Calipari says it's 'really good' to have father at Final Four

calipari's dad taking in games

Herald-Leader Staff WritersApril 2, 2011 

HOUSTON — Vince Calipari, the father of UK Coach John Calipari, watched Kentucky's public practice in Reliant Stadium on Friday from a front-row seat just off — and beneath — the raised court.

The elder Calipari said he attended his son's Final Four appearance in 1996 with Massachusetts but not the Memphis team's appearance in 2008.

When asked the difference in watching a game in person, Vince Calipari said, "It's not bad when you watch in person. On TV, you can shut it off and get mad."

That prompted a reporter to ask if he had to turn off any Kentucky games this season. The elder Calipari's face took on an expression that suggested it happened a time or two.

"Turn it off and sneak up on the Internet and see what the score is," he said.

When asked for a prediction, the elder Calipari said his Monday pick would let anyone know his pick in Saturday's Kentucky-Connecticut game.

"Kentucky," he said.

The elder Calipari is 78. "Borrowing time," he said.

Earlier this year, Calipari's mother passed away.

"It's been really hard for him since my mother died," the UK coach said of his father. "They had been married 54 years. He hadn't left the house in a while. But for the SEC Tournament, he came to Atlanta and we had a great time. He came down to Florida. He came to Newark, and he's here. We're really getting to spend some time with him and letting him enjoy, and take his mind off the grief that he's going through right now. It's been a hard road.

"It's nice for me to spend time with my dad, and for him with his grandson (Brad). They're on the bus together, they're staying in side-by-side (hotel) rooms and can see each other a lot. It's good stuff. Really good stuff."

First Final Four?

Dennis Dodd of CBS asked UK Coach John Calipari a playful — and pointed — question.

"I'm being facetious, but how does it feel to coach in your first Final Four?" Dodd said.

Replied Calipari: "I don't deal with that. We've been here three times. Those players played those games and did what they were supposed to. I'm so proud of what they've all accomplished. It's been fun. It's been a good experience. This is going to be a good experience."

The 'eyes' have it

Butler Coach Brad Stevens has been wearing stylish Nautica-brand eyeglasses since he had trouble with his contact lenses at the end of the regular season.

Stevens' spectacles have become a much-discussed topic during the Bulldogs' run to a second consecutive Final Four. His players say they've become a good-luck charm. Stevens said he's just being practical.

"I haven't had time to get new contact lenses," he said. "You're always somewhat superstitious as a coach, but the reason I'm wearing glasses is so I can see. I have found that I'm a better coach when I can see."

On the Butler campus in Indianapolis, students have come up with a "Fear the Glasses" catch-phrase, and Friday was "Wear Glasses in Support of Brad Stevens and Butler Day."

WKU's loss, Butler's gain

As a high school senior in Birmingham, Ala., Ronald Nored signed with Western Kentucky. But when Hilltoppers Coach Darrin Horn left for South Carolina, Nored had a change of heart and decided he wanted to go to Butler.

After Nored got his release from WKU, Stevens drove to Birmingham to visit Nored and gauge his interest in the Bulldogs. Stevens told the 6-foot guard he already had two backcourt recruits coming in, and that meant Nored might have to redshirt.

The Butler coach said Nored didn't blink. "He looked at me and said, I'm coming to Butler. I knew right then he wasn't going to redshirt."

Nored started all 32 games as a freshman and almost every game as a sophomore.

He's accepted his role coming off the bench during the NCAA Tournament, providing energy on both ends of the floor.

Harrellson cheering section

Gary Wacker, who coached Josh Harrellson at St. Charles (Mo.) High School, now lives in retirement in the Houston area. He said he will be part of an 11-person party rooting for UK and Harrellson.

After noting that Harrellson's defense on All-American Jared Sullinger enabled UK to pay defensive attention to Ohio State's perimeter shooters, Wacker said, "We're awfully proud of him."

Danny and Kemba

Danny Manning played like a man possessed in leading Kansas to the NCAA title in 1998 under Coach Larry Brown. Calipari, who was a Jayhawks assistant a few years before that, remembers Manning's post-season run and compares it to what Kemba Walker is doing for Connecticut this year.

"They called that Kansas team, 'Danny and the Miracles,'" Calipari said. "They were so well-coached, but Danny made everybody better.

"If he had to score, he scored. If he had to get a big block, he would. If he needed to pass, he passed.

"That's what Kemba does. Right now he's scoring a lot of points, but if he's not, he'll figure out what to do to make sure his team stays in the game. He'll will them to that. He's had the same kind of effect Danny had in 1988."

Wedded bliss

Among the throng of UK fans in Reliant Stadium on Friday for Final Four open practices were Deanna and Allan Owen.

Allan was wearing a well-worn Kentucky 1998 NCAA Champions baseball cap. It was a gift from his wife, a 1967 UK graduate.

Turns out, Allan is an Auburn graduate. The same Auburn that is the reigning college football national champion. UK is two victories away from the men's basketball crown.

"That would make us even," Deanna said, smiling. "It's been an exciting year for us."

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