By LARRY VAUGHT
Innovative is a fair word to use when talking about Kentucky coach John Calipari and I’ve been convinced for years that he’s serious about wanting to have a Chinese player on the Kentucky roster.
That’s why the way he ended his postgame press conference after Tuesday’s win over Texas A&M didn’t surprise me after my buddy, freelance UK writer John Huang, told Calipari he understood he was fluent in Mandarin Chinese.
“Ni hao. Shay shay . I would talk in Chinese but none of you would understand what I’m saying, so …” Calipari said.
Wait. I told Calipari that Huang might understand him.
“It would be he and I talking by ourselves, so I won’t do that to the rest of you. We’d start laughing and you’d go, ‘What are you laughing about?’ ” Calipari smile and said.
But what Huang wanted to talk about was the the Chinese National team coach being in Lexington all week and wondered if Calipari realized how popular that coach was in China.
“Two weeks ago I wasn’t real popular (after UK lost to Seton Hall) but that’s OK,” Calipari said before explaining that the Chinese coaches called about coming to UK.
That’s something Calipari had done at Memphis.
“I brought probably 50 to 60 Chinese coaches over and worked week, two weeks at a time. We kept one coach for an entire season, and the whole idea was to connect. I was hoping at some point to get a Chinese player, maybe from the United States, maybe from China, because you may not understand, their CCTV sports, 350 million people watch it,” Calipari said.
“That’s who is watching this sports stuff. To be that kind of program, worldwide, and I’d like it for this program the same. If we could get a Chinese player who would want to come here and can play here, make me happy.
“And again, Coach Li (Nan) has been over here like three times. This is his third time to be with us and Coach (Limin) Xu is the women’s national team coach. Coach Li played for Del Harris on the national team. He was the captain. So yeah, he is very — he’s very famous and very well liked over in China. ”