she has had to overcome many injuries, including a snow boarding accident that resulted in a lower back injury. Nicole finished a race with a broken bone in her foot, and to be covered in sweat, mud and a little blood means nothing to her. Keep going. Don’t let anything or anyone get in your way or stop you. That is the mindset that helps her climb walls, run many miles, lift 70 pound sacks and carry them on her back to the next drop off point.

She is so competitive with herself that she mentioned she was becoming depressed because she was “racing for the podium.” This meant if she didn’t finish high enough in her class, she couldn’t be recognized as a top finisher and stand on the podium as she collected her medals. Once she realized that she was trying to overachieve on every race and that it was affecting her mentally, she began to look around and appreciate the close-knit society she was part of and how everyone is so supportive of each other. “If someone is struggling getting over an obstacle, others in the group will fall back to help that person conquer his or her stumbling block,” she said.

As she continues to train for the next event, I asked her how she deals with all the pain from the injuries she had endured. “Although my back pain was excruciating at times, I just realized that it will always be there and hurt because it is in my bones,” said Nicole. “So, I decided to train smarter and get my core stronger to overcome the pain.” Since she has taken part in so many races, she knows exactly what obstacles will be on the course so she can train specifically for that instead of just running and lifting weights.

So why does she keep going? Is she trying to prove something to herself? Is she trying to prove something to someone else? “You can have a really high tolerance for pain,” Nicole explained, “but then you can have an even higher mental tolerance for pain. So, once you hit that physical pain, you know that it can’t get worse. I know my foot is broken and it’s going to hurt, but it won’t get worse from here.”

And, she tells herself, “You paid for this, you’re gonna do this.” (By the way, the average cost of an entry fee is $125 and that doesn’t include travel and food.)

Nicole – and other “mudders” and “maniacs” like her – are proof that if you truly want something in life, it may come with pain and setbacks, but if you want it badly enough, nothing can stop you. Not even yourself.

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The Local College Hoops Scene Is Bonkers | The Final Say

By Zach McCrite

What an unusual college sports landscape we’re in right now in Kentuckiana.

Sure, pro sports chatter is primarily about the athletes. But in major, revenue-producing college athletics, the primary subject of the ire for media and fans (save for very few exceptions) is the head coach.

And in our area, we’re in a curious spot with all of the head coaches at the basketball programs.

THE CURIOUS CASE OF ARCHIE MILLER

Let’s start with Indiana, probably the least curious of the three within a proverbial rock’s throw from this publication’s readership.

Archie Miller has been given plenty of leash to work out the kinks in a program that certainly needed it. And it’s been a work in progress, to say the least.

In fact, there have been many fans that have – more or less – allowed the first-year head coach to take massive, embarrassing losses at the friendly confines of Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.

Multiple losses. To other in-state teams. By 20 or more points.

Sure, between implementing a brand-new style of play and doing it with the limited talent left to him on the current roster, getting Indiana back to the perennial Top 25 team they used to be once upon a time is, of course, not an overnight process.

But, even with those disparaging losses, Hoosier fans and media alike (myself included) have treated Miller with kid gloves, taking these losses in stride, for the most part.

Of course, it’s safe to say there has been some improvement in the group as the season has gone on. Tip of the cap, Arch.

But, I feel like, even in his charter season, Archie would be feeling a little more heat from all of us in Hoosierland if not for this little protective bubble that’s been placed around him.

That bubble goes by the name of Romeo Langford.

As sports fans, we traffic in hope. We thrive on it. It’s our caffeine. That hope is what keeps us coming back for more, even when success isn’t coming at a consistent rate. It’s our current cup of coffee.

And that current cup of “hope coffee” is Romeo,

the top high school shooting guard in the Class of 2018, making posters out of poor opposing defenders with his addictive take-him-home-to-meet-your-momma demeanor.

The kind of local celeb where you can talk to other local strangers about him, refer to him only by his first name, and both of you know to whom the other is referring.

I don’t know where Romeo is going for his college basketball career. Neither do you (unless, of course, he surprised us all with an announcement between the time of this writing and now). But Hoosier fans are hoping it’s IU, obviously.

And it’s a credit to Miller that IU is even in the hunt for Romeo, especially given the substandard state of the Indiana hoops program.

My educated guess? Romeo wouldn’t have IU in his final list of potential schools to which he’s contemplating going to school to play basketball had Tom Crean still been the coach in Bloomington.

But Romeo’s interest in the Hoosiers has created a protective bubble of hope around Miller. Until Romeo decides to commit to a school not named Indiana, that protective hope bubble will not fade, providing what would be harsh criticism – the kind usually reserved for coaches who receive beatdowns from powerhouses like Indiana State and Fort Wayne – from really hitting the IU coach.

