By LARRY VAUGHT
Remember back in December of 2011 when Kentucky’s eventual national championship team lost at Indiana and had to watch the IU fans storm the court after the win. It led to UK coach John Calipari deciding he would no longer go to Bloomington to play and the end of the UK-Indiana series.
The Indiana coach then was Tom Crean, the same Tom Crean now coaching at Georgia and the same Tom Crean who is friends with Calipari despite the 2011 incident that led to the end of the Hoosiers and Wildcats playing.
Kentucky beat Georgia 89-79 Tuesday night in Rupp Arena for its second win over Crean’s Bulldogs in two weeks. However, after the game it was a loveliest for Calipari when Crean started his postgame remarks.
“First, I’ll say this about John. It’s so easy to take that success for granted that he has here. Those young men get better and better constantly,” Crean said. “What he does with their skill level, perseverance, togetherness, toughness, and getting them to buy into one another is really extraordinary.
“I know you guys see that on a daily basis. I’ve respected him for a long time, and I’m not just saying that because I’m friends with him, but I’m saying this because its mind-boggling how good of a job he does with them.”
Why is it mind-boggling?
“That team just gets better and better. We tried to beat them, and we couldn’t. We were close at times. They don’t beat themselves very often, but I think that is a tribute to how well he coaches, how well he teaches, what he demands, and then eventually what happens, and I think you will start to see it now,” Crean said.
“Obviously, he has a huge personality, but the personality of your team comes from him because they start self-directing, and they start being a player of that team. I think that is what I saw tonight from them, and that is what we aspire to be. We are very young, but over the years what he has done has made teams better and better throughout the season.”
Crean warned not to take for “granted” what Calipari does just because UK fans have grown accustomed to his success.
“I know you see it every day there has been success in this program for decades, but it is really extraordinary what he does,” Crean said.
The Georgia coach said he was proud of the way his young team battled and hopes this is a growing experience against an elite team.
“We went at it with them, but they are just an outstanding team and there is a reason why they are the class of what they are at college basketball, and there is a reason why he is the coach that he is. You get out there with him and see how tough he is,” Crean said.
Georgia fell to 11-7 overall and just 1-4 in conference play but Calipari returned Crean’s praise by saying he’s done a “great job” at Georgia.
“They’re going to win games. I just told their team as we walked off, ‘Go win games. You’re as good as anybody we played. Go win games.’ (Rayshaun) Hammonds, I mean, come on,” Calipari said.
“They’re close. They beat Tennessee by 20. They got us twice and at Auburn, that’s — what? Their start was ridiculous. Now, let’s see where they go. Tom’s terrific and I think they will be fine, and I want them to, at this point I want them to beat everybody.”