Marist Coach Chuck Martin, a former assistant for John Calipari, spoke to another branch of that coaching tree late Tuesday night. He asked Drexel Coach James "Bruiser" Flint for advice about leading a team against Kentucky in Rupp Arena.
"Just hold on, man," Martin said Flint told him. "It's a different place. The fans are unbelievable. The atmosphere is unbelievable. It's like nothing you've heard or seen before.
"That's what he told me."
When asked whether he knew that Calipari's first UK team routed Drexel, Martin said, "By 43."
Never miss a local story.
Actually, it was 44 (88-44). But who besides statisticians cares about a point when the game is so one-sided?
Martin was also aware that the drubbing of Drexel in December 2009 marked the Kentucky program's 2,000th victory.
"No milestones Friday night, right?" Martin said in a telephone interview Wednesday. "They don't need any extra motivation."
Calipari's third UK team begins the season against Marist on Friday. It's part of the Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament. To plug the event, which climaxes with games Nov. 19-20 at the Mohegan Sun casino in Connecticut, the Hall of Fame held a teleconference earlier Wednesday. During his turn, Calipari said, "I'm not sure we're ready to win a basketball game."
Huh? UK beat Morehouse College by 85 points two nights earlier.
When asked whether he watched the video of UK's 125-40 victory, Martin quipped, "I tried not to after I heard the score."
Of course, he did.
"I thought the most impressive thing about that game was, at some point, you're up 20, 30, 40, you tend to just take it easy," Martin said. "Just because it's human nature. ... I was impressed by how hard they continued to play. I've not seen anything like that."
Martin joked that he did not show the video to his Marist players. "We're keeping happy thoughts in the young guys' minds coming to Lexington," he said.
Actually, Martin wants Marist players thinking about how good Marist can be, not how good Kentucky can be.
"Let's worry about us," he said of his message. "Let's worry about being the best Marist team we can be. Let's see what that looks like."
If Marist plays its best, UK will face an aggressive opponent looking to capitalize on mistakes.
"You'll see a young team that's really, really aggressive, but not dumb," Martin said. "We want to be aggressive. We want to attack. But we want to be smart."
Martin, who worked for Flint for three years at Drexel and one at UMass, was on Calipari's staff at Memphis from 2006 through 2008. He was an assistant on the Derrick Rose-led Memphis team that won 38 of 40 games and advanced to the 2008 Final Four.
"Now, I'm on the other side of that spectrum," he said.
Martin is into the fourth year of a rebuilding program at Marist. The Red Foxes won only six of 33 games last season. That lowered Martin's three-season record at Marist to 17-79.
"It's not been an easy road," Martin said. "I certainly don't run away from the record, and I certainly don't avoid questions about the record."
Martin declined to go into specifics about why his Marist basketball teams have won so infrequently. He said he prefers to look forward.
An influx of "really tough New York City kids" suggests better days ahead, Martin said. Eight Marist players are either freshmen or sophomores. The roster includes two players from the Bronx, the borough where Martin grew up, two from Brooklyn, one from Queens and three from New Jersey.
"For us to keep some of the better talent in our back yard in New York City means we're starting to turn the corner in recruiting," Martin said. "... It sends a message that the program is heading in the right direction."Many of his players have been "tested" in New York City's high school basketball, said Martin, who acknowledged that UK and Rupp Arena present a challenge even for New York City products.
"Oh, it's definitely a concern, no doubt about it," Martin said of Rupp's wow factor. "They've played in tough games on the playground. But Kentucky and Rupp are a completely different level."
Martin saluted the patience of fans of Marist, a private school about an hour from New York City in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. But he conceded that this patience is not limitless.
"It's New York," he said with a chuckle. "People want to win, whether it's Marist or the Knicks or St. John's. We're headed in the right direction. ...
"I'm excited to prove to people they made the right decision four years ago."