And if Romeo does decide to dawn the Crimson and Cream, that protective cocoon once conceived of hope where Miller currently resides will turn into one made out of real credit (and gratitude, too).

THE CURIOUS CASE OF JOHN CALIPARI

I’m literally shocked by the way Kentucky head coach John Calipari has been acting lately.

Sure, he’s a master of using the media to get a message across to his team (and, at times, to his recruits as well). But, this time around, he’s been as critical of a Kentucky team as he’s ever been as the head coach of the Wildcats, especially given the new class of freshmen he brought to Lexington, a class worthy of a top-five preseason national ranking.

John Calipari’s success at UK has been exemplary. Final Fours, once a fleeting luxury under Tubby Smith and an impossibility under Billy Gillispie, are now damn near expected regardless of the new crop of newcomers that comes into Big Blue Country.

In Cal We Trust.

Whether it’s after the oodles of victories or the small handful of defeats, Cal will usually mention the seemingly few flaws of his team. They’re usually mental flaws that he hopes will get corrected by the time the NCAA Tournament rolls around.

More often than not, Cal blames these flaws on his team’s never-ending youth. As expected as death and taxes.

But this season has been different. The Cats are taking unusual losses – unusual for Big Blue Nation, at least. It’s not like they’re going to miss the tournament or anything.

But the usual Cal quotes have been modified. This is a rarity.

Consider: Earlier in the season, after a 29-point shellacking of rival Louisville, the UK coach did the unthinkable. He was going to stop referring to that youth.

“I said today before the game, we’re no longer freshmen,” Calipari said after another victory in the rivalry back in December. “I’m not saying it anymore – we’re not freshmen now. We’re 10 games in, 11 games in, we are not freshmen.”

Then, in a mid-January loss at home against lowly South Carolina, Calipari went back to his old, youth-based excuses for his team’s inability to play at the level commensurate to the Kentucky head coach’s expectations had returned.

“This looked like a bunch of freshmen playing,” Calipari said after his team’s 76-68 collapse at South Carolina.

“The first half, you would look and say, ‘Ah, they got a nice team and da da da da.’ They’re all freshmen. In the second half, you looked at us and we looked like a bunch of freshmen playing like freshmen would play.”

Cal used the word “freshmen” three times before he took one breath.

Perhaps the players aren’t the only ones reverting to old childlike habits.

The surprise isn’t that the excuses had returned, it’s that Cal tried to make those disappear in the first place.

Weird.

And then on top of that has been the cryptic way in which he’s talked about one of his six (SIX!) five-star freshmen recruits.

Jarred Vanderbilt injured his foot early in the preseason and hadn’t played a game up until the aforementioned loss to South Carolina. It had been Vanderbilt’s third injury to the same foot. That is a true worry for a player seemingly-destined to be less than a calendar year away from having a seven-annual income.

Kentucky had needed him. And people had seen reports of him continuously practicing and dressing for games.

But Vanderbilt still wasn’t seeing the court, and Calipari was being uncharacteristically and mostly-indirectly criticizing Vanderbilt’s inability to play.

“I’d like for him to give me more than what I would’ve gotten today because I didn’t see him all day,” Calipari said.

It was like there was more to the story. Who knows?

“The problem with being injured when you’re on my teams, I really spend no time with you,” Calipari said. “Sometimes I forget names. Like I forget who (Vanderbilt) is. Because I’ve gotta focus on the guys I’m coaching right now. They’ve gotta get healthy and be ready to come back and be ready to go. Jarred is the same.”

He forgets his players’ names? Come on.

Calipari is always a master of the media. His press conferences are always entertaining.

But this year, it’s just been different. Different than in any other season.

It’s been over the top.

THE CURIOUS CASE OF DAVID PADGETT

The most curious case of all has been David Padgett. The poor guy got thrown into an absolute grease fire.

So, of course, his team floundered around for awhile while the players acclimated to a coaching style that is, by many accounts, far more relaxed than the style of their coaching predecessor, Rick Pitino.

The feeling I got from Pitino before his firing was that if Donovan Mitchell, currently one of the NBA’s best rookies, left for the pros after last season, it was going to be an uphill climb for this season’s championship hopes.

No surprise there. Mitchell is a star. Any team would hurt if they lost a kid like Mitchell.

Obviously, this was before Pitino got gifted Brian Bowen, the highly-touted recruit whose family member, we later learned, allegedly agreed to receive money to come to Louisville, which, in part, may have ended up being the final nail in Pitino’s Cardinal Coffin.

