UK-North Carolina notes

Notes: Todd, Barnhart say this Final Four is safe

Coach: no grudge against Calhoun

jtipton@herald-leader.comMarch 28, 2011 

NEWARK, N.J. — Sunday night's victory over North Carolina advanced Kentucky to a rematch with Connecticut in the national semifinals.

UConn beat the Cats 84-67 on Maui in November, which remains the only double-digit margin of defeat for Calipari in two seasons as UK coach.

"Well, they beat us by 25," Calipari told reporters.

When advised, mistakenly, that the margin was 18, Calipari said, "It was 18 going on 50, OK? ... It felt like 50."

Cal vs. Calhoun

Calipari acknowledged that he and UConn Coach Jim Calhoun are not big buddies. "We don't send cards to each other," the UK coach said.

The problem in their relationship dates to Connecticut native Marcus Camby, a highly regarded prospect, signing with a low-profile Massachusetts program led by an up-and-coming young coach named Calipari.

"I respect him and what he does," Calipari said of Calhoun.

The UK coach said as much in congratulating Calhoun after UConn beat Kentucky in Maui.

"I was outcoached badly and I told Jim Calhoun afterward," Calipari said. "I said, 'You did a fabulous job.' And he did. ... He never lost control of the game. I was the jayvee coach."

Whatever disagreements exist between the coaches, Calipari said he's now too old to hold grudges.

"I'm old, the old coach," he said. "I used to be the young guy. Now, I'm old. I need to go to bed by nine."

Liggins wants Kemba?

A few weeks ago, UK's defensive stopper, DeAndre Liggins, said he wanted another chance to defend UConn All-American Kemba Walker. A rematch would be different, Liggins said.

Walker scored 29 points, handed out six assists and committed only two turnovers in a bravo 38-minute performance against Kentucky in Maui.

When told that Liggins said he wanted another chance to defend Walker, Calipari said, "I don't want Kemba again. I saw Kemba up close, and it was not fun. And DeAndre guarded him last time."

Calipari saluted Walker and a UConn closing kick that is similar to Kentucky's in terms of its destiny's darlings quality.

"Kemba Walker is not a good player," Calipari said. "He's a great player. He's a great player who willed his team. He has willed individual players and his team. ... And for some reason, I don't think that will is going to diminish here next week. So our hands are full."

Todd, Barnhart happy for Calipari

After Kentucky beat North Carolina on Sunday to advance to the Final Four, UK President Lee T. Todd Jr. and Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart promised that this appearance on college basketball's grandest stage will not be vacated.

Of course, Coach John Calipari's teams at Massachusetts and Memphis had to later vacate Final Four appearances in 1996 and 2008, respectively.

"This Final Four banner will stay," Todd said. "I'm so proud of him."

As he did in a recent story in Sports Illustrated, Todd vouched for the kind of program led by Calipari.

Criticism of Calipari would be stifled, Todd said, "if people knew him like I do."

Barnhart echoed the sentiment, saying he was "very confident" that Kentucky's place in the 2011 Final Four will remain in the official record books.

"I know the staff and how hard they work to protect the program," Barnhart said. " ... I'm happy for Cal because of the criticism he's had to endure."

Todd and Barnhart acknowledged the surprise that came with this Kentucky team advancing to the Final Four.

"That was special," Todd said after climbing a makeshift stage at center court to participate in the crowning of Kentucky as NCAA Tournament East Regional champs. "It's just hard to imagine we've been here 10 years (as UK president) and not been to the Final Four.

"To do it after losing five first-round draft picks shows you what kind of coach we have and the heart these players have."

Todd said he expected Calipari to make Kentucky an annual contender for the Final Four. "But I didn't know that they were this year," he added.

Noting Todd's retirement at the end of June, Barnhart called the trip to Houston for the Final Four "a great way for Dr. Todd to go out."

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