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Calipari Not A Fan Of An 18-Game League Schedule

Now that the 2012 SEC football schedule has been unveiled, discussion will start to swirl around next season’s basketball schedule (as well as the new football plan to be launched in 2013).  Having just done away with divisions this season, the league is even considering a return to that in the future.

Most believe the league will expand its current 16-game conference slate whether divisions return or not.  Kentucky’s John Calipari is in the group that expects an 18-game schedule to be launched.  And if it’s 18, he doesn’t like it:

“We don’t get as many non-conference games.  You just added two Top 20 teams (to the SEC).  Missouri hasn’t lost a game.  Texas A&M, historically, you know what they’ve done in basketball.  We’ve just gotten stronger.

If you look at all the Top 25 programs right now, we’re playing one of those schedules.  Can you play all these road games, can you do all this stuff and add two Top 25s?  We’ve got to make decisions on our schedule and how we’re going to do this without overloading our players or putting the program in jeopardy.”

We understand where Calipari is coming from — coaches like having the ability to line up some pre-Christmas cupcakes.  Everyone does it.  But in this case, Coach Cal seems to be exaggerating the dangers of moving from 16 games to 18 (if that’s what the SEC eventually does).

“Can you play all these road games,” the coach asked.  Well, technically, each school would only add one road game.  Instead of playing eight league foes at home and eight on the road, in an 18-game world the split would be nine at home and nine away.  That’s hardly a backbreaker.

Oh, and the guy below?  He’s 18 and he does like it.

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UK’s Calipari Wants His Cats To Be More “Vicious”

It takes a lot to satisfy Kentucky’s John Calipari.  (Perhaps that’s because he usually has a roster chock full of future NBA all-stars.)  Take for instance Coach Cal’s take on his team’s lack of a response — in his view — to Chattanooga’s physical style of play on Saturday night:

“I look at us right now and say, ‘Okay, you know, what are we going to have to do to take this to another level?’  What do we have to do to get guys to understand, let’s just be a vicious team, let’s go out and fight.

We are just not that right now.”

For the record, UK jumped out to an 18-2 start and then coasted to an 87-62 win.

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Calipari Says He’s Serious About His Player-First View

If you’re not believing John Calipari’s recent statement that he would consider a national title to be a disappointment if he didn’t also get some players drafted, check out these comments:

“When you make decisions after the season, if it was just about winning championship, what do you think I would recommend to all of these players?  I’d say: ‘Come back.  I need to help your free-throw shooting.  You’ll be bigger.  You’ll be better prepared in the NBA by staying two more years.’ 

I just don’t do it that way.  And as this has happened, we encourage kids to chase their dreams.”

Most Kentucky fans are sharp enough to grasp Calipari’s unstated logic:

* If you’re a player-first program, your recruiting should be good

* If your recruiting is good, you should be in the running for a national title

But if Calipari doesn’t break through at some point with a national crown, you have to wonder if Wildcat fans who are used to hanging banners will be so understanding of Coach Cal’s player-first view.

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It’s The Heart Of Football Season In The SEC (Unless You Live In Kentucky)

Every October, just as the SEC football races are heating up, the fanbase of one school turns its eyes to basketball.  No surprise, really.  With John Calipari at Kentucky the Cats are going to be national title contenders each and every year.  While their football team, uh, won’t be.

Well the annual shift in focus in underway.  With Big Blue Madness schedule for tonight, the sporting world is focusing in on Kentucky’s 2011-12 basketball team.  Examples:

1.  Kentucky actually held a rehearsal for tonight’s first practice last night.

2.  The Wildcats know that expectations are sky-high.

3.  This writer says if Coach Cal doesn’t win a national title soon, people will begin to wonder if he ever will.  (Which means little because Jim Boeheim and Roy Williams took forever to get over that hump.)

4.  Calipari says as long as he’s in Lexington, UK will always be player-first when it comes to NBA draftees versus championships.  (That’s nothing more than a recruiting tool, of course.)

5.  UK freshmen are learning just how bright the spotlight is in Lexington.

6.  Marquis Teague has big shoes to fill as the latest Calipari-brand point guard.

7.  To insure others won’t sell their autographed memorabilia, Cat players have been advised to personalize all autographs.

8.  Guard Jon Hood is working to rehab his knee.

For everyone else… we’ll now turn our attention back to football.

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Calipari Says Charity Work Is Part Of His Job

Ask anyone outside the state of Kentucky (anyone not named Vitale) about John Calipari and you’re likely to hear some pretty negative remarks.  Cheating will no doubt come up… even though the coach has never once been accused of any wrongdoing by the NCAA.

But lost in the hubbub surrounding Coach Cal’s recruiting methods is the fact that he has done an awful lot of good in the communities in which he’s lived.  Calipari was a charity force in Memphis and he’s now becoming much the same in Lexington.  And don’t forget the Haitian relief telethon that he helped to organize last year.

UK’s coach flat sees charity work as being part of his job:

“If you want to cheat that position (of coach), you sit in there and watch basketball tapes.  I understand what my job is here: coach basketball.  But I think I cheat that position if that’s all I think about all day.”

Calipari made those comments yesterday while announcing plans to launch a new charity venture designed to teach Kentucky youths how to handle their money.  The project is called “Vault: Understanding Money” and it targets kids in grades four through six.

Why wasn’t this program geared toward high school students?  “They’ll say I’m doing it for recruiting,” Calipari said.

Say what you will about his ethics, but UK’s coach is nothing if not community-involved.

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Writer: UK Extension Won’t Stop Calipari To Knicks Rumors

Marc Berman of The New York Post doesn’t think John Calipari’s new $36.5 million deal with Kentucky will stave off rumors that he might head to the New York Knicks.  At least not as long as “powerful agency CAA still thinks it runs the Knicks.”

As you probably know by now, Calipari buddy William “Worldwide Wes” Wesley works for CAA.  As long as Wesley is friends with Coach Cal and CAA continues to sink its tentacles into the Knicks, Calipari-to-the-Knicks rumors will circulate.

Berman seems to believe them, by the way:

“Will (Calipari) be coaching Kentucky when he’s 60, when the contract ends?  Don’t bet on it.  The time is just about now to make the switch to the NBA.  His time as head coach of the Nets in the late ’90s should be a distant memory by now.  It is almost time for him to get another shot.”

Berman points out that during this week’s SEC teleconference, Calipari said, “Obviously there’s buyouts and all that kind of stuff in there,” when asked about his new contract.

Ah, ha!

Only Calipari had this to say on ESPN Radio this week:

“What (AD Mitch Barnhart) ended up doing is moving some longevity bonuses up a little bit, some other bonuses around a little bit and then he put stuff toward the end of the contract.  We added some buyout stuff so he felt comfortable. … I’m not looking to leave.  this was about him wanting to reward me without going bonkers.  I was fine with that.  If we keep doing well at Kentucky, they’ll come back.”

Good to know that $36.5 million isn’t going “bonkers.”

Berman also claims — as others have — that UK’s coach would jump to the NBA if a coach/GM or coach/president job were offered to him.  We still believe, however, that if Calipari is as smart as we at think he is, he’ll remember how Rick Pitino walked away from the greatest gig in college basketball only to wash out in the NBA.  Now Pitino plays second-fiddle to Coach Cal who’s occupying his old seat in Lexington.  If Calipari is smart, he’ll stay right where he is.

(Thanks to John Clay of The Lexington Herald-Leader for bringing this one to our attention.)

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Kennedy, Donovan Praise Kentucky

During yesterday’s SEC basketball coaches teleconference the subject of John Calipari’s new mega-contract came up again and again.  And while the league’s other coaches said all the right things about Coach Cal, a couple of them had even better things to say about the school the employs him.

Ole Miss’ Andy Kennedy:

“… I think when you start setting the standard for the epitome for success for college basketball, you start with Kentucky.  No offense to Cal, but that started way before he got there.  Obviously, it’s the most storied program in the history of college basketball.  The most passionate fan base of any collegiate following that I’ve ever been a part of.  And he’s done a tremendous job of going in and selling that product.  He’s an excellent coach.”