Since then, Padgett has had to do a dance of trying to be himself to his team, while still trying to cling to many Pitino’s championship principles.

Now, many Pitino loyalists, who are still bitter about the way “Slick Rick” was dismissed are taking out the team’s struggles on Padgett.

“The players aren’t listening to him.”

“Padgett’s lost this team. This would’ve never (have) happened to Rick.”

We got it, Rick-backers, winning trumps all, even multiple NCAA violations.

Duly noted.

But, for the rest of us that think Pitino’s firing was justified, even if we admired his coaching ability (I know I did), there was really no other way to bring on a brand-new coach that had any sort of resume.

UofL had two weeks to figure this out, for crying out loud. What were they supposed to do?

Had Louisville brought on a seasoned, but recently-fired coach, that coach isn’t going to just agree to a one-year deal. And even if they do, what if they had success? Then, Louisville would’ve had to stick with the guy, a guy they had all but a handful of days to truly vet.

The timing was terrible.

Still, Padgett is taking a team that likely wasn’t destined for the Final Four and, as of this writing, has gone the whole season with just a handful of losses – none of them to teams outside the AP Top 25.

It’s been a fascinating watch.

HERE’S A CURIOUS BONUS

And, alone at the top, probably sipping on a Mai Tai and cackling at all the other nonsense going on south of West Lafayette, is Matt-freaking-Painter. Who knew he’d be the one with the stress meter, relatively speaking, at zero?

What an unusual college hoops landscape, indeed.

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The Endless Story of Tom Jurich

By Zach McCrite

It never ends.

Every month, I am given carte blanche to write about whatever I want to write about in this space. My goal, obviously, is to write about what people in the community want to read about when they open a Kentuckiana-based sports magazine.

And every month, seemingly, here I am, finding myself writing more about the ongoing sagas (plural) that are going on at the University of Louisville.

Some of you may be as fatigued by my writings in this space as Cardinal fans are by the ostensibly-boundless stories portraying their favorite school, former athletic director and former basketball coach in a negative light – in part by their own actions.

Since I last penned a column for this space, those stories continued.

It can be fatiguing for fans and writers alike. But, it’s the story.

Courier Journal (formerly known as The Courier-Journal) and ESPN released exhaustive stories that focused on Tom Jurich, the much celebrated, much debated, fired AD at UofL. I was one of a handful of local media members interviewed in Tim Sullivan’s Courier Journal article about Jurich’s business tactics.

I could’ve used this space to give my loyal readers the inside scoop before anyone else got it. In fact, I should have.

But, up until last month, I had vowed to never speak of it publicly. There were numerous reasons I never did up until recently. First, shortly after the meeting, I felt like Jurich was doing what he felt he had to do in helping keep me from a potential job opening. After sulking in my new reality as it pertained to missing out on a great opportunity, I realized it was business. It affected me massively, but that was his prerogative. I just didn’t know he had that power at the time.

And, if we’re being real, there was a part of me that was proud of it. And it was newfound pride. I was proud that, before the age of 30, Jurich thought I carried a big enough stick in the market to sway public opinion—an opinion he apparently with which he did not agree. Up until that point, I never thought that much of my own ability. Jurich considered me credible.

But, the much more important reason I never went public with this story, a story that dates back over seven years ago now, is this: had I gone public, listeners would take every opinion I had from that point forward and would perceive that I had a bias against UofL athletics that simply did not exist.

I was determined not to let it dictate my opinion on matters of which listeners turned on the radio to hear me. I had gained the trust of many listeners in the area. In the media business, there is nothing more valuable than your listeners’ trust. Why would I want to betray that by telling a story that would make people think I am now anti-UofL even though I wasn’t?

Sure, people inside the media knew of my run-ins (plural, I got calls from his department many times over the years along with many other media members) with the University of Louisville and Jurich, in particular. But, I always thought it would look like sour grapes if I ever told the story publicly.

AN EXAMPLE OF JURICH’S POWER OVER LOCAL MEDIA

Here’s what happened: I met with Jurich in his office after hearing he was, perhaps, being a roadblock to a job I thought I already had – new afternoon show co-host on WKRD 790 AM back in 2010. I was accused by Jurich, mainly, of being too critical of Steve Kragthorpe, the coach who had, by that time, already been fired by Tom, himself.

My basic rebuttal was that it was basically impossible not to be critical since, you know, Kragthorpe took a program fresh off an Orange Bowl victory and promptly went 15-21 in three years as head coach of the Cardinals including the most embarrassing loss I, to this day, have ever seen at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium, a 38-35 defeat to Syracuse. At that time, that was the biggest upset, according to Vegas sports books, in college football history. Louisville was a 39.5-point favorite that day. How could I not be critical?

