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John Calipari believes UK “fans would be great” to Rick Pitino if he came back to ceremony honoring his accomplishments

Kentucky’s 1993 Final Four team was honored Saturday. (Vicky Graff Photo)


Kentucky continued a tradition of honoring outstanding teams this weekend when the 1992-93 Final Four team has its reunion and was recognized at halftime of Saturday’s UK-Utah game.
That’s the team that lost to Michigan and the Fab Five in New Orleans after UK senior guard Dale Brown injured his shoulder diving for a loose ball and then star Jamal Mashburn got called for fouls three, four and five in the final six minutes after the Cats had a six-point lead.
Not every player on that team came back — Tony Delk, Rodrick Rhodes and Travis Ford all had video messages played during the ceremony. Mashburn was not there and no reason was given.
Also missing was coach Rick Pitino, who remains beloved by his players despite eventually going to Louisville to coach and then encountering numerous off-court issues recently.

“Congrats 93 UK team! Proud of you guys and love the hell out of you. Thx Cal for reaching out. Much appreciated,” Pitino tweeted Saturday hours before the game.

It was a bit surprising that Kentucky coach John Calipari reached out to Pitino to invite him to attend. Calipari and Pitino were once a lot closer than they ended up after Calipari came to UK and Pitino was coaching at Louisville. But Calipari did the right thing — I think — reaching out to Pitino.

“He was with family and he had things going on. But you know, I just said, ‘Look, you need to get up here.’ They will be respectful here, and you know, what that program did to change this back.  I mean, we should recognize it,” Calipari said.

“They (fans) may be mad he went to coach at Louisville. So what? When he was here and when we needed this program on a different track, he put it, and that group — and I thanked that group last night: ‘You guys got this thing back going, you guys did.'”

Calipari said one of his “happiest” times now is to see how former UK coach Joe Hall, who won a national title in 1978, is treated by Kentucky fans now.

“He’s treated like royalty. I love it when he goes out on the court. I love to see him in practice and I love how our fans treat him.

My guess is, back in the day, they probably weren’t as friendly, okay. But now they look at it and say, you know what, who would have followed Adolph Rupp? Who is stupid enough to do that? He was,” Calipari said.

“He went to Final Fours, won national titles. Think about it.


Pitino came to try and clean up the mess created by coach Eddie Sutton that landed UK on probation for two years. Kentucky lost to Duke in the historic 1992 Elite Eight. It lost in the 1993 Final Four. The Cats lost to North Carolina in the Elite Eight in 1995 and then won the title in 1996. The next year UK lost in the national title game.

“He deserves to be able to get the respect from what he did here, and I think our fans would be great. You know, he may not think that, but I’m convinced that if he came back, that the fans would be great to him,” Calipari said after Saturday’s win over Utah.

Would the fans be great? Remember, Pitino did flip off UK fans the last time he left the Rupp Arena court when UK beat his Cards. Many fans would be gracious. Would they all? I kind of doubt it.

But like him or not, there’s no questioning his legacy and it seems like Calipari reaching out the way he did — even if there probably is no chance Pitino would ever accept the invitation — was the right thing to do.


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  1. Sorry, but there will be no respect for Pitino from this little corner of the BBN.

    1. IMO, Cal should just let this thing with Pitino alone and just worry about his 2018-19 team. Why even bring this subject up. Pitino made his bed. Pitino got all the respect necessary in his days here, but he sold the Big Blue out, it’s that simple for me. I would feel different if Pitino would admit his bad deeds while at Louisville and ask for forgiveness, but he has never done that to my knowledge. Just the opposite, he is still arrogant and defiant. The Joe Hall comparison Calipari makes when bringing up some sort of way to honor Pitino is silly. Joe Hall never turned his back on the Big Blue. Joe Hall is a Kentucky ICON.

      1. I agree with you, Larry…100%.

  2. Sorry guys I got a lot of respect for Rick for what he did to turn our program around. Aw my the 90^s were best as UK basketball came out of ash and rose to the top of college basketball world. No one has match Ricks track record as the UK coach since. Had that 92 team beaten Duke I’m sure we would have won the national title that year. Plus the 93 team that got beat by Michigan was a highway robbery by the refs and of course he set up the 96, 97,98 teams that creates two national titles and and a runner-up. CAL maybe close to his track record but the 90’s sure was a decade of fun watching UK basketball.

  3. Pitino is a morally deficient scumbag he made his. bed let him lay in it if he came into Rupp I would walk out and take down his jersey it is a disgrace to our tradition to see it there
    When he flipped off the fans at Rupp that was enough for me
    A curse on his him and his house

    1. Sorry UK MANAGER, everybody needs get the facts why he flipped his finger . So our UK fans are not angels as you think. It’s sad we live in a society that’s got hate and evil to in there eyes.

