John Calipari called on Kentucky fans to remain “the classiest fans in the country” on Wednesday during a week in which some Wildcats fans have made life difficult for one of the referees who worked Sunday’s UK loss to North Carolina in the NCAA Tournament.
Calipari, who is on his way to watch the Final Four in Phoenix, took to Twitter on the same day as reports that referee John Higgins received death threats. Higgins became the target of UK fans’ ire after North Carolina defeated Kentucky 75-73 in the Elite Eight on Sunday.
“Just landed in Houston. Before I head to Phoenix, I wanted to take this time to thank our fans for their support all season long,” the UK basketball coach tweeted. “I always brag that we have the classiest fans in the country. Let’s make sure we remain that way even after a tough loss.”
Higgins’ roofing company in Omaha, Neb., received about 3,000 harassing emails and an unknown number of phone calls, some including death threats, Capt. Kevin Griger, investigations commander for the Sarpy County Sheriff’s Department, told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
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The Facebook page for Higgins’ roofing company also was inundated with negative comments about Higgins and the quality of his company’s work. Griger described it Wednesday as an orchestrated effort to “run down his Better Business Bureau rating.”
Calipari opened his postgame press conference Sunday night with a complaint about the officiating in general but did not specifically mention Higgins.
“You know, it’s amazing that we were in that game when they practically fouled out my team,” Calipari said. “Amazing that we had a chance.”
Foul trouble hindered UK, which never led in the first half. Four starters picked up two fouls, which limited their playing time.
UK point guard De’Aaron Fox said after the game that he took no issue with the referees.
“I’m not blaming the officials, man . . . ,” he said. “We’ve been in foul trouble before. We’ve won games when we were in foul trouble. It’s tougher playing a team like North Carolina, and doing it. But we had a chance to win.”