“Besides, Tom,” I recall asking him, “you’re firing of Steve validates my criticisms of him, does it not?” Jurich responded by implying that I helped shape the public narrative of a coach that didn’t deserve it. Whatever.

After more sparring, I walked out of that meeting knowing that I wasn’t going to be the host of a show I had already been tabbed by radio station management to co-host.

It was my first real sniff of how much power Jurich had when it came to local media coverage. Of course, if you were a diehard, Louisville-never-needs-to-be-criticized-because-I-simply-love-them-that-much sort of Cardinal fan, Tom loved you. That meant he didn’t love me. Oh well.

In the interest of fairness, Jurich’s side of this story is that he doesn’t remember this meeting.

And, for the record, I don’t consider Tom being a ‘bully’ to me. I guess it was just his prerogative to not have me on airwaves for which he had at least some level of control. I was just a 29-year-old who was too dumb to understand that this is how it works in some markets where the media entity has to make nice with one of their highest-paying customers or else face the consequences.

Jurich and I were always respectful of each other in public after that – shaking hands when we saw each other. But, Jurich made his feelings about me well known just in that simple handshake. Either that, or he regularly shakes hands with the strength of a wet newspaper.

Luckily, the people in power at iHeartRadio (which was Clear Channel at the time), while wanting to keep their client (Jurich) happy, also felt me valuable enough to keep me around.

And thanks to them and Matt Jones, who was starting up a new radio show on a different station in the same building, I was still able to secure a radio gig without much downtime, becoming Matt’s first partner on “Kentucky Sports Radio.” Not long after that, I was tabbed as a radio host for ESPN St. Louis.

In hindsight, it was a blessing.

I only put that story here in the interest of giving you my version of what went down in more detail than what was penned in the Courier Journal story. And my story is tame compared to others that have had less-than-favorable run-ins with the guy who many thought was the most powerful man in the city of Louisville for the better part of two decades.

JURICH’S ACCOMPLISHMENTS GO UNMATCHED

That, however, does not preclude me from applauding Jurich on many fronts.

He was undoubtedly the head man in turning Floyd Street from a road known for its ugly silos to a road full of beautiful sports-hosting facilities worth well into the nine-figures in total.

He also was aware before many others in his position all over the country, that women’s sports not only mattered in the grand scope of college athletics, but he was also successful in making it known to companies who donated to such endeavors that it was the “long game” to which they would see their return on investment.

The fired athletic director also gets a bad rap for how he handled the initial negotiations in the lease that secured UofL as the anchor tenant at the KFC Yum Center. The deal he helped negotiate for the university, according to ESPN, meant UofL kept “88 percent of premium seat licensing, 97 percent of suite sales, all program revenue and half of concessions.”

This was a deal to which both the city and the university agreed. A sweetheart deal. And isn’t that what you’d want if you had a negotiator working a lease for you? That’s what Jurich did for the University of Louisville.

Where Jurich misses is claiming in the same ESPN story that Louisville “took all the risk.”

Please. Where is that risk? Were you afraid that the three percent of suite sales you had to give away was going to cripple your program?

I also don’t blame him for being, at the very least, a massive obstacle for the city of Louisville ever being home to an NBA team. Jurich’s sweetheart deal with the KFC Yum Center came with priorities that effectively left the NBA zero options to place a team in Louisville.

According to the original lease, the University of Louisville’s men’s basketball programs had control of the KFC Yum Center not only on days of home basketball games, but also on the day before and the day after each game.

In other words, for every UofL game at “The Bucket,” UofL had reserved the arena for three days. That meant that there was absolutely no way that an NBA team could effectively schedule 41 home games at the KFC Yum Center.

Access denied. A win for Jurich.

Jurich and the school both wanted to keep an NBA team from dipping their proverbial hands in the UofL cookie jar full of donors and sponsors that Jurich and his team had filled up to the brim.

And, again, who can blame Jurich for making that deal. He was hired to fill up that once-empty cookie jar. And keep it full.

There was so much money falling out of that cookie jar thanks to Jurich, in fact, that former president James Ramsey was sliding that money, seemingly under the table, to Jurich in deals that were probably less than forthcoming to the taxpaying public.

Of course, that story is child’s play compared to all the other shady dealing’s the former school president had, which all came to light when an audit of the university’s finances became public earlier this year.

JURICH’S FIRING IS STILL JUSTIFIED

Tom’s contract reads like that of a made mafia man. That is, if the mafia ever put anything in writing.

Jurich’s contract leaves the university with basically no route to not pay him at least a very hefty portion of his remaining contract – a sign of the lockstep in which Jurich and Ramsey regularly danced.

