Maui chief Odom doesn't mind Calipari kicking sand

Herald-Leader Staff WriterNovember 21, 2010 

Given his 43 seasons as a college coach, tournament chairman Dave Odom was not alarmed when John Calipari complained this summer about having to take his Kentucky team to the EA Sports Maui Invitational. Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, and coaches gotta worry about any possible problem.

With travel across five time zones and stiff competition part of the package, Calipari wondered aloud if Maui might be too much for his freshman-oriented team. He all but wished UK didn't have to go. Would the travel drain his players? Would quite-possible defeats damage a young team's psyche?

"I had people ask if I was mad at John," Odom said last week. "Absolutely not. I understand what he said and why he said it. But I also understand when he said it and what his main concern was."

Odom, who retired as South Carolina coach in 2008, could have anticipated Calipari voicing misgivings. When he became Maui Invitational chairman in 2009, Odom called the participating teams for 2010 to make sure all was well. Told by UK staffer Martin Newton about Calipari's concerns, Odom set up a meeting.

"We talked through the whole issue," Odom said. "As it got closer to the season, John, like every head coach, becomes more concerned with team preparation and their ability to play through a whole season with enough energy and stamina."

One other concern involved money. Calipari wanted to play a closed scrimmage against another college team this pre-season. But that would mean one fewer exhibition game, which also meant one fewer source of revenue (in UK's case, a loss of about $400,000).

Odom couldn't help with the lost revenue, so Kentucky played two exhibitions. But Calipari's financial concerns, which were also shared by Duke, led Odom to expand the Maui format to include a home game prior to going to Hawaii beginning next year.

As for fatigue and defeat, Odom downplayed Calipari's concerns. He cited history: the two winningest teams in the Maui Invitational are North Carolina (13-2 record) and Duke (12-0). Each has made multiple appearances in the tournament. Both are among college basketball's elite programs.

Three teams that won the Maui Invitational went on to win the national championship: Michigan in 1988-89 and North Carolina in 2004-05 and 2008-09. If that's not enough evidence, here's another factoid to ponder: Of the last 11 Maui Invitational champions, five advanced to the Final Four the next spring: North Carolina in 2000, Arizona in '01, North Carolina in '05, UCLA in '07 and North Carolina in '09.

"We forget these kids are young," Odom said. "They're not 40, 45, 50, 55, 60 years old. They recover quickly. You don't have to worry about that."

Odom mentioned another factor: the UK fans. Calipari's first obligations are to the team and to the university, Odom said. But the UK coach should also be mindful of the fans.

"He knows the fans count on this trip every four years," Odom said. "They would be sorely disappointed if he had not come."

For this year's event, Kentucky and Michigan State led the way by selling out their allotment of 400 tickets within a week, Odom said.

However it goes for Kentucky this week on Maui, Calipari will know tournament officials want UK to return in 2014.

"What I'm pulling for is he has a pleasant, pleasurable and enjoyable experience," Odom said, "and will want to come back."

Afterward, Odom hopes Calipari asks for a chance to bring another UK team to Maui.

And if that doesn't happen?

"I will go to Lexington with an invitation in my pocket to hand deliver to him," Odom said before adding, "You can put that down."

Retirement plan

When he retired as South Carolina coach at age 66, Dave Odom harbored a secret fear. "I privately worried if I would be busy enough," he said last week.

Former Georgia coach Hugh Durham returned to the sideline for Jacksonsville because, he said, retirement led him to know when the television show Walker, Texas Ranger aired.

Good fortune smiled on Odom as he returned to his Outer Banks beach home after a jog two years ago. His cell phone rang. Would he like to meet with Kemper Sports executive vice president Tom Valdiserri about becoming tournament chairman for the EA Sports Maui Invitational.

This was on a Thursday. The following Tuesday found Odom in Chicago meeting with Valdiserri. He took the job on Wednesday.

As tournament chairman, Odom's main duty is to find teams to play in the Maui Invitational. That doesn't seem like a tough job given the palm trees, hula girls, sunshine and, did I mention hula girls?

Pittsburgh Coach Jamie Dixon called the other morning at 3 a.m. Hawaiian time (8 a.m. in Pittsburgh) to ask about his Panthers playing in the 2014 event.

"We do not — and I don't ever — expect a problem getting a very strong field to Maui," Odom said.

National television coverage on ESPN's various channels and the Hawaiian setting make for an easy sell.

Not that Odom is worry-free.

He likened the Maui Invitational to the Rose Bowl. Whatever you think of that comparison, a full house of fans in the Lahaina Civic Center makes the tournament special.

Odom said he worried that schools from the Southeastern and Big 12 conferences might have difficulty bringing a large number of fans. "Football is so big at most of those conference schools," he said.

