Kentucky basketball loses a legend and friend with passing of Mike Pratt

Mike Pratt, right, with former UK players Louie Dampier and Bill Busey. (Larry Vaught Photo)

Waking up today to the news that everybody’s friend Mike Pratt passed away at age 73 Thursday night was simply heartbreaking.

The former UK All-American and current analyst for the UK Radio Network was a legend in Kentucky and a friend to everyone who knew him and every UK fan who listened to him call Kentucky games.

I watched Pratt play at UK from 1967-70 when he scored 1,359 points, 26th in program history, in three seasons which was remarkable considering his teammate was Dan Issel, UK’s all-time leading scorer.

I don’t remember the first time I met Pratt, but it did not matter. Once you knew him, you had a lifetime friend. But he was like that with everyone, not just me.

If I ever needed him to be on a radio show, he always said yes. If I needed information for a story I was writing, he was always available. When he asked me to be on his radio show, I was thrilled.

Pratt was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2019 and missed  Kentucky games at Georgia and Auburn in January of that year due to treatments he was taking. The cancer never went totally away but he never missed another UK game and just recently told me how excited he was about the upcoming season.

He joined the UK Network in 2001 and was the perfect man for the job. He had played at Kentucky and got the player’s perspective. He had been a college coach, so he understood the coaching perspective. Most importantly, he understood what UK basketball meant to fans across the Bluegrass.

“I don’t know a single person I have been involved with that was a better person than Mike Pratt,” said Jim Host, who hired Pratt to work on the UK Radio Network, on the Leach Report today. “Mike was like a sponge. He was easy to coach and easy to make recommendations about things I felt he should be doing.”

“He will be  missed. We won’t realize how good he was until he’s gone now. Nobody is ever going to fill his shoes. They are just going to try and fit in his shoes.”

Say amen Big Blue Nation.

If you would like to share your favorite Mike Pratt memories/stories with me, please post in the comment section or email me at larryvau@gmail.com.

7 Responses

  1. Mike and I met as 18 year old freshmen at Haggin Hall. We stayed in touch through all the years hence. I always called him Stump – he was like a 100 year old oak stump – how else could you rebound like that @ 6’3” !!??
    When he took the color job for UK it was like I’d died and gone to heaven – he got me in away games all over the south. Every year for the UF game.
    Even took my granddaughter ( a UF soph at the time ) down on the court during warm ups – when questioned by the security officer I said we had a scheduled interview with Mr. Pratt – my granddaughters eyes were as big as saucers as the players intentionally dibbled over to get a better look at her.
    I guess the two most memorable games were at UGA & ND.
    My seats for the UGA game were on row #1 seat A. Right next to Tubbys wife ( the Smiths were still very popular in Athens ). Tayshon hit an off balance bank shot with one second left for the win.
    At ND Mike had arranged for me to meet him for the shoot around the day before the game. Only other people there were the ESPN announcers.
    We sat about 10 rows up – the noise from 10/15 bouncing balls and coaches yelling lessons and encouragement was going on – Mike and I started telling old stories and starting laughing pretty loudly when all of a sudden all the noise stopped – we looked up and Cal, with hands on hips, was staring us down – Mike said “ hey we gotta straighten up “.
    I’m guessing 15 years ago ( maybe more ? ). Mike came into Orlando a couple days early for the UF game and stayed with us. Next day I had him fixed up in the Bay Hill daily shoot-out with some Kentucky boys and AP in a five man team. When we reached 14 tee box one of the Kentucky boys told him “ Mike if you don’t make a par in your round ( he hadn’t ) you have to pay everyone’s entry fee – including Mr. Palmers “.He parred the next three holes.
    Wonderful athlete, wonderful person, wonderful friend.
    Will miss him a bunch.

  2. I was a Student Manager when Pratt was on
    UK team Pratt treated me just like a regular teammate never saw him talk down to anyone
    He will be missed
    God bless you Mike

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