The contract addendum, agreed upon in 2011, says UofL has to pay Jurich a full year’s salary even if he’s fired “for cause.” Translation: It’s more than likely going to be a seven-figure payday for Jurich. Just for being fired.

I bet if you look close, you can still see the marks Ramsey left on Jurich’s back and vice versa. They scratched each other’s backs constantly, it seemed.

That’s not Tom’s fault. In fact, I applaud him for getting that installed as part of his contract. Some might even say he earned it.

But that doesn’t mean his firing wasn’t justified.

The new Board of Trustees at the University of Louisville, led in part by one of the university’s biggest donors and supporters, Papa John Schnatter, put into place checks and balances that didn’t appear to be in place before their arrival.

Part of those checks and balances included being held accountable for what employees underneath your jurisdiction may have done to harm the school’s financial wellbeing and image.

In other words, a good portion of the reason Pitino was fired – hiring people who didn’t have the university’s best interests at heart – is one of the main reasons Jurich was fired as well. He hired Pitino and is now on the hook for having, potentially, two major NCAA violations happen under his watch.

This is where Jurich’s leadership seemed to cease. As scandals mounted and things seemed to be spiraling out of control at UofL, plenty of opportunities arose for Jurich, the usually-unabashed leader, to take over a contentious press conference or a rocky board meeting.

Instead, Jurich took a back seat, leaving people like Ramsey, Postel, Pitino or contracted NCAA compliance expert Chuck Smrt to take the lead role, interjecting only when asked a specific question and, even then, sharing only brief responses, mostly.

But hey, if it was a press conference about a Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium expansion update or UofL’s now-ill-timed announcement of a $160 million apparel deal with the school, there was Jurich, front and center, salivating over a hot microphone, accepting rounds of applause and appreciation.

And, make no mistake, the fearless leader should be there telling us all about the good times.

The fearless leader should also be front and center when the university is in turmoil. The fans should have heard from him in those times before anyone else. They needed to.

Regardless, there are many out there who believe that Jurich has done nothing wrong, including many of the same media members who sold out to be mouthpieces for the university in exchange for job security.

Nevertheless, all the positive things that Jurich accomplished at the University of Louisville should, over time, supercede the damage he was, at best, complacent in helping prevent.

And I think they will. Down the road, when time heals the wounds, they’ll build a statue of him. And they should.

The constant reminder of Jurich’s footprint on this university is all up and down Floyd Street.

It never ends.


NEVERTHELESS, ALL THE POSITIVE THINGS THAT JURICH ACCOMPLISHED AT THE UNIVERSITY OF LOUISVILLE SHOULD, OVER TIME, SUPERCEDE THE DAMAGE HE WAS, AT BEST, COMPLACENT IN HELPING PREVENT. AND I THINK THEY WILL. DOWN THE ROAD, WHEN TIME HEALS THE WOUNDS, THEY’LL BUILD A STATUE OF HIM. AND THEY SHOULD.

Want to find Zach on Twitter? Just follow @BigEZ.

Travis Jamison

The Beauty of Hunting

By Jim Biery

Man, do I miss watching cartoons on Saturday mornings and Elmer Fudd’s neverending quest to catch Bugs Bunny! It’s the classic tale of man in the wild trying to find food to provide for his family. Now, this classic cartoon did not come close to portraying such a life or death scenario that faced early settlers in America, but it did highlight that “wasically wabbit” and his ability to constantly out smart and completely frustrate a somewhat dimwitted hunter.

Modern day hunters enjoy much more success. Hunting for sport provides outdoor splendor and beauty that is unsurpassed and also provides for some very necessary population control that even the most animal-loving person has got to know and understand the importance of.

I’ll start by exposing a little known fact about myself: I have NEVER owned a gun in my life. I have never shot and killed anything. The closest I came was shooting at a squirrel with my brother’s Red Rider BB gun to get him (the squirrel, not my brother) out of the bird feeder. This was more of a warning shot than anything else. That soul-baring moment, however, does not mask my love for fresh game birds and rabbits, or deer to be grilled, smoked, roasted, or even made into a stew. When your choice of protein comes straight from the environment it lives in, you cannot have a healthier way to eat. Pure protein without chemicals, preservatives or steroids is wonderfully delicious.

I will also divulge that my first love is, and will always be, fishing. If you’ve ever had the chance to eat fresh caught crappie or bluegill lightly battered then fried in a cast iron skillet… people I am here to tell you, it is the best fish you will taste anywhere! That also includes salt water fish, salmon and trout from streams and rivers. It’s funny how when there is a very passionate argument about animal rights you don’t hear much about fish – weird.

