UK Men's Basketball

Ex-Cat Riley explains how he became Hall of Fame presenter for Calipari

Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra, left, and president Pat Riley celebrate after Game 7 of the NBA Finals, Friday, June 21, 2013, in Miami. The Heat defeated the San Antonio Spurs 95-88 to win their second straight NBA championship. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra, left, and president Pat Riley celebrate after Game 7 of the NBA Finals, Friday, June 21, 2013, in Miami. The Heat defeated the San Antonio Spurs 95-88 to win their second straight NBA championship. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee) AP

Three Hall of Famers will be presenters for Kentucky Coach John Calipari's induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Friday. Which of the three doesn't seem to fit: Calipari's mentor Larry Brown (Hall class of 2002), UMass's most famous player, Julius Erving (1993) or Pat Riley (2008)?

Even Riley thinks he will be perceived as the odd man out in the trio.

"Probably a lot of people can understand the other two," he said Wednesday. "But they don't understand me."

Of course, Riley and Calipari are connected to Kentucky. But Riley last played for UK in 1967, or more than 40 years before Calipari's arrival in 2009.

"We've had a good relationship over the years," Riley said.

The Riley-Calipari relationship dates back to being coaching colleagues in the NBA in the late 1990s: Riley with the Miami Heat and Calipari with the New