Cats vs. Cards

Coaches make it a dream game

Calipari and Pitino re-energize in-state rivalry

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistJanuary 2, 2010 

OK, so what do you think?

Will former BFFs Rick Pitino and John Calipari exchange punches in the pre-game hand-shake?

Will the inhabitants of the E-Rupp-tion zone wear blonde wigs, chant blue cheers and suffer Sharpie-fume highs from their dizzying array of unspeakable signs?

Will the magic man, Kentucky freshman John Wall, zip past the visitors with such breathtaking speed the Coyotes, er, Cardinals, will drop right off the cliff in hot pursuit?

Or will the King of Prep himself, Pitino, find a way to saddle DeMarcus Cousins with foul trouble before he even leaves the bench, thus sparking U of L to the greatest upset in the history of this glorious uncivil war?

You'd think after a quarter-century this annual knockdown, drag-out Kentucky-Louisville rivalry might be growing old hat, whether your hat be red or blue.

You'd be wrong.

It just keeps getting better.

In fact, Saturday's edition of what they used to call the "Dream Game" may be the most-hyped, most-anticipated rendition of Red vs. Blue in the entire history of their combative clashes.

Or at least since the first time a certain former UK coach led the 'Ville on the floor of Rupp Arena.

"I think it's going to be like the North Carolina game, only 100 times worse," said UK's John Wall on Friday.

"Everybody's been talking about this game," said Louisville center Samardo Samuels on Wednesday. "It's starting to wear on me a little bit."

In fact, the atmosphere is so charged that after UK's hammering of poor Hartford on Tuesday, Kentucky's Calipari channeled Ron Burgundy, imploring UK fans to stay classy when the Cards come to town.

"No chants," he said. "No posters."

"I don't think the students and fans are going to stick to Cal's advice on this one," said James Pennington, sports columnist for the Kentucky Kernel, UK's student paper. "They should, but they won't. In a rivalry like this, personal matters will never be sacred."

Before Friday's practice, however, Calipari admitted that while he hoped the fans would honor his request, "I'm not the Rupp police."

After all, Saturday's must-see quotient revolves around the two coaches — the man who once occupied the Big Blue throne, and the man who occupies it now — and the juicy storyline of friends turned enemies.

After Louisville's win over South Florida on Tuesday, a reporter tried to ask Pitino about all the personal dynamics and the Louisville coach cut the question off faster than his team's trademark double-downs.

"Let's stick to basketball, OK," snapped Pitino.

"I respect him," said Calipari of Pitino on Friday.

That didn't stop Cal from having some fun with Pitino's "John Wall might be un-pressable" statement or Cal from referring to Louisville's "kneeing, hipping, riding, grabbing."

That's just the kind of thing that once caused Pitino to say Calipari had some "psychological problems."

So how would Cal characterize their relationship?

"We're fine," he said. "We're fine."

Ah, but there is a fervid faction of the Big Blue Nation that is just fine with the fact Calipari finds his way under Pitino's skin.

And the feeling is the Kentucky faithful might use Ricky P's scandalous summer as an excuse to treat their former coach a bit rudely when he makes his way into Rupp.

"I know they're going to say some nasty things to Coach," said U of L's Edgar Sosa, adding, "I can't imagine what it's going to be like when we walk out on that floor."

UK fans hope it's even nastier on the scoreboard. Let's be real here. Part of the BBN's foaming anticipation is based on the Calipari climate change that brings belief this is the year the third-ranked Cats could crush the Cards.

"I think Louisville fans are excited about the possibility of upsetting an archrival that's as good as they've been in many, many years," said Mike Rutherford, who runs the Card Chronicle blog, "but I think they're also realistic about the odds of it happening. ... Louisville's going to get Kentucky's best shot, and that's not a pleasant thought for Cardinal fans."

That doesn't mean Louisville is writing off Saturday.

"I've been hearing it since the summertime, the Kentucky game," said Samuels. "Now that it's here, we're just going to play the game, and hopefully everyone will forget about it."

Sorry, but this one figures to be unforgettable.


John Calipari

Age: 50

Born: Feb. 10, 1959, in Strickly, Pa.

Family: Wife, Ellen; daughters, Erin and Megan; son, Bradley, 12

Head-to-head record vs. Rick Pitino: 5-8 college, 3-3 NBA.

