Going into this weekend, John Calipari needed four more victories to replace Joe B. Hall as the second-winningest Kentucky basketball coach. Hall couldn’t be happier.
“I think it’s great,” Hall said on Wednesday. “I want him to win every game he coaches.”
Calipari went into Saturday’s game at Mississippi State with 294 victories as UK coach. Hall, whose 13-season run as UK coach ended after the 1984-85 season, won 297 games.
Hall saw confirmation in Calipari’s number of victories as Kentucky coach.
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“It just proves what I said when we hired him,” Hall said. “He was born to coach at Kentucky.”
When asked what he meant, Hall said, “He fits the bill in every category. He stands up for the tradition. He’s won over fans. He’s a marketing expert. He loves his job. He loves Kentucky.
“And it shows in his enthusiasm and his all-out effort in recruiting. He’s perfect for the job.”
ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla, a longtime friend of Calipari’s and an admirer of Hall, saw this impending milestone as something worth celebrating.
“It’s a great honor to be able to get close to catching Coach Hall, who to me is one of he more underrated coaches in college basketball in the last 50 years, Fraschilla said. “But also one of the nicest gentlemen.”
It probably should not be taken for granted that Calipari will breeze past Hall. UK is in a stretch of facing three straight opponents (and six in an eight-game span) that have been ranked at some point this season. The exceptions — Missouri and Arkansas — have received votes in The Associated Press Top 25 poll at some point of the season. This part of the schedule includes two games against Tennessee, the current No. 1 team in the country.
Still, Hall spoke confidently of Calipari continuing to build success upon success.
“He’ll achieve many, many more wins,” Hall said. “I wish he could pass everybody and stay long enough to do it.”
Passing everybody seems impossible. Even if Calipari wins out this season, he’d need to be Kentucky’s coach for another 19 seasons to pass Adolph Rupp’s 876 victories.
“That’s a different era,” Hall conceded before adding, “Even I’m a little bit of a different era.”
Barring a loss at Mississippi State or against LSU on Tuesday, Calipari could match Hall’s number of victories next weekend against Tennessee.
“That would be a great one to do it with,” Hall said. “And I wish him luck.”
Fran Fraschilla likes to tell a story about former UK Coach Joe B. Hall. The setting was a second-round game in the 1983 NCAA Tournament. Fraschilla was an assistant coach for Ohio University, which lost to UK 57-40.
Fraschilla remembers how Hall came to the Ohio bench before the game to exchange pleasantries.
“Billy Hahn was one of our assistants,” Fraschilla said. “I was the other. He said, ‘Billy, good luck today. Have a good one.’ And he came over to me and said, ‘Fran, have a good one. Good luck today.’
“And I was 23 or 24 years old. And I knew he didn’t know me. He probably looked at the media guide and came down and said hello.”
The gesture made a long-lasting impression.
“I’ve never forgotten that,” Fraschilla said. “And I did exactly the same thing as a head coach.”
Best wishes for a speedy recovery to Paul Washington, the father of UK forward PJ Washington.
The elder Washington had replacement surgery on his right knee Tuesday. He recalled the exact date he had his left knee replaced: Aug. 5, 2017.
Being only 45 years old, he seems too young to need both knees replaced. He explained that he played basketball on outdoor courts as a child.
“So I just think the pounding on the concrete,” he said. “I didn’t get inside a gym till, like, middle school.”
After playing for Middle Tennessee State, he continued playing basketball in multiple leagues. “Just to stay in shape,” he said. “I just loved basketball.”
All this basketball took a toll on his knees. He said he needed “eight or nine scopes,” meaning microscopic knee surgeries. In his early 30s, he said he was told he had the knees of a 60-year-old.
The elder Washington had the three-hour surgery done in Irvine, Calif.
“When I got out of surgery, I wanted to know the score of the game,” he said. UK played South Carolina that night. The elder Washington watched the final minutes of the game on a cell phone brought to him by a nurse.
“Everybody here in California knew I was a Kentucky fan,” he said.
Happy for Travis
Bernard Muir is the chair of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Committee (aka the Selection Committee). He’s also Stanford athletics director.
He and the committee members watch a lot of college basketball games. This prompted a question on a teleconference last week about whether he had watched Stanford graduate transfer Reid Travis play for Kentucky.
“I’ve watched many games from Kentucky on TV,” Muir said. “I know Reid is a phenomenal human being. He’s a heck of a young man, a proud Stanford graduate, but playing really well at Kentucky right now. I’m happy for it.”
Strange but true
Ashton Hagans was not among the finalists for the Bob Cousy Award.
To add to that curiosity: of all the standout point guards John Calipari has coached, only Tyler Ulis (in 2016) has won the Bob Cousy Award. That award, which is sponsored by the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame, goes to the nation’s best point guard.
Other standout point guards coached by Calipari (and the winner that year in parentheses) include Shai Gilgeous-Alexander last season (Jalen Brunson of Villanova), De’Aaron Fox in 2016-17 (Frank Mason III of Kansas), Brandon Knight in 2010-11 (Kemba Walker of Connecticut), John Wall in 2009-10 (Greivis Vasquez of Maryland) and Derrick Rose of Memphis (DJ Augustin of Texas).
For a second straight year, a familiar sight will not be present at the SEC Tournament. The UK stats crew will not be working the tournament.
Until last year in St. Louis, Jim Mazzoni had worked the shot chart every SEC Tournament since the 1988 SEC Tournament in Baton Rouge. Marcia Stone, who inputs stats in a computer, began with the 1989 SEC Tournament in Knoxville.
In Nashville on March 13-17, the SEC will again use a stats team headed by Mike Rainieri, who wrote the StatCrew software system used by all league schools.
The SEC plans to switch to the NCAA’s new LiveStats system next season.
During the College GameDay show leading into the Kentucky-Kansas game, ESPN analyst Jay Bilas used the term “tertiary.”
A trip to the dictionary was needed. The word means ranked third in importance. Or more generally, of lesser importance.
When John Calipari came onto the set, he teased Bilas about using that word.
On a follow-up call, Bilas could not remember exactly what prompted him to say “tertiary,” but he thought it might have been in reference to a secondary — or “help” — defender.
On Thursday, The Detroit News’ website included a photo of Vanderbilt Coach Bryce Drew in a featured entitled, “Sports Sightings: A humorous look at the day’s notable photos.”
In the photo, which was shot by Michael Woods of The Associated Press, Drew is holding his hands to his face and looking perplexed or distressed or both during Tuesday’s 69-66 loss at Arkansas. It was Vandy’s 10th straight loss.
The caption reads: “Vanderbilt Coach Bryce Drew wonders if the airline will charge him extra for the bags under his eyes.”
To Henry Thomas. He turned 48 on Friday. … To Winston Bennett. He turned 54 on Saturday. … To John Calipari. The UK coach turns 60 on Sunday (today). Incidentally, that’s 420 in dog years. … To Leroy Byrd. He turns 56 on Monday. … To Andy Dumstorf. The UK student fired from the sports information office because he was a Louisville fan turns 55 on Monday. … To Josh Harrellson. He turns 30 on Tuesday. … To Hall of Famer Bill Russell. He turns 85 on Tuesday. … To Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski. He turns 72 on Wednesday.