When Friday’s news conference turned to associate coach Kenny Payne’s future opportunities to be a head coach, no media person mentioned Louisville. None had to. John Calipari did.
“The greatest thing” was that after working at UK, “he doesn’t have to leave unless it’s a really good job,” Calipari said of Payne, who of course is a U of L graduate.
Calipari also saluted Payne’s loyalty. “In this profession, you’ve got to be like brothers,” the UK coach said. “Like I got you and you got me. Because it’s just too hard.”
With that, Calipari saluted the job done by David Padgett, who became U of L interim coach with the dismissal of Rick Pitino in the preseason.
“I think Dave’s doing a great job,” Calipari said. It was “not fair” for Padgett to have to answer questions about the ongoing issues off the court.
“Let him coach his team,” Calipari said. “Dave may be the guy for the job.”
That inspired a cryptic question from Calipari. “Who could be out there throwing landmines in front of (Padgett)?” he said. “I don’t know. But it’s certainly not us or me or our staff. Let him do his job.
“He was thrown into a tough situation. Think about it. And he has to answer questions. And they just continue, the same questions. And this guy is still doing the job.”
As for Payne, Calipari said he would support his candidacy for a head coaching job. Assistant coach Tony Barbee is also ready to be a head coach again, Calipari said.
Three in a row?
Tennessee can try to add to the adage about bad things coming in threes. The Vols are seeking their third straight home victory against Kentucky.
That hasn’t happened since Tennessee won seven straight home games against Kentucky from 1979 through 1985. That is the longest losing streak on an opponent’s court in UK basketball history.
Notre Dame won six straight home games against Kentucky from 1936 through 1950.
Teams that have won five straight home games against UK are Tennessee (1973 through 1977), North Carolina (2005-2014), Florida (2005-2009) and Indiana (1983-2008).
When asked about the flu that weakened several UK players at LSU, Calipari quipped, “I’m good. No flu. I don’t take flu shots because I don’t like needles. So there’s nobody giving me a flu shot unless you held me down and knocked me out. But they have pills now. They have flu pills. So I said I’ll take the pill.”
One UK player has not practiced because of the flu, Calipari said. He declined to name the player.
After the LSU game, Calipari said Hamidou Diallo, Nick Richards and Sacha Killeya-Jones were weakened by the flu.
Kevin Knox credited concentrating on defense and rebounding as a key to breaking out of a mini slump at LSU. He had 16 points and a season-high 11 rebounds against the Tigers. That followed 4-for-18 shooting (1-for-7 from three-point range) in the previous two games.
“Almost every human goes through a rough stretch,” Knox said. “That was my time.”
Out of the blue
Knox said he enjoys road games. He likes the yelling and screaming.
And he mentioned one other reason: “I like seeing different colors other than blue.”
22 offensive rebounds!
Auburn had 22 offensive rebounds in winning 94-84 at Tennessee on Tuesday.
When asked if the Vols had trouble with positioning or effort in rebounding, Coach Rick Barnes said, “It was a little bit of both. We talk a lot about our guards coming down and rebounding. And that’s after they (box out) and see where the ball was coming off. They were just turning and ball-watching, and two or three balls went over their head.”
▪ Numbers maven Ken Pomeroy says UK has only a 40 percent chance of winning at Tennessee. He does not favor UK in seven remaining regular-season games: at West Virginia (31 percent), at Texas A&M (38 percent), at Auburn (43 percent), at Arkansas (40 percent), at Florida (41 percent) and at Missouri (50 percent).
▪ Tom Hart, Sean Farnham and sideline reporter Kris Budden will call the game for the SEC Network.
No. 17 Kentucky at No. 23 Tennessee
When: 9 p.m.
TV: SEC Network
Radio: WLAP-AM 630, WBUL-FM 98.1
Records: Kentucky 12-2 (2-0 SEC), Tennessee 9-4 (0-2)
Series: Kentucky leads 153-69
Last meeting: Kentucky won 83-58 on Feb. 14, 2017, in Lexington.