A feeling of deja blue filled the air on Friday when John Calipari distanced himself from speculation that he could be a candidate for the New Jersey Nets coaching job.
"I'm happy," he said. "This school is committed. As long as they're committed to me and this basketball program, where would I want to go?"
Reporters could hear an echo from the Rick Pitino days when speculation about other jobs became an annual rite of spring. On May 2, 1997, Pitino addressed rumors of his leaving for the Boston Celtics by saying, "If I am back next year, and I intend to be, it's going to be with a long-term contract. ... I know (Celtics owner) Paul Gaston has not said that, and I haven't said that. I've never really looked at an offer. I don't know what all this is about."
Four days later, Pitino signed with the Celtics.
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That's not to say Calipari will be the Grover Cleveland of New Jersey Nets coaches: two non-consecutive terms.
But in so many areas, Calipari follows in Pitino's footsteps. During his nine seasons at Memphis, Calipari got linked to at least nine different coaching positions. The speculation last spring proved prophetic as he took the Kentucky job a few days after saying, "This (Memphis) is where I want to coach."
Calipari has been commenting on job speculation so much he's repeating himself.
Of the Nets' speculation (sprung on us by The New York Daily News quoting sources about "possible candidates"), Calipari jokingly suggested UK fans should expect him to be linked to high school jobs and AAU jobs.
In 2008, when he signed a new contract with Memphis amid speculation about leaving for the New York Knicks or Chicago Bulls, Calipari said, "My name has been thrown around on AAU jobs, high school jobs, every job. And that's part of what we have to deal with."
When Calipari coached at Memphis, the Memphis Commercial Appeal published what it called a Cal-culator: a list of speculations linking Calipari to other jobs and subsequent pay raises and/or enhanced contracts.
In the spring of 2007, Calipari denied interest in the Kentucky job, noting that he had a great team assembled at Memphis. "You don't leave that unless the commitment changes," he said.
And when he was hired by UK two years later, Calipari said he waited by the phone for Kentucky athletic officials to call and it didn't happen.
In denying the speculation about the Nets on Friday, Calipari noted Kentucky's commitment to basketball.
Of course, following Pitino's example can be a good thing. It means championships, standout players and entertaining basketball.
Here's one other upside.
Calipari, who turned 51 last week, has said he will not coach beyond age 60. He told media personality Dan Patrick that he'd be on the beach somewhere 10 years from now.
But there's reason to believe he could be coaching Kentucky well past age 60.
In October 1994, Pitino said, "My goal is to coach (until) an age of about 48 or 49, believe it or not. ... I definitely do not want to go past age 50 in coaching."
Pitino, 57, is Louisville's coach.
If Kentucky continues its winning ways all the way through the NCAA Tournament, UK coaches will cash in to the tune of thousands of dollars as prescribed in their contracts.
Coach John Calipari will reap bonuses totalling $750,000 if the Cats sweep the Southeastern Conference regular-season, league tournament and NCAA Tournament titles.
Assistants John Robic, Orlando Antigua and Rod Strickland will get bonuses totalling $60,000, $45,000 and $48,750 respectively if UK wins the SEC Eastern Division and regular-season titles, plus advances to the Final Four.
Director of Operations Martin Newton will receive bonuses totalling $46,250 if Kentucky wins the Eastern Division and SEC regular-season titles, plus makes the Final Four.
All those basketball staffers also can get bonuses tied to academic performance. If the team's Academic Progress Rate is .950 or better and the team graduation rate is 75 percent of better, Calipari receives another $100,000.
Robic, Antigua, Strickland and Newton each receive an additional $5,000 if the team meets those academic benchmarks.
John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins wore "I love UK Hoops" headbands during warm-ups before the Alabama game. Both have said they could learn a little something from the UK women's team about playing defense.
"DeMarcus and John have been very faithful fans," UK women's coach Matthew Mitchell said later in the week. "They're always very encouraging to us."
Then he added tongue in cheek: "I guess they need to continue to watch so they can learn something and we'll see if they're gaining anything from the experience. ... Seriously, though, they're great kids. They have a lot of positive energy."
The UK men and women had a combined record of 44-4 going into this weekend's play.
"There's a real positive energy surrounding both programs," Mitchell said. "I saw (John Calipari) this morning. He and I talked. He always pops in and we talk about what's going on. He's a very upbeat and positive guy and I love being around people like that. I'm a big believer in feeding off the energy that surrounds you."
In last week's Associated Press rankings, UK's men were No. 3 while the women were No. 17.
"It's a fun time right now," Mitchell said. "Both (UK men's assistant coach) John Robic and Calipari tell me I need to smile more, that I need to enjoy where we are. But we're still several spots behind them, so maybe if we get to three or wherever they are, I'll smile more."
Clemson Coach Oliver Purnell saw the visit by ESPN's College GameDay crew to his campus as validation of the Tigers' program improving its profile.
"I felt particularly good about the fact our fan base helped us build this program," he said. "To watch them showcased during the course of the day, I felt good for them because they deserve it. They've shown up and made this a tough place to play."
