At some point, John Calipari might wonder about what he's gotten himself into. Here's five incidents from the past that made a lasting impression. Perhaps the new Kentucky coach will find them revealing.
■ Jim Valvano had the right idea: Don't give up, don't ever give up.
When Tubby Smith was coach, a fan called his radio show.
"Coach, I know the team's record is 22-3," the fan said. "I just want you to know I haven't given up."
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Lexington Herald-Leader
Yes, expectations are high.
■ Friends in low places.
Street & Smith magazine, once the Bible of preview publications, rated Kentucky No. 2 in its pre-season top 20.
Fishing for a note, a reporter called the magazine's editor to talk. Had Kentucky fans reacted to the ranking?
"Oh yes," the editor said. "We've had a big reaction from Kentucky fans."
How did the fans react?
"They were angry," the editor said. "They wanted to know how we could rank Kentucky so low."
Have we covered the great expectations that surround the program?
■ Every coach falls short of the glory of Kentucky basketball.
When C.M. Newton looked to hire a coach in 1989, fans objected to P.J. Carlesimo. His beard and game attire (gasp — a sweater) were not suitable for a UK basketball coach.
When Eddie Sutton was coach, some questioned whether he could recruit to UK standards.
As if in reaction to those questions, Sutton answered with a recruiting crop one year that covered all the bases. Highly regarded national prospects. In-state favorite sons. Even a high school scholar who would boost the UK team's grade-point average.
On national signing day, a fan called the Herald-Leader to ask what recruits Kentucky added to its roster.
It took several minutes to go over the seven signees, their pluses and minuses, what recruiting analysts had said about each player.
After silently listening to the rundown, the fan had one question: "Who do you think Kentucky will sign next year?"
UK fans will voice their displeasure. The home team has heard boos several times in Rupp Arena.
Sometimes the fans direct their displeasure at an individual player (for instance, Rob Lock) or the coach.
Even Rick Pitino, who led a renaissance for the ages, was not immune.
One night in Rupp Arena, Mississippi State threw long over the UK press. After a long inbounds yielded a basket for the third time, boos erupted.
Kentucky won by 29 points.
■ Al McGuire had it right.
When he was the hot coaching name UK fans coveted, McGuire recoiled from such speculation.
The eternal spotlight was too unceasing for him.
"Being Kentucky coach is like being Wilt Chamberlain," McGuire said. "You can never hide."
When looking for a coach two years ago, UK didn't even call John Calipari.
Now, UK called no one but Calipari. Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart described the process as "one and done."
UK not only hired Calipari, but gave him the richest contract in the history of college basketball.
What made the difference?
In 2007, Kentucky could be picky about who it hired. A noisy (and sadly mistaken) group of UK fans welcomed Tubby Smith's departure and would be happy with about any new coach.
In 2009, Kentucky was desperate to make amends for the "bad fit" hire of Billy Gillispie. When UK wanted to interview on Monday, Calipari said that was too late. UK moved up the interview.
"He's not going down there as a guy begging for a job," ESPN commentator Dick Vitale said a few days before UK hired Calipari. "It's the other way around."
Speaking of Barnhart, Vitale said, "He can't roll out another guy on a trial basis."
By Vitale's reasoning, Barnhart's predicament worked in Calipari's favor. "It gives (Calipari) the freedom to do things he wants to do," the ebullient broadcaster said.
No word yet on John Calipari's staff. But Howard Avery, the father of the eighth-grader who committed to UK, let it slip that an assistant coach suggested Michael Avery re-open the recruiting process.
Presuming one or more of Calipari's assistants from Memphis will join him at UK, here's a glance at those coaches:
■ John Robic: He and Calipari worked together on Larry Brown's staff at Kansas, then at Massachusetts and Memphis. Like Calipari, Robic grew up in the Pittsburgh area.
■ Orlando Antigua: A former Pittsburgh player, he came to Memphis after spending the last five seasons on his alma mater's staff.
Antigua ranks in the top 15 on the Panthers' all-time three-pointers made (11th with 117 treys) and blocked shots (12th with 78 swats) and in the top 10 for career three-point percentage (sixth at 38.6 percent). For his career, he scored 930 points and grabbed 409 rebounds, while starting 78 of his 116 games played.
■ Josh Pastner: The term "basketball lifer" is not exaggeration. As the Memphis Web site reads, he "not only dreamed about what he wanted to do as a kid, but he put his plan into action as early as elementary school. According to his father, Hal, Josh read and studied every book on basketball he could find."
Pastner traveled with his father's summer basketball team. As a teenager, he wrote scouting reports on players and sent them to college coaches.
A native of Kingwood, Texas, he worked for six years as an assistant coach for his alma mater, Arizona, before going to Memphis.