      1. So Mr.Expert please explain why Pitino flipped off Rupp Arena this outta be good

        1. As I stated my previous column maybe something was said him by our own fans like Rick stated it.

  4. Cats 79, you are one classy fan and human being and I totally agree with you!

    1. Thanks catfanjudi.

  5. Respectful? The way P was respectful toward UK fans at Rupp in the not so distant past?

  6. It’s funny I would say 99 percent of cats fans worship him as God at the time he was coaching at UK and now some has turn him off. So be what he flip his figure at the fans at Rupp but who started nobody but our fans was yelling at him and being disrespectful to him. Some cats fans blame P for the whole incident and who knows what was said to him. And another matter so what t he coach at Louisville

    1. That guy don’t have a loyal bone in his body Cats 79. He proved that the day he left UK for the NBA, and he sealed it for many of us when he signed on to take a pay check from that sorry bunch in Louisville, and UK’s biggest rival. I notice him, nor the AD that hired him to coach the Cards, are around anymore. Why is that? Because they wanted to win at any cost. Look what it got them. When Pitino was at Louisville, Louisville was getting solidly whipped by Calipari every year on the recruiting trail. Cal ‘s teams were dominating the Cards on the floor, So they hired “hookers” and had other shady transactions going on too beef up their recruitment process. In other words they had severe NCAA violations that cost them a National Championship. Pitino was right in the middle of all of it, but denies it to this day. He threw Coach McGhee under the bus in the process. So now Calipari suggests we bring this guy back to Rupp and honor him? If this ever were to happen, some of you will probably stand and cheer, I see that, but some of us see it much different than Calipari for even suggesting such a thing. Pitino’s teams were honored in the past with banners hung in the rafters, he was a great UK coach at one time, UK fans adored Pitino like you said, but he left the family, so let it lie is what I hope happens.

  7. That’s the problem Larry Pup you guys can’t let go when he left UK Jesus Christ that’s been over 20years ago. If you still have a grudgeon your chest now over a guy that left UK and coach at Louisville your wasted your mind and breath over it. Life goes on and cheer on the present time.

  8. Pitino left UK for what he perceived to be greener pastures. He found out that the grass was not as green in Boston as he thought it would be. Was I disappointed when he left UK for Boston? Of course I was disappointed and even a little angry. However, I got over all of that, especially after Coach Cal came to Kentucky.

    My problem with Pitino is what he has done AFTER he left UK ( specifically during his tenure at Louisville). I have no respect for him anymore and I doubt that I ever will. He is a shame and a reproach to the institution of college athletics, in my opinion. He has his place in UK basketball history, but the zebra did not change his stripes when he went to Louisville.

    In retrospect, I’m thankful that Pitino left UK before he did something that would have brought scandal to our beloved Kentucky basketball program (we’ve had enough of that already). I have no doubt that he would have eventually done the same thing at UK if he had stayed.
    I would be extremely disappointed to see him in Rupp Arena ever again.

  9. Hornet, so be it he left for greener dollars and coach at Louisville. I don’t get it why you guys dont have no respect for what he did to our program. It was the best decade the UK basketball program endure the 90’s since Rupp days. I can’t thank enough for Rick p what he did for UK. You guys can’t give were credit is due than I can see why you guys are being so negative regardless who’s the coach is.

    1. You have apparently failed to understand the point I’ve attempted to make regarding Rick Pitino.

      Pitino did a fantastic job at Kentucky. I don’t think anyone on this forum is denying that. I know that I am certainly not denying it.

      I’m 67 years old and I’ve been a Kentucky Basketball fan for as long as I can remember. I grew up listening to UK Basketball games on my little 6 transistor radio and I can honestly say that in all that time some of my best memories revolve around Pitino’s time as the Kentucky coach. Nevertheless, as I said in my previous post, I think Pitino’s actions AFTER he left UK have been indefensible and have brought a reproach on collegiate athletics.

      I wish Pitino well and I sincerely hope he and his family can move on with their lives. I just don’t think he needs to be honored for anything in Rupp Arena. I think that his appearance there would serve any useful purpose. Of course, the media outlets undoubtedly relish the idea of such a spectacle.

      As for the negativity you mention, I just don’t see much of it. Oh, there may be a very few haters, but overall, I think most of us on this forum are loyal UK fans who recognize or, at the very least “sense”, that there may be a problem developing within the UK Basketball program. To point that out, is not “negative” as you put it…It’s a valid observation in my opinion.

  10. I don’t need Calipari to remind me about what is right and wrong. He needs to stay away from this mess with Slick Rick.

    For me, it is not a question of what Pitino did for the program while he was here, it is all about what he did since that time, especially taking the UL job which was an in your face move in my opinion.

    I believe that he did it to show the BBN that the resurgence of UK basketball was all about him, when in fact it was mostly about UK, the BBN, and the program itself. He learned during his time at UL that his presence there did not come with the same magic that the UK program possesses, and as Calipari owned Pitino and UL over the last 9 years, Pitino’s weaker nature overwhelmed him and allowed all sorts of cheating to occur in order to keep up with UK and Calipari.

    I rejoice that Pitino will never have anything to do with college basketball ever again.

  11. Pitino did do good things for KY, but he was his own worst enemy. He thought he was a basketball god at KY, but his arrogance cost UK a title in 97. His time at Boston humbled him and made him a better coach when he went to Lousyville. But once again, his vanity and arrogance got the best of him. Such a shame.

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