Purnell noted the marketing possibilities created when a school plays host to GameDay. Prospects, parents, fans, they gravitate toward that type of excitement," he said. "They want to be part of it. From a marketing standpoint, it's invaluable."
When asked if he'd used the GameDay appearance in recruiting, Purnell said, "Absolutely. What better venue to ask them to check us but the GameDay telecast? You get that extra pop with cut-ins back to your arena and your excitement. It's invaluable exposure."
To Tom Stultz, senior vice president and managing director, college sports for IMG. That's the company that owns the TV/radio rights to UK football and basketball. It was announced last week that he would be among seven new members of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Board of Governors.
"I'm just absolutely thrilled and honored and almost beside myself," said Stultz, who noted that growing up in Kentucky (Greenup County) meant he had a reverence for basketball.
It's hoped a new structure for its Board of Governors and its trustees will help guide the future initiatives of the Basketball Hall of Fame, which is in Springfield, Mass.
Jerry Colangelo, chairman of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Board, said that seven new board members and six new trustees would help the Hall increase its business and global impact.
Other new members of the Board of Governors are George Bodenheimer, president, ESPN and ABC Sports and co-chairman, Disney Media Networks; Junior Bridgeman, CEO of Bridgeman Foods Inc. and former president of the NBA Players Association; Jody Conradt, former head coach at the University of Texas, who was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1998; Charles Denson, president of the Nike brand; Pat Riley, president of the Miami Heat, who was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2008; and Elaine Wynn, board member of Wynn Resorts Ltd.
The Hall of Fame's new trustees include Billy Hunter, executive director of the NBA Players Association; and George Raveling, Nike Global Basketball director.
Stultz, who calls Rupp's Runts one of his favorite UK teams, said he looked forward to working with Riley.
"I wore No. 10 in high school," Stultz said, "because I was going to be the next Louie Dampier."
Vitale to honor Cal
ESPN commentator Dick Vitale plays host to an annual fund-raiser for the Jimmy V Foundation. The honorees at this year's May 21 fund-raiser are former Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy and Michigan State Coach Tom Izzo.
Vitale has already lined up the honorees for the 2011 fund-raiser. He'll honor John Calipari and Roy Williams, coaches of the two winningest college basketball programs.
Since Kansas went into this weekend only four victories behind North Carolina on the all-time list, Vitale might want to keep Bill Self in mind as a 2011 honoree.
The fund-raiser benefits pediatric cancer research. Find more information at dickvitaleonline.com.
Dick Vitale suggested John Calipari and Tennessee's Bruce Pearl possess three essential qualities that make for a good coach.
1. Ability to recruit.
2. Ability to communicate.
3. Ability to organize and influence practices and games.
"They do a terrific job at all three areas," Vitale said, "and that's why Kentucky and Tennessee are always in position to win basketball games.
"Calipari and Pearl are perfect hires for both places."
V for verbose
In a telephone conversation last week, ebullient broadcaster Dick Vitale proved again there's no off switch on his verbosity.
"There's one word that really epitomizes John Calipari: masterful communicator," he said.
No UCLA/No UNC
Chris Thompson, a UK fan stuck in Sacramento, Calif., wondered when was the last time neither UCLA nor North Carolina made the same NCAA Tournament field.
That last happened in 2003. Prior to that, you have to go back to 1966, the year Rupp's Runts lost to Texas Western in the finals, to find an NCAA Tournament field that did not include the Bruins nor the Tar Heels.
Robbing the cradle
Then-UK coach Billy Gillispie's scholarship offer to eighth-grader Michael Avery was puzzling enough. But Southern Cal's recruitment of a 13-year-old football player? That's just crazy.
Syndicated columnist Norman Chad weighed in while answering a reader's question.
Q. What was Lane Kiffin's recruiting pitch to land a 13-year-old at USC? (Paul Lyons; Spokane, Wash.)
A. I believe Kiffin promised him Halloweens off.
Avery, now a 10th-grader, has drawn interest from such schools as Alabama, California, Florida, Indiana, Kansas and Virginia, according to the Rivals.com recruiting service.
To Andy Dumstorf. He turned 46 on Thursday.
Dumstorf will always be a footnote in UK basketball history as the sports information office student worker fired because he was a Louisville fan. That personnel decision in 1986 brought UK unflattering national attention. It also frightened Dumstorf, who was a sophomore majoring in journalism.
"I was more hurt than mad," he said. "I thought I was not going to be able to get a job."
Dumstorf, who grew up in Louisville and, indeed, rooted for the Cards, landed on his feet. After graduating from UK, he worked in U of L's sports information office for several years.
Now he's associate producer for the television shows hosted by U of L coaches Rick Pitino and Charlie Strong.
Dumstorf has been a regular at Rupp Arena this season. He's been part of the TV crew for Kentucky games against Morehead State, Drexel, Georgia, Arkansas and Alabama.
He and his wife, Jennifer, have a daughter, Emily, 5.