Coaching record

NCAA

88-89 Massachusetts 10-18

89-90 Massachusetts 17-14

90-91 Massachusetts 20-13

91-92 Massachusetts 30-5

92-93 Massachusetts 24-7

93-94 Massachusetts 28-7

94-95 Massachusetts 29-5

95-96 Massachusetts 35-2

00-01 Memphis 21-15

01-02 Memphis 27-9

02-03 Memphis 23-7

03-04 Memphis 22-8

04-05 Memphis 22-16

05-06 Memphis 33-4

06-07 Memphis 33-4

07-08 Memphis 38-2

08-09 Memphis 33-4

09-10 Kentucky 14-0

Total 17-plus seasons459-140

NCAA Tournament appearances: 11

NCAA Tournament record: 25-11

NCAA Final Fours: x-Two

NCAA championships: Zero

NBA

96-97 New Jersey 26-56

97-98 New Jersey 43-39

98-99 New Jersey 3-17

Totals Three seasons 72-112

Playoffs: One appearance, 0-3 record

Former John Calipari players currently on NBA rosters: Marcus Camby (L.A. Clippers), Rodney Carney (Philadelphia), Joey Dorsey (Houston), Chris Douglas-Roberts (New Jersey), Tyreke Evans (Sacramento), Derrick Rose (Chicago), Shawne Williams (Dallas).

x-Calipari took UMass to the 1996 Final Four and Memphis to the 2008 Final Four, but both appearances were vacated because of NCAA violations at those schools. The Memphis ruling, which would also vacate 38 wins in 2007-08, is under appeal.

Rick Pitino

Age: 57

Born: Sept. 18, 1952, in New York City

Family: Wife, Joanne; daughter, Jacqueline; sons, Michael, Christopher, Richard, Ryan

Head-to-head record vs. John Calipari: 8-5 college, 3-3 NBA

Coaching record

NCAA

78-79 Boston U. 17-9

79-80 Boston U. 21-9

80-81 Boston U. 13-14

81-82 Boston U. 19-9

82-83 Boston U. 21-10

85-86 Providence 17-14

86-87 Providence 25-9

89-90 Kentucky 14-14

90-91 Kentucky 22-6

91-92 Kentucky 29-7

92-93 Kentucky 30-4

93-94 Kentucky 27-7

94-95 Kentucky 28-5

95-96 Kentucky 34-2

96-97 Kentucky 35-5

01-02 Louisville 19-13

02-03 Louisville 25-7

03-04 Louisville 20-10

04-05 Louisville 33-5

05-06 Louisville 21-13

06-07 Louisville 24-10

07-08 Louisville 27-9

08-09 Louisville 31-6

09-10 Louisville 10-3

Total23-plus seasons562-200

NCAA Tournament appearances: 14

NCAA Tournament record: 38-13

NCAA Final Fours: Five

NCAA championships: One

NBA

87-88 New York 38-44

88-89 New York 52-30

97-98 Boston 36-46

98-99 Boston 19-31

99-00 Boston 35-47

00-01 Boston 12-22

Totals Six seasons 192-220

Playoffs: Two appearances, 6-7 record

Former Rick Pitino players currently on NBA rosters: Earl Clark (Phoenix), Francisco Garcia (Sacramento), Jamaal Magloire (Miami), Nazr Mohammed (Charlotte), Terrence Williams (New Jersey).

Cats-Cards records

How coaches for each school have fared in the Kentucky-Louisville series:

Kentucky

Coach Years W-L

Billy Gillispie 2007-09 0-2

Tubby Smith 1998-07 6-4

Rick Pitino 1989-97 6-2

Eddie Sutton 1985-89 3-1

Joe B. Hall 1972-85 2-2

Adolph Rupp 1930-72 2-1

George Buchheit 1920-24 2-0

James Park 1916 1-1

Alpha Brumage 1914-15 3-1

J.J. Tigert 1913 1-0

Total 26-14

Louisville

Coach Years W-L

Rick Pitino 2001-09 4-4

Denny Crum 1971-01 7-13

Bernard Hickman 1944-67 1-2

J.T. O'Rourke 1921-22 0-2

Ed Bowman 1915-18 1-1

Others 1911-15 1-4

Total 14-26

Reach John Clay at (859) 231-3226 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3226, or jclay@herald-leader.com. Read his blog at Kentucky.com.

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