Tennessee represents the SEC on Maui next year and Mississippi State in 2012. But with big football games around the same time, for instance Alabama-Auburn the day after Thanksgiving this year, Odom wonders if fans will want to follow basketball teams to Hawaii.

"We don't worry about Kentucky," he said. "Kentucky could sell out the entire tournament if we let it happen."

$33,033

Kentucky faces a big problem in its appeal to have Enes Kanter's eligibility restored. In ruling the UK freshman permanently ineligible, the NCAA said he received $33,033 in excess of the permitted "actual and necessary" expenses in the 2008-09 season. That's $33,033 over the line in Kanter's last season with the Turkish professional team, Fenerbahce Ulker.

Some media outlets have misrepresented the $33,033 as either the total amount of compensation Kanter received in three seasons with Fenerbahce Ulker or the amount over the line in a three-year period.

According to The New York Times, Kanter received a monthly salary of more than $6,500 in his third and final season for Fenerbahce Ulker.

To put the $33,033 figure in context, the average net income in Istanbul in 2008 was the equivalent of $7,722.65 in U.S. currency, according to Turkey's official statistical agency.

So the $33,033 represents more than four times the average net income in Istanbul that year.

No shows

UK's most famous fan, actress and activist Ashley Judd, did not plan to attend the Maui Invitational. "I'll do my usual thing of watching on TV with Tom Leach and Mike Pratt doing the call," she wrote in an e-mail.

Jim O'Connell, the long-time college basketball editor for The Associated Press, will miss this year's tournament. He has covered 18 of the previous 26 Maui Invitationals. "Besides Madison Square Garden and Carnesecca Arena, I have seen more games in the Lahaina Civic Center than all those other buildings," he wrote in an e-mail.

O'Connell expected to be in Kansas City this weekend. Wayne Duke asked O'Connell to be his presenter during induction ceremonies for the College Basketball Hall of Fame. "That's pretty cool for me," O'Connell wrote.

Duke's many roles in college sports include being the No. 2 man at NCAA headquarters, Big Ten commissioner and Maui Invitational chairman.

No 'jinx' for UK

No Kentucky player graced the cover of Sports Illustrated's college basketball issue. The magazine hit newsstands last week with four regional covers.

The players on the covers were Duke's Nolan Smith, Michigan State's Kalin Lucas, Kansas State's Jacob Pullen and Washington's Isaiah Thomas.

Here are some "fun" facts Sports Illustrated noted while announcing which players would be on the covers:

■ Smith's appearance marked the 19th time a Duke player made the cover. That ranks eighth in SI covers among college athletic programs.

■ Lucas made the cover for a third time. That's one more than Magic Johnson during his career at Michigan State. Overall, it was the 10th time the Spartans graced the cover.

■ Kansas State last made the cover of the March 23, 1981, issue featuring Rolando Blackman. That is the only other time the cover featured a Kansas State player.

■ This is the second straight year Thomas has graced the West regional cover of the college basketball issue.

Counting all sports, here's the top five schools in terms of cover appearances:

1. Oklahoma (34)

T2. Notre Dame (29)

T2. UCLA (29)

T2. Ohio State (29)

T5. Southern Cal (27)

T5. Texas (27)

Kentucky athletes have been featured on 13 covers, which ties for the 12th-most appearances.

Comparing debuts

Here's how the last four heralded point guards for John Calipari fared in their debuts:

Derrick Rose made eight of 16 shots (1-for-5 from three-point range) while scoring 17 points, grabbing five rebounds and having one assist.

Tyreke Evans made seven of 12 shots (0-for-2 from behind the arc) while scoring 19 points, grabbing three rebounds and having three assists.

John Wall made four of nine shots (1-for-2 from three) while scoring 19 points, grabbing five rebounds and having five assists.

Brandon Knight made six of 13 shots (4-for-7 from three) while scoring 17 points, grabbing five rebounds and having two assists.

Turkey day feast

Regional network Wazoo Sports plans six hours of coverage devoted to UK basketball Thursday.

The six hours will revisit three classic games from past NCAA Tournaments, plus a documentary of the Cats' 1958 championship season, narrated by Adolph Rupp.

Tipping off the day at 2 p.m. will be a replay of UK's win over Syracuse in the 1996 national title game.

UK's loss to Texas Western in the 1966 title game follows at 4:30.

The documentary on the 1957-58 team starts at 5:45 p.m. with UK's victory over Seattle in the 1958 title game beginning at 6:45.

Wazoo Sports has taken the original film and the original radio broadcast from the legendary Claude Sullivan to create a digitized version of the 1958 game.

Wazoo Sports programming may be viewed on WLEX digital channel 18.2 in Lexington or on Insight channel 524.

Happy birthday

To Rupp's Runt Louie Dampier. He turned 66 on Saturday.

Jerry Tipton covers UK basketball for the Herald-Leader. This article contains his opinions and observations. Reach him at jtipton@herald-leader.com.

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