Calipari working to keep UK 'ahead of the curve'

jtipton@herald-leader.comJune 5, 2012 

Whether it's rethinking traditional schedules or Tuesday's announcement of what is being called a Basketball Fantasy Experience in September (cost: $7,495), a desire to be distinctive drives Kentucky basketball, Coach John Calipari said.

"Just trying to separate from the pack," he said.

Some reporters and those he termed "purists" might recoil from time to time, Calipari acknowledged.

"Because we're going to do some new things that are different," he said, "you are going to look at it and say, when did they have the time to think this stuff up."

For example, Calipari mused about a future triple-header involving UK's men's and women's basketball teams, and its football team.

"Just overrun a city," he said. "I don't know what city it would be, but it would be overrun."

UK football coach Joker Phillips' reaction?

"He just said, 'Please don't make it Notre Dame,'" Calipari quipped.

Calipari's most recent brainstorm involved the ending of the Kentucky-Indiana series, which had included a game every regular season since 1969-70. The two schools could not agree on where to play future games: UK wanted neutral sites, IU wanted a home-and-home arrangement.

"It makes the purists mad," Calipari said before adding, "I'm not scheduling for the purists. I'm scheduling for my basketball team."

The changing nature of college athletics drove UK's desire to limit its home-and-home non-conference series to Louisville and North Carolina, Calipari said. Like a growing number of schools, UK saw greater value in made-for-TV, neutral-site extravaganzas.

"We want to be ahead of the curve," the UK coach said. "We want to be able to be doing things. And if you're not able to do it with certain schools, you do it with other schools."

Kentucky fans support the decision not to accept Indiana's offer of a four-year deal that included neutral sites and home-and-home components, Calipari said.

"You can write they're all mad," he said. "Those seven (fans cited in news reports) are mad. But fans, as a whole, are great. They're fine with what we're doing."

Calipari scoffed at Indiana's contention that a game such as UK-IU represented a memory that students should savor in a home-court atmosphere.

Noting how UK offered to play in Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis the next two seasons, Calipari said of IU students, "They're only two hours away. Are they that poor? They couldn't get to that building? Our students are going."

Calipari noted the inevitability of change. "It ain't five years ago," he said. But he also cited a coaching icon as an inspiration for UK's insistence on moving the series with Indiana to neutral sites.

"I wanted to do what Bobby Knight did," he said in reference to UK-IU alternating between Indianapolis and Louisville from 1991 through 2005. "Bobby Knight decided that he thought the series should be neutral.

"And when it was neutral, it was huge."

'Four locks'

Calipari saw UK enjoying another attention-getting night at this year's NBA Draft.

Of the six eligible UK players, "I'd say four are locks" for the first round," he said.

Calipari said the draft order for those four should be Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb.

Next Pippen

NBA scouts and personnel love to discover a relatively low-profile prospect, Calipari said.

"They'd rather get a kid from Louisiana Tech make it because then they look like geniuses because then they found somebody," he said.

NBA personnel want to find the next Scottie Pippen, who played for Central Arkansas.

Slow down?

Calipari will attend the draft, then resume coaching the Dominican Republic National Team.

"Everybody says you've got to slow down," he said. "I will when I retire. ... I only know one way. Two or three things going on at once. If I didn't (have two or three things), I'd probably be bored."

Jerry Tipton: (859) 231-3227. Email: jtipton@herald-leader.com. Twitter: @JerryTipton. Blog: ukbasketball.bloginky.com.

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