The real focus I feel that should be looked at is the unbelievable damage and cost that these wild critters can cause. It would be hard to find anyone driving in the area that hasn’t seen a deer that has been hit by a vehicle. What is a sad end to such a beautiful animal’s life unfortunately can’t begin to equal the loss of money spent on vehicle repairs, insurance claims and even human life.

The USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service notes that nationally wildlife cause $619 million in field crop damages and an additional $147 million in losses of fruit and nuts each year. The Kentucky State Police report the Insurance Institute estimates there are 1.6 million deer vs. vehicle collisions per year in the United States. That produces about $3.6 billion in vehicle damage cost.

A little closer to home, last year 15,924 acres were damaged in soybean fields in Indiana. Corn fields had 13,930 acres destroyed. That is a staggering amount of damage caused by various animals. Could you imagine how much more damage would be done if hunting wasn’t allowed, or how many vehicles would be wrecked if deer were allowed to breed out of control and constantly run onto roads and highways?

The non-monetary effects of hunting, though, are what I value the most. If you’ve never hunted before, one the best reasons for doing it is the sheer beauty that the fields and mountains can produce. Picture this in your mind: Sunlight reflects off the spider web-like grass that is wrapped in a thin layer of frost and light snow. The peacefulness and quiet is deafening as you slowly walk to your stand. Small song birds are darting around. You can see your breath with every exhale. The fallen leaves and grass that has become frozen crackle and crunch with every step. OK, sorry, I got a little deep there, but to be out in the woods, sitting and watching and listening to everything you see before you as the sun rises over the hills and trees is simply spectacular.

As the loyal Extol Sports readers know, I am big on traditions. For many hunters, that is also true. Their fathers were probably the first to take them out in the woods and teach them how to hunt and respect the land. Even though I don’t own a gun, one of the biggest traditions I share with my Dad and brother, and now my nephew, is hunting on Thanksgiving morning. You can’t put a price on that type of experience.

That is the pleasant and rewarding side of hunting. No matter what side of the fence you are on concerning hunting, for many hunting is a cherished family tradition. My buddy Tony hunted for years with his father. Recently, he lost his father but told me that some days when goes back to that deer stand in the tree, he doesn’t actually hunt. He will just sit there in the peacefulness and beauty of nature and think about all the great times he and his father had sitting together in that tree.


Travis Jamison

Travis Jamison

I HAVE NEVER OWNED A GUN IN MY LIFE. I HAVE NEVER SHOT AND KILLED ANYTHING. THE CLOSEST I CAME WAS SHOOTING AT A SQUIRREL WITH MY BROTHER’S RED RIDER BB GUN TO GET HIM (THE SQUIRREL, NOT MY BROTHER) OUT OF THE BIRD FEEDER.

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Thabane Sutu’s Winding, Winning Path

The path to American second division soccer for players and coaches alike is usually a long and winding one. That goes tenfold for Thabane Sutu, the accomplished yet unassuming goalkeeper coach for Louisville City FC.

BY KEVIN KERNEN | PHOTOS COURTESY EM DASH PHOTOGRAPHY

A native of Lesotho, a country of two million and about the size of Maryland, Thabane Sutu comes from modest South Africa beginnings.

One of two sons to a nurse and civil servant, he had his fair share of chores to do around the house before he could play soccer in the streets after school days, something that all boys would join in on. While he had a comparatively comfortable childhood, Sutu didn’t start playing organized soccer until he was spotted by South African coaching legend and then-Lesotho National coach April “Styles” Phumo at age 15, when the coach founded an amateur team, Arsenal FC, in Lesotho’s capital, Maseru.

After school they would train in the national stadium; it was a side project for Phumo. It was here Sutu cultivated a dream to go on and play professionally, not something many Lesotho players had the opportunity to do. His Arsenal team had to begin play at the third and bottom rung of the completely amateur soccer pyramid in Lesotho before quickly gaining promotion to the premier A Division in 1988.

While cutting a swath through the ranks of Mosotho soccer, Arsenal gained a reputation as a hard, grafting team and were disliked amongst the rest of the established soccer guard. Sutu was an important part of the team, although not usually the best or most physically gifted player on the pitch, he was a student of the game and always eager to learn, a trait he has yet to lose.

Sutu was part of the Arsenal team that ran roughshod over Lesotho soccer and won the Lesotho top flight in 1989, 1991 and 1993, and they claimed the domestic cup twice in his career there. With this success, came continental competition in the African Cup of Champions (equivalent to UEFA’s Champions League) and in the African Cup Winners’ Cup (comparable to the secondary UEFA Europa League). The 1993 Cup Winners’ Cup campaign would prove to be a turning point for Sutu.

