By LARRY VAUGHT
You had to know that Kentucky coach John Calipari was going to talk about new Iona coach rick Pitino on his last weekly radio show tonight with Tom Leach.
Pitino, the former UK and Louisville coach, was hired at Iona Saturday. On the Dan Patrick Show Monday morning and said he would welcome a chance to play Kentucky where he won the 1996 national title in the Jimmy V. Classic at Madison Square Garden in New York — a move that ESPN analyst Dick Vitale embraced almost immediately after Pitino was hired.
Calipari didn’t make it sound like a game in New York would happen but did suggest Iona coming to Rupp Arena might be a possibility — something I am not sure Pitino would want or that most UK fans would, either.
“Neither one of us talked — he didn’t talk schedule. I didn’t talk schedule,” Calipari said about his phone conversation with Pitino. “I saw Dickie V go crazy about it, having us play there.
“I would imagine having Iona come to Rupp would be something that would be considered and I would expect our fans to be positive as they always are. They were even positive when we got beat by Evansville, so if we did that — and I’m not saying we will.
“Going to New York, our schedule is so wacky. We have one of the toughest schedules and the crazy thing is, it’s not enough.”
Okay, I did play the tape back to make sure I heard Calipari right. First, Iona coming to Rupp is something I suggested two hours after Pitino was hired. My reasoning was that the game would have a lot more hype than the typical home November game. It took about 20 minutes on social media for me to realize most UK fans wanted no part of Pitino in Rupp Arena (remember the one-finger salute he gave UK fans the last time he was in Rupp and lost to Calipari’s Cats). So don’t expect positivity by UK fans over this.
Second, what UK fans were positive when Kentucky got beat by Evansville? None that I know. Maybe Calipari was trying to be funny or sarcastic. But it didn’t quite come across that way.
Third, former Kentucky coach Joe B. Hall even poked a little fun at Calipari on their special on WKYT-TV Saturday night about how his schedule was tougher than Calipari’s. And hasn’t UK gone to the New York area to play before under Calipari?
Calipari has urged UK fans before to forgive Pitino, or at least be cordial to the former UK coach
“You know, of all the stuff — Tom, you probably know me fairly well. You look at people in different situations and you have a heart to say, ‘Wow.’ And you try to put yourself in those shoes and say, ‘What if it were me and I was going through that?’” Calipari said on the radio show.
“You don’t know if my response would be reciprocated. You don’t know that. But I do know if I were in those shoes and having to go through that, I would want some people to reach out to me to say, ‘Hey, I wish you well.’
“And that’s what I did. I just said, ‘Look. You’ve proven yourself as a coach, and you’re back in New York City and I wish you well.’”