Billy Donovan of Florida:

“Every program aspires to build that kind of tradition. … Kentucky’s always been Kentucky.  It’s been that way for 60 years.  … They are truly the measuring stick.”

I think the PR department at UK just got some free and easy quotes to use in this year’s hoops media guide.

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Bilas Praises Calipari’s Honesty

When he’s out recruiting a new batch of potential one-and-doners, Kentucky’s John Calipari is very honest about his goal of making his guys NBA-ready as quickly as possible.

ESPN basketball analyst Jay Bilas likes the approach.  When asked about Coach Cal’s penchant for using the NBA as a recruiting tool, he said:

“All of them do.  I tend to think John is one of the most honest about it.  John’s out front (with) ‘We want to prepare you to be a pro.’  Nothing wrong with that.  Kids want to be pros.  It’s OK to pursue that dream.”

Calipari should have two more players taken in the first five picks tonight.

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Calipari Wants Fans To Give His Team Space

Preparing for the Final Four in Houston this weekend, John Calipari has posted a request for Kentucky fans on his website,

“If we take care of our business, there will be plenty of time to get autographs and personal photos beginning next Tuesday,” Coach Cal said.  “We have the greatest fans in America and we want to reward them with our players’ undivided attention, focus and peak physical condition.”

You can scream at them, cheer for them in the open practice and take pictures from afar — but in order to make sure they — and our staff — don’t get worn down by thousands and thousands of requests at the hotel an in public, I’m just asking that you’ll give us all our space while we’re in Houston,” Coach Cal said.  “I mean no disrespect at all and I know you all understand that we take pride in being The Commonwealth’s Team.  But this is a business trip for these young men and our program.  Let’s take care of business first and then we can have some fun later.”

Expect Kentucky fans to take over Reliant Stadium on Saturday.

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Calipari, Liggins Lead UK Back To The Final Four

It’s been a while, but basketball royalty is returning to a familiar castle.  For the first time since 1998, Kentucky is headed to the Final Four.

Yesterday’s 22-point effort from an ever-improving Brandon Knight helped lead the Wildcats past North Carolina 76-69 to set up a national semifinal date with UConn in Houston next Saturday.  “We got Kentucky back,” said senior Josh Harrellson.  “A lot of people doubted us.  A lot of people really didn’t think we’d be the team we are.  We really pulled it together as a team, and we’re back now.”

DeAndre Liggins might have had the biggest impact on yesterday’s game with three steals, four assists, 12 points and a key three-pointer with 35 seconds remaining.

Two years ago when UK took a risk and a PR hit by bringing in John Calipari and his reputation — fairly earned or not — the high-hopers in the Bluegrass State would have told you they expected Elite Eights and Final Fours.  That’s just what Coach Cal has given them in his two years in Lexington.  And he’s done it quickly.

“I thought he was building toward it,” said outgoing UK president Lee Todd.  “But I didn’t think this was the year.”  The fact that Kentucky lost so much from last season — an entire starting line-up to the NBA, for example — makes this Calipari’s best-ever coaching job.  His team has gotten better as the season has rolled along.

(We pause here to remember all the crying and whining about UK’s tourney seed two weeks ago.  If your team is hot, the difference between a #3 seed and a #4 seed is microscopic.  As we said at the time, thank you very much.)

This trip will be Kentucky’s 14th to the Final Four.  Only UCLA (18), North Carolina (18) and Duke (15) have more.  It’s Calipari’s third — scratch that — first trip to the Final Four.  His previous trips in 1996 with UMass and in 2008 with Memphis were later vacated due to NCAA issues.

Congrats to the Cats for carrying the SEC banner all the way to Houston.

Some links:

This writer says Coach Cal has proven that he’s more than just a recruiter.

Calipari has convinced UK’s president that if a banner goes up in Lexington this year, it won’t come down.

Kentucky’s coach says he and UConn’s Jim Calhoun aren’t the best of buds.

The end of UK’s Final Four drought came with great emotion.

A number of notable Cat fans chimed in about the victory on Twitter.

Rapper Jay-Z and William “Worldwide Wes” Wesley were waiting for Calipari in UK’s lockerroom after the game.

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