Coming from such a small and unproven soccer playing nation, Arsenal had to win a qualifying home and away series in order to join the continents’ elite clubs in the competition proper. Their first matchup was against Mozambique title holders Clube de Gaza, in which Arsenal stole a 2-2 draw away from home and earned a 1-1 tie on home soil to advance on goal differential, a massive upset in the competition for an amateur team.

The result saw the Lesotho minnows drawn against Egyptian giants Al-Ahly in the succeeding round of 16, a gargantuan task. Arsenal were staring down an impossible game, but went out and still performed admirably, miraculously only conceding a single goal at home, largely thanks to what Sutu called one of his best performances as a player. At that moment, Al-Ahly was looking for a goalkeeper to backup club stalwart and national goalkeeper Ahmed Shobeir, and after a yeoman’s effort in the first leg, Al-Ahly took a closer look at Sutu. during their reception for Arsenal in the run-up to the decisive second leg, they gauged his interest, something that took Sutu off guard.

“I didn’t know how to react (to) something that had never happened before. I was thinking ‘Wow, all the things that I had been dreaming about have literally just happened right here, right now.’ ”

He didn’t give them a commitment in Egypt that day, however, because he needed to speak with his coach and family back home.

Sutu signed with the 39-time league champs on June 23, 1993, realizing his childhood dream.

It was a big change for the young man from South Africa going from playing in front of a few thousand in his native land to training in front of 20,000 people and playing in front of attendances that regularly pushed six digits, not to mention adjusting to an entirely different culture and language. The biggest club in all of Africa and the Middle Eastern soccer world, Al-Ahly has no fewer than 100 trophies in their cabinet from domestic and continental competitions, and maintained a high level of excellence in part thanks to their manager, Englishman Allan Harris. Bringing his experience as a player with more than 300 games of experience in English football and also serving as an assistant under Terry Venables at league-winning Barcelona, Harris would influence Sutu’s coaching acumen more than any other figure. Although he never quite broke through to the first team, Sutu did gain dozens of starts for the Egyptian giants.

During this exciting time, Sutu captained the Lesotho national team as well, racking up nearly 30 caps between 1994 and 1997. Where the most senior player generally assumes the captaincy, Sutu gained the armband in a more unexpected way. In an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier 1994 against a Cameroon team fresh off a World Cup showing in the United States, and after a long flight from Cairo to Johannesburg, Sutu made his way back to Lesotho to find the national players in a dispute with the national association over unpaid stipends. Despite Cameroon already being in Lesotho, the game was at grave risk of being called off, something that wasn’t unheard of in the cobbled-together nature of soccer in the region at the time. Not one to waste his long journey home, Sutu brokered a deal between the association and the players to split the gate receipts, and as a result of his work between the players and the association, he was handed the captain’s armband, all of this before the match even transpired. The game was a shock 2-0 win for the hosts, a result that Sutu says was the proudest of his four-year tenure between the posts for his national team.

After a respectable excursion abroad, Thabane decided to hang up his gloves in 1998 and return to his roots at Arsenal to coach the nation’s top youth prospects, something he knew he wanted to do the duration of his career. The move meant he was closer to his eventual wife, Motselisi, whom he met the previous year. The daughter of a Presbyterian ministry director, Motselisi found herself back and forth between Lesotho and Louisville, Kentucky, where her father studied. After several month of coaching in 1998, and after long consideration, Sutu left his position in the Basotho national setup coaching youth prospects to move to the U.S. with his soon-to-be wife and to study exercise science at the University of Louisville, a move he would reflect on as a great decision.

Despite leaving all of his accomplishments and notoriety a continent behind, Sutu would return to the coaching ranks soon enough. He joined the Trinity High School coaching staff in 2000 after he was spotted playing pickup soccer one day in Seneca park and played briefly for a local team, the Cosmos. He moved on to local youth team United 1996 FC the following year, after he was brought on by Founder/Director Mohamed Fazlagic, where Sutu still holds the position of technical director.

Fast forward almost 15 years: Sutu was invited to talk to the representatives of the newest USL-Pro team, Louisville City FC, looking to start play in 2015. GM Bjorn Bucholtz and Head Coach James O’Connor were looking for a goalkeeping coach. The initial talks were more informal, with O’Connor and Sutu feeling out each other’s coaching philosophy. Sutu was asked back for a more formal interview along with a couple of other goalkeeping coaches, and Sutu won the job. He slotted into the coaching setup well, joining Daniel Byrd as the third member of the staff, satisfied with the established hierarchy.

