By LARRY VAUGHT
Odds are the first time John Calipari saw Walter McCarty was the 1995-96 college basketball season.
Calipari was coaching at UMass and McCarty was playing at Kentucky for Rick Pitino on what turned out to be a national championship team.
The teams met twice that year. McCarty had 17 points, seven rebounds, one assist and one steal in a 92-82 loss to UMass in the Great Eight in Detroit. A few months later in the Final Four, Kentucky beat UMass 81-74 in the semifinals. McCarty had eight points, 10 rebounds, four assists, one block and played terrific defense on UMass star Marcus Camby in UK’s win.
Tonight Calipari will see McCarty again when the Evansville coach brings the Aces to Rupp Arena to play No. 1 UK.
“I’ve known Walter for a long time, so it won’t change how I play the game but I’m happy for him. Watching his team, he’s doing some good stuff. I’m always happy when we can bring guys back here,” Calipari said.
“Bringing them coaching teams, we’ve done it before. I think it’s a great thing. You just want them to know, in Walter’s case, you won a national title here. You’re a part of the history of this program. And I think our fans, he’ll feel that coming back.”
Calipari doesn’t remember a lot about McCarty from the 1996 Final Four. However, he remember plenty about UK guard Tony Delk.
“Tony Delk was upstairs and I said to Tony, ‘We’re a little short in practice. We may need you.’ He said, ‘I can stand in that corner.’ I said, ‘No, I’ve seen that one. How many did you make in that game? Six?’ He goes, ‘Seven,’” Calipari said.
“He still knows exactly how many he made. It’s good that those guys are back. They’re good guys. They have always been kind to me. This program is a part of their family.”
Delk was 7-for-16 in the Final Four win over UMass and had 20 points.