Mark Story: In Cats-Cards rivalry lore, these are fighting words

December 24, 2013 

They are the familiar sounds of the season.

The Kentucky-Louisville men's basketball game Saturday in Rupp Arena will be the 34th in the modern history of a rivalry that resumed in 1983 after 24 years of dormancy.

Denny Crum trading barbs with Joe B. Hall. Eddie Sutton's "Little Brother" remark. John Calipari and Rick Pitino taking thinly-veiled shots at each other. Mitch Barnhart's "nice year" comment.

As with all polarizing sports rivalries, words are the fuel that injects a series with passion.

To get your blood pumping, here are some of the greatest "hits" from the basketball rivalry that divides our state between blue and red.

Joe B. & Denny

Long before Joe B. Hall and Denny Crum became BFFs sharing their own talk show, the two rival head coaches used to exchange pointed barbs over UK's long-standing custom of not playing U of L and other in-state schools. In the aftermath of Louisville's 80-68 overtime win over Kentucky in the 1983 NCAA Tournament, public pressure for annual Cats-Cards games built to a crest. Yet Hall and Crum still disagreed.

Said Hall:

"I think the policy or tradition of not playing state schools has been very good to the University of Kentucky."

Crum's sarcastic retort:

"We've had greater success lately in the NCAA (Tournament), so maybe (playing Kentucky) would carve into our tradition."

Little brother

Eddie Sutton lasted only four seasons (1985-89) as Kentucky head coach, but in December, 1986, he contributed what may be the most famous/infamous quote in UK-U of L hoops rivalry lore.

Said Sutton:

"Kentucky is a bigger program than Louisville. Even though they won two national titles in the 1980s ('80 and '86), Louisville is like the little brother fighting for recognition from the big brother." Denny Crum's reply

"Maybe we never will get as big as Kentucky, but we haven't been on (NCAA) probation three or four times like they have, either."

Pitino & Calipari

Long before they wound up as the opposing head men at Louisville and Kentucky, Rick Pitino and John Calipari had a complex coaching history. Adding UK-U of L friction onto an already contentious relationship has produced rivalry gold.

In October, 2011, Calipari opined that the commonwealth of Kentucky was a one-team state — UK.

Said Calipari:

"There's no other state, none, that's as connected to their basketball program as this one because those other states have other programs. Michigan has Michigan State, California has UCLA, North Carolina has Duke. It's Kentucky throughout this whole state. That's what makes it unique."

Pitino's reply:

"Four things I've learned in my 59 years about people. I ignore the jealous, I ignore the malicious, I ignore the ignorant and I ignore the paranoid. If the shoe fits anybody, wear it."

One-and-done players

Ever oil and water, John Calipari at Kentucky became the coach most associated with one-and-done players; Rick Pitino at Louisville expressed preference for teams built around veteran players. Without ever mentioning each other by name, the two debated the topic in a March, 2013, USA Today article.

Said Pitino:

"One of the things I enjoy is building relationships with guys, and I don't want to get to know them for seven months and they move on. Because I never get to know them."

Replied Calipari:

"That's not true. Obviously, the relationships I have with my guys, you need to go talk to them. I have loved them when they were here and loved them when they left."

Parting shots

1.) In the first half of 2013, Louisville saw its football team win the Sugar Bowl, its men's basketball team win the NCAA championship, it's women's hoops team finish as NCAA runner-up and its baseball team reach the College World Series. Kentucky Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart was asked about the success of his school's archrival:

"They had a nice year. They did some things in major sports. They are to be congratulated on that. They've had a nice year." 2.) After the 2013-14 Kentucky Wildcats lost to Michigan State in their third game of the season, Rick Pitino was asked about those UK 40-0 T-shirts that had been on sale:

"There's a clearance on shirts."

3.) Last week, Louisville guard Kevin Ware talked about Kentucky and Louisville:

"We really don't care that Kentucky exists. We just look at them as another game."

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