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Beauty or Beast?

The hiring of Kentucky Men’s Basketball’s new strength and conditioning coach, Brady Welsh, got me thinking. As far as fodder for championship number nine is concerned, does this position even matter? After all, it’s most likely three-point shooting and defense that’ll lead to that one shining moment in March—not the weight you can bench press or the suicides you can run at the beginning of October.

Or is it? Kentucky head basketball coach John Calipari certainly thinks strength and conditioning is vitally important to his team’s success. He recently pulled the plug on Rob Harris’ six-year run as Welsh’s predecessor in hopes of shaking things up in the training room and capturing that added edge.

“We’re excited to have Brady Welsh join our family,” Calipari said in his prepared release. “Brady brings a wealth of experience in an area that is critical to the development of our players both for their long-term benefit and for the immediate success during the season.”

Long-term benefit is nice, but immediate success is what fans are looking for. Because for the past several seasons, it does seem as if strength and conditioning issues—either elusive depth, lingering injuries, or a general lack of toughness—have reared their ugly heads at the most inopportune times. How much farther could the Cats have advanced had they only been stronger, fitter, and more intense?

When assistant coach Joe B. Hall instituted his infamous strength program under Adolph Rupp, a mutiny almost broke out among the basketball players. Nobody wanted to lift and run—until they saw the results on the court. Under Joe B’s tutelage, Kentucky suddenly turned into Godzilla on the court, intimidating the opposition with the sheer size of their muscle. Who could ever forget LSU Coach Dale Brown whining about the Wildcats “brutalizing the sport” or Kentucky Basketball’s dominance taking the “beauty out of the game”?

A different type of physical dominance emerged throughout the Rick Pitino era. Rick’s training sessions with his strength coach, Rock Oliver, were legendary. Although the “Unforgettables fell short of a title, the sheer grit and hustle garnered through Rock’s merciless cardio drills resulted in multiple upsets over many higher-ranked opponents. Just as importantly, the fast-paced action endeared the team to all their adoring fans.

That’s what’s sorely needed for the 2022-23 version of Calipari’s Cats. On paper, his team looks poised to make another long-awaited title run. They’ve got enough pieces to chase opponents off the court. But you can bet your bottom dollar there’ll be some obstacles along the way—unexpected intangibles such as injuries, illness, and fatigue—that could derail the season in a heartbeat. For this team, stamina and conditioning could be a telltale sign on whether they cut down the nets or (Saint) peter out.

Is Welsh a Basketball Benny who’ll recapture the magic through wind sprints and weightlifting?

Or is he a misguided Brady Brute who’ll end up crossing the line?

Remember Billy Gillispie? Just like Pitino, he pushed his players past what would be considered acceptable human limits. Unlike Pitino, his players didn’t buy in, and Billy G got pushed out of town. Here’s what’s ironic—and somewhat hypocritical. If Gillispie had won a championship, we would have all been lauding his ability to whip his players into shape. Just think—he could still be the coach. And Josh Harrellson would look like Kelenna Azubuike.

Welsh’s credentials seem solid enough. He earned a bachelor’s degree in exercise science from Eastern Illinois in 2015. He began his career as an assistant strength and conditioning coach at the University of Illinois before serving two-year stints at IMG Academy and Temple University in separate supportive roles. Welsh now joins the UK staff after serving 2021-22 as the strength and conditioning coach of the Purdue men’s basketball team. He has been an NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist since 2015.

“I cannot overstate my excitement to join the Kentucky Wildcats basketball program and immerse myself in the Lexington community,” Welsh said. “Being a part of one of the sport’s premier programs under the leadership of a Hall of Famer in Coach Calipari was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Big Blue Nation, let’s get to work!”

Beauty or beast? We’ll find out soon enough. Welcome to BBN!

Dr. John Huang is a UK columnist for Nolan Group Media and editor-in-chief of JustTheCats.com. He also covers the NFL and MLB for Sports View America. You can follow him on Twitter @KYHuangs. If you’re in search of some practical life lessons, be sure to check out his new book, KENTUCKY PASSION. https://www.amazon.com/Kentucky-Passion-Wildcat-Wisdom-Inspiration/dp/1684351669

Dr. John Huang
Dr. John Huang is a retired orthodontist and military veteran. As a lifelong Wildcat fan, a fledgling author, and an occasional guest host of Just the Cats Radio, he's now living out his dream as a UK Sports columnist. Dr. Huang also covers professional sports on a regional level. You can follow him on Twitter @KYHuangs or contact him @KYHuangs@gmail.com. If you enjoy his writing, you can also read more at www.huangswhinings.com.
http://www.huangswhinings.com

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One thought on “Beauty or Beast?

  1. I think this coach tailors his program for each individual instead of grinding every player through the millstone. Maybe Cal was unhappy that Grady ran on injured feet. Maybe one player needs more weights while another needs laps around the track? Just a feeling I got from listening and reading staff comments.

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