Mingione Knows—By Dr. John Huang

May 28, 2024
As Wildcats head into NCAA tournament play, Coach Nick Mingione already knows the outcome (photo credit: Matthew Mueller /  UK Athletics) As Wildcats head into NCAA tournament play, Coach Nick Mingione already knows the outcome (photo credit: Matthew Mueller / UK Athletics)

(LEXINGTON, Ky.) – Nick Mingione already knows.

Kentucky’s head coach isn’t a baseball Nostradamus. He doesn’t have a crystal ball to predict the outcomes of this weekend’s NCAA Lexington Regional. Yet, in his third stint leading the Wildcats into tournament play, Mingione possesses a profound understanding of how to navigate the pressures ahead.

“I already know that it’s already written,” Mingione shared in a media briefing on Monday. “Like what’s going to happen is already written. It’s already finished…I know who knows the beginning and the end. And that’s already written.”

Mingione, a man of deep faith, was speaking metaphorically of course, drawing on his spiritual beliefs. He trusts that God has crafted the ultimate storyline and understands that his role is to guide his team without the burden of writing the ending themselves.

“There are things we can’t control,” Mingione continued, shifting the discussion back to the temporal world. “I just choose to focus on what we can control. And that’s me getting our team getting ready to play. That’s us focusing on ourselves and not anybody else and serving one another and competing at the highest level to help Kentucky win. When you understand that, and you know that, then it makes it a lot easier.”

Lest you forget, just two short seasons ago, Mingione was on the proverbial hotseat. Three straight less-than-stellar-seasons and a pandemic-shortened year had the natives calling for his head on a platter. Somehow, the Embry-Riddle aerospace studies graduate got things turned around, assembling two consecutive forty-win campaigns, the second of which resulted this year in the first ever No. 2 NCAA tournament seed in school history.

Draw wise, however, the tournament committee did the Wildcats no favors. Kentucky (40 – 14) will face off first against Western Michigan (32 – 21), the MAC tournament champion, in the double-elimination format this weekend. Also in the bracket are Indiana State (42 – 13), the Missouri Valley Conference regular season champs who many felt got snubbed as a tournament host, and Illinois (34 – 19), the Big 10 regular season champion.

Get through that gauntlet and the Wildcats would host again the following week, this time in a best-of-three Super Regional series against the Corvallis Regional winner. Success there would mean a historic first ever trip to Omaha for the College World Series.

But that’s jumping the gun a bit. For Mingione and crew, it’s first things first beginning this Friday at high noon at Kentucky Proud Park.

“Not looking too far down the road has been one of our team strengths,” Mingione acknowledged. “It’s something we’ve talked about all year. It’s helped me as a coach. I’m not at my best when I look too far in advance. There’s been multiple times as I journal and write in my discipleship planner each morning, I just keep learning that about myself. I’m much like the players. I’m way better when I’m focusing on the task at hand and what’s in front of me at that time and not looking at the big picture.”

That’s good advice for a coach looking to take his team where no Kentucky team has ventured before. It’s also good advice for the multitude of Wildcat fans looking to give their team a distinct competitive edge. The advantages of playing at home aren’t lost on Mingione at all.

“Obviously it is nice to know that we do have an opportunity—if it was to go our way—to stay at home. That is definitely a huge bonus.”

As Kentucky takes the field, it’s apparent that they’ll do so with a quiet confidence rooted in preparation as well as belief. For Nick Mingione, the journey seems just as important as the final destination. This weekend, that journey continues with both faith and focus.

Just remember, the ending has already been written.

Dr. John Huang is a retired orthodontist, military veteran, and award-winning author. He currently serves as a reporter and sports columnist for Nolan Group Media. You can follow Dr. Huang on social media @KYHuangs and check out all his books at https://www.Amazon.com/stores/Dr.-John-Huang/author/B092RKJBRD