John Clay: UK alumni exhibition is quintessential Cal

exhibition stirs up showman in coach

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistJuly 31, 2011 

John Clay

This UK Legends or Kentucky Legends or Kentucky Pros or Kentucky Whatevers exhibition game versus the Dominican Republic National Team was just so John Calipari in every possible way.

In fact, let us list the ways.

It was John Calipari the forward-thinker: Name another current sitting college basketball coach of a mega-ton program that would take on the task of coaching an entity such as the Dominican Republic National Team.

Now, name a coach who could coax marquee NBA names, all alumni of the institution of higher learning that happens to sign his (fat) checks, into playing an exhibition game against his DRNT.

It was John Calipari the entrepreneur: Tickets were priced at $15 (upper level), $35 (lower), $100 (breathing distance) and $1,200 (your toes up against the playing floor).

It was John Calipari the underground buzz-maker: Somehow, first tidbits of a possible UK-Dominican exhibition game found their way into a popular UK sports blog.

It was John Calipari the historian: Rick Pitino operated as if UK basketball did not begin until he graced Lexington with his august presence. Calipari has been the exact opposite.

He reveres, accentuates and capitalizes on the school's most valuable resource — the tradition. Thus Cal's idea to have Joe B. Hall and Sam Bowie coach the UK alumni team.

It was John Calipari the impulsive (part one): Unfortunately, Camp Calipari apparently did not think through the NCAA bylaws before the coach announced the respective duties assigned to Joe B. and Sam B.

It was John Calipari the impulsive (part two): A Rupp Arena official informed me Wednesday night that while the game was a go, details would be announced Thursday when rosters and coaches were finalized.

Calipari couldn't wait. He put down his Orange Leaf long enough to post the info on Twitter late Wednesday night.

It was John Calipari as the Web maven: Not only did Cal tweet the news Wednesday, but on Friday morning, he used his Twitter account to distribute the "secret word" that prospective patrons needed to participate in the Ticketmaster pre-sale on Friday morning.

It was John Calipari the successful businessman: The pre-sale sold out.

It was John Calipari the man in gray (area): The exhibition managed to put the University of Kentucky, which under NCAA rules could have no affiliation with the event, in uncomfortable territory, especially when it was determined neither Joe B. nor Sam B. could serve as honorary coaches.

It was John Calipari as the razor-sharp rock in the NCAA's shoe: News that Joe B. could not coach sparked yet another anti-NCAA uprising from the Big Blue Nation, which saw the episode as (a) another example the Indianapolis suits are out to get the Cats, or (b) the Indianapolis suits are just plain dumb.

The NCAA released a statement Saturday night saying it did not make the ruling, that UK pulled its involvement because of a conflict with NCAA bylaws.

It was John Calipari as needler: In another quintessential Calipari I'll-show-them move, the coach announced that he was naming Joe B. as an assistant on the Dominican team. Somewhere, maybe in Turkey, former UK student assistant Enes Kanter was smiling.

It was John Calipari as man who is always in the news: On Thursday, Kentucky and Louisville football held the annual Governor's Cup Luncheon out at the University Club.

On Friday, UK held its annual Football Kickoff Luncheon at the Hyatt Regency.

Both days, thanks to John Calipari, the major topic of conversation was Kentucky basketball.

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. Follow him on Twitter at @johnclayiv.

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