In addition to being the goalkeeping coach for Louisville City FC and technical director at United 1996 FC, he also holds the position of co-head coach at Louisville Collegiate High School.

What a winding path indeed.

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ROUTES FOR EVERY RUNNER

RUNNER JD DOTSON SHARES ADVICE FOR RUNNERS OF EVERY LEVEL

Story & Photos by JD Dotson

RUN ONE

New Albany waterfront provides a beautiful, easy route along the river, starting at the amphitheater and heading east. There is free parking at the end of Pearl Street and then a few steps up over the train tracks to the amphitheater. You might as well climb up to the lookout and do your stretching overlooking the river. There are plans to connect the route – eventually – through Clarksville to Jeffersonville with the Ohio River Greenway Project. But for now, a couple of miles of fairly flat path stretch along the banks and flood wall. I turn around at two miles but am really looking forward to the seven miles of bridges and paths that will connect the three cities of Southern Indiana when the Greenway Project is completed. I run two miles down about as far as I can go from the amphitheater then turn back.

For more information and to follow the progress of the Ohio River Greenway Project go to ohiorivergreenway.org.screen-shot-2017-12-28-at-4-58-23-pm


THERE IS NO SHORTAGE OF BEAUTIFUL, SCENIC ROUTES IN OUR AREA TO RUN ON BOTH SIDES OF THE RIVER.

We are lucky to have paths that run along the Ohio River and park systems dotted throughout Southern Indiana and Louisville. Whether you are looking for a light, easy jog, a challenging, hard run, or anything in between, options abound.

Two of my favorite spots for exploration are Charlestown State Park and Floyds Fork, both offer multiple trails and paths with varying degrees of difficulty.

While I love to explore new routes, there are some I repeat based on convenience and level of difficulty. Whether I am looking for a quick warm-up run, a run that consistently challenges me as I walk out the door from work, or a run that I dread full of challenges, I have repeated these three routes many times over the years.


RUN TWO

A downtown route has its challenges for any runner. Depending on the time of day and traffic, I make sure to keep my music off and my brain alert crossing streets of downtown.

I inevitably see things along my downtown routes that cause me to stop and take a picture.

Once my feet hit the Second Street Bridge, I resume my focus and my music and head across the water. The bridge offers its own challenges. The cars whizzing by in both directions and the slight sway of the bridge, juxtaposed with the movement of the water below, can be disorienting.

Keeping your eyes on the prize usually works for me: focus on the end of the bridge and run toward it. There is a slight elevation to the bridge, but the better challenge hits you at the Big Four Bridge. Leave the Second Street Bridge and run along the banks in Jeffersonville. Also, there is a really great ramp or a set of stairs waiting for you at the Big Four Station.

I have a general rule for conquering hills or inclines, especially if there are options to get around them. I may not be barreling up the hill at full speed, but I never let the hill beat me. I also try to remember as I am ascending any hill that I have to come back down at some point. The bridge is usually filled with people on any given day, running, biking, taking pictures – so be wary. The end of the bridge comes after about a half mile, and the promised descent drops you on Louisville’s Waterfront Park and then back into downtown.

It’s a good run with a mildly challenging route, but I am a fan of urban running and exploration. This route would be really easy to skip the streets of downtown and crosswalks by sticking solely to the waterfront paths. There is plenty of free parking at the base of the bridge on either side of the river and water stops in the parks.

For more information, go to jeffparks.org/parks/big4-station or louisvillewaterfront.com.screen-shot-2017-12-28-at-4-58-33-pm


RUN THREE

One of my favorite runs that I dread every time is the hilly road around and through Iroquois Park.

I love the scenery in the park and the dedicated lane for running or biking. I dread the relentless hills (what goes up, must come down) but know they are good for me. The hills around the loop are deceiving. Just when you think you are reaching the top and about to head downhill, the road turns and goes up a bit more. Parking at the amphitheater, I begin the Iroquois run clockwise on the loop (Rundill Road). Around the 2.5 mile mark, Uppill Road branches off to the right. The road could – and should – be called Uphill Road as a mile-long incline opens up around the turn.

Pushing through to the top and a half a mile back, runners are rewarded for their hard work with the Iroquois Park Overlook and a spectacular view of the city from six miles away. I dread it, but running this route prepares me for what’s to come in the Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon or the Papa John’s 10 Miler. Conquering the hills in practice runs make me stronger in the races, as Iroquois Park hills happen in the middle of both, and, who am I kidding, hills are great for my glutes.

For more information, go to louisvilleky.gov/government/parks/park-list/iroquois-parkscreen-shot-2017-12-28-at-4-58-41-pm


Follow more of JD’s running adventures by following @runstheuniverse on Instagram.