In his first appearance with reporters since the FBI investigation into alleged corruption in college basketball was revealed, Kentucky men’s basketball Coach John Calipari faced a number of questions on the issue at the beginning of the UK media day press conference Thursday.
After generally expressing that whatever results from the controversy should put the interests of student-athletes first, Calipari had a somewhat pointed exchange with Kentucky Sports Radio’s Matt Jones and the Lexington Herald-Leader’s Jerry Tipton as the coach tried to shift the discussion to his team and the upcoming season.
The exchange came about eight minutes into the press conference:
Jones: “There’s a decent chance, Cal, that next week, Rick Pitino won’t be the coach ...”
Calipari: “Jesus.” (Calipari turns away)
Jones: “... Will you miss the rivalry and coaching against him?”
Calipari: “Look, it’s unfortunate the stuff that’s come down, but let’s talk about my team, please. Does anyone here have a question about my team? Please.”
Tipton: “John, one more question about the FBI. ...”
Calipari: (Waving Tipton off) “Anybody have a question …”
Tipton: “Wait a minute. Wait a minute. This is a media day, not coach day. I am entitled to ask a question. ...”
Calipari: “Ask it. OK. Ask it.”
Tipton: “You can then not answer … fine. The FBI reportedly has expanded into looking at Nike. Kentucky is a Nike school. What reassurance would you give your fan base, the Big Blue Nation, if they’re anxious about what this could mean?”
Calipari: “Well, again, you’re acting like you know something that I don’t know.”
Tipton: “That’s all I know, right there. If a fan would put 2 and 2 together …”
Calipari: “Wait a minute. We don’t know what you’re saying, if it’s true. Do we know if it’s true?”
Tipton: “It’s been reported.”
Calipari: “Well, that makes it true. I have no comment to it. There’s no one — we haven’t been contacted, the NCAA hasn’t contacted. We’re going about our business coaching this team. How about a basketball question? Since it isn’t my day.”
The press conference continued for another 35 minutes focusing on the upcoming season.
The reference to Nike’s potential involvement stems from reports last month that the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League was served with a subpoena. One of the men named in the FBI case, Merl Code, left Nike for Adidas more than three years ago. Nike responded to the reports by stating its commitment to fair play and noting there had been no allegations involving the company.
While some UK fans bristled at the exchange on Twitter, Tipton, a U.S. College Basketball Writers Hall of Fame member, was praised by journalists and others for sticking to a topic at the forefront of the sport, especially with the investigation implicating a number of coaches at other programs.
Some of the Twitter reaction included: