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Sad News: Former UK Big Man Bret Bearup Has Passed

An immensely likable man. We’re so sorry to hear this.

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Northern Kentucky v Kentucky
Sad times for Kentucky basketball as former big man Bret Bearup has died and far too young.
Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

We were deeply sorry to learn that former Kentucky center Bret Bearup has died.

We got to know Bret several years ago when the media (he really, really disliked the New York Post because, he said, the paper had not reported on him fairly or honestly) looked at some trips he was taking with high-end recruits.

We wrote about it and Bearup responded and we had a friendly exchange. He had a solid argument: as a financial adviser, not an agent or a coach, he had no involvement with or concerns about recruiting. He was simply doing what business people do: cultivating future clients.

He confided at one point that if he had it to do again he would have probably picked Duke over Kentucky. That might’ve changed Duke history because he would have come very early in Coach K’s career when he was struggling to attract players. Who knows what he could have done in that environment?

What we really appreciated about Bearup was that he was a great story teller. He told us three memorable stories, one of which involved a prominent upperclassman during his time in Lexington, one of which involves a current head coach in college basketball and another about Jerry Tarkanian.

If you catch us somewhere off line, ask about the first two stories. They’re really interesting and say a lot about Kentucky basketball in the early ‘80s.

The Tark we’ll tell you now. It’s a classic in every sense.

Bearup was (if we remember the timing correctly) at the NCAA Final Four in 1998. Tarkanian had just triumphed over the NCAA after the organization settled a lawsuit for $2.5 million dollars. When he was at Long Beach, before he went to UNLV, Tark criticized the NCAA in print and said that Kentucky was a program that got away with everything but smaller programs like Western Kentucky didn’t.

Bret was at a bar with a couple of coaches when Tark rushed in, highly excited about his big legal win.

“I just won $2.5 milion from the NC2A!” Tark crowed. He always called it the NC2A.

“And you know what I’m going to do? I’m going to go out, get the best team that money can buy, and stick it to them again!

One of the funniest stories we’ve ever heard and bless Bearup for sharing it.

He passed away at home, alone, and his brother came to check on him and found his body. a few days later. He was just 56. Our heart really goes out to brother Todd. No one should have to experience that.

Bret was a smart, funny and really decent guy. We wish he had come to Duke. He was a special guy and we’d have loved to have known him better. Our deepest sympathies to his own family and his basketball family. We didn’t know him very well but liked him immensely. It’s clearly a loss for everyone in his life.

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