John Clay: Calipari's ejection overshadows sluggish start

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistDecember 19, 2010 

It was pretty much a boring, run-of-the-mill guarantee game, Kentucky trying to pay attention while putting away an overmatched Mississippi Valley State.

And then, with 6:44 left, official Mike Stuart hit John Calipari with a technical foul.

Then, 18 seconds later, he did again.

Technical No. 2.

See you.

Kentucky put five players in double figures and ended up handling Sean Woods' traveling band 85-60 at Rupp Arena.

"I wish I could have played them a month ago," Woods said afterward of his alma mater. "They're getting better every day."

Meanwhile, the officials sent one Kentucky coach to the showers.

So afterward, the talk wasn't Terrence Jones sleepwalking through the first half, or Darius Miller's improved aggressiveness, or Brandon Knight's half-court bank shot that ended the first half and put the Cats up by 20 points.

The talk was Calipari's ejection.

"That's the first time I've been thrown out of a game, college or pro," Calipari said afterward. "What can I tell you."

Actually, he has been thrown out once, as coach of Massachusetts on Feb. 24, 1996.

The question was: What did Cal say to get himself run?

The coach claimed in his post-game press conference, "I didn't say two words to those guys."

Lip-readers at the UK end of the floor thought Calipari was upset Stuart would not come over to talk to him about a call.

Some believed they saw the coach say something about "respect."

As Aretha sang, "R-E-S-P-C-T/Find out what it means to me."

According to historians, the last Kentucky coach to be ejected from a game was Rick Pitino in the regular-season-finale loss to South Carolina at Rupp Arena in 1997.

It should be noted, that Kentucky team went to the national championship game before losing to Arizona. So maybe there's a good precedent here.

In the end, Cal being told to leave the floor didn't have any affect on the outcome of the game, but it was interesting to see the coach get himself run in a game that was already decided.

Maybe Calipari had some Christmas shopping to do.

Maybe he wanted to beat the traffic.

Or maybe he just wanted to get Jones' attention. UK's fab freshman was a no-show in the first half, picking up two fouls against just one field goal. He played just six minutes. No word on whether he again took a pre-game nap, a la North Carolina, where the Portland native suffered through an off-game.

But Jones did turn it on in the second half and finished with 19 points and eight rebounds.

"But those numbers aren't real," said Calipari, who shook his head at Jones' slow start.

When engaged from the get-go, Jones can be as good a rookie as there is in college basketball. And when the Cats start knocking heads with their brethren in the SEC East, they will need him to be one of the best in college basketball.

"We'd better (get him where he needs to be)," Calipari said.

Meanwhile, Doron Lamb, another first-timer, continues to impress. The freshman guard scored 12 in the first half and 16 for the game.

"He tailed off," Cal said.

But then Calipari didn't see the last 6:22 of it, anyway.

"I took my coat off, put my feet up, had a little drink of water and said this ain't so bad," he said.

Over on the other bench, Woods said, he did not know what Cal said to earn Stuart's hook, but said the game reminded him of when Pitino was kicked out one night at Vanderbilt when the Commodores shot a ton of free throws.

On this night, Kentucky shot 32 free throws. Mississippi Valley shot 10.

Two of those 10 were technical foul shots.

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.

Lexington Herald-Leader is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service