Michael Avery, forever known in UK lore as the eighth-grader who committed to the Cats, will re-open the recruiting process.
As a ninth-grader this past season, Avery played with the varsity and was named Newcomer of the Year in his conference, his father said.
Despite that successful debut (which also included a grade-point average of better than 3.0), Avery will consider changing high schools. He's considering schools in Connecticut, Maryland and Las Vegas, while also thinking of staying at his Los Angeles-area high school.
When asked why his son might change high schools, Howard Avery said, "Michael wants to be part of a basketball program where he can continue to develop his game."
Let's make a deal
Before taking the Kentucky job, John Calipari tried to call each of the former UK coaches still alive.
When he talked to Eddie Sutton, it was hardly their first conversation. The two got acquainted in 1995 when UMass and Oklahoma State played in an NCAA Tournament region final.
Sutton, whose team beat Alabama (Antonio McDyess) and Wake Forest (Tim Duncan) en route to the region final, had an idea when he spoke to Calipari the day before the game.
"You know, John, one of us is going to lose tomorrow," Sutton said. "Why don't we make an agreement. The winning coach sells 20 (Final Four) tickets to the losing coach."
As Sutton recalled, Calipari hesitated. Sutton told him to think about it.
When the two coaches shook hands before the game, Calipari said, "That deal's on, isn't it?"
The Monday morning after Oklahoma State beat UMass, Calipari called Sutton. "You haven't forgotten, have you?" he asked.
In the immediate future, UK-U of L games seem to be basketball's version of the clone wars. New UK coach John Calipari seems like a facsimile of U of L Coach Rick Pitino. Italian Americans. Thick mane of black hair. Well-cut suits. Active sideline presence.
That's a good thing, former UK shooter Jay Shidler said in his reaction to Calipari's hiring.
"I think is a great choice," Shidler told Herald-Leader reporter Valarie Honeycutt Spears. "I don't think they could have chosen any better coach to come in and take over this program. People were kind of sad when Rick Pitino left. This is the closest thing to Rick Pitino that we are going to get. I think he's going to come in and make an immediate impact. The guys successful. He's been successful everywhere he's been. He seems to be a very good player's coach. He's an excellent recruiter. Happy days are here again."
Georgia was the first Southeastern Conference school to have an opening for a coach and the last to fill the vacancy.
The choice, Mark Fox, is a relative unknown. Or as the Atlanta Journal Constitution called it, his introductory news conference really was an introduction.
Fox coached at Nevada the past five seasons. He compiled a record of 123-43, which included 21-13 this past season. He never won fewer than 21 games for Nevada and went 29-5 in 2006-07.
Nevada competes in the Western Athletic Conference, and Fox's teams won the league four of his five seasons. They finished second to Utah State this past season.
The Wolf Pack played in the NCAA Tournament three straight seasons but not the past two.
Fox's teams played Georgia's twice, winning both times. Nevada beat the Bulldogs 58-47 in Athens on Nov. 26, 2004 and 68-62 on Dec. 21, 2005.
Former Michigan football coach Lloyd Carr rooted for Michigan State in the Final Four. Why? Because he's a fan of Tom Izzo.
In Friday's New York Times, Carr explained why he likes Izzo, who was believed to be on UK's list of coaching candidates.
"I think he's real," Carr said. "I think there's no airs and no pretensions about him. He brings a great intensity and competitiveness. He obviously has a great love for the game and for Michigan State that's special."
To UK basketball icon Kyle Macy. He turns 52 on Thursday.
During his introductory news conference, John Calipari mentioned Macy.
"I used to try to emulate Kyle Macy," he said. "As a matter of fact, one college game someone yelled at me, 'Kyle Macy.' And I was so excited, I couldn't play the rest of the game."
Calipari first met Macy when the former UK point guard worked a Five-Star Basketball Camp and the future UK coach was his assistant.
"I couldn't believe it, a guy that had that much notoriety and passion, that he was that good a guy," Calipari said.
That raised a question: How did Macy feel about being a UK coach's boyhood hero?
"I don't know that I'm that much older than him," Macy said. "But that was nice of him to say. I guess that's part of being a Kentucky basketball player."
Yes, the fame runs wide and deep.
As he approaches his 52nd birthday, Macy remains busy. A call Friday found him substituting for his former UK coach, Joe B. Hall, on a radio call-in show. He's also doing commentary on radio broadcasts of NCAA games. And he's set to become coach of the Bluegrass Stallions in the American Basketball Association.
"What I probably enjoy most is giving individual instruction to kids," he said of yet another endeavor.
Macy and his wife, Tina, have three children: daughters Mallory, 17, and Meredith, 12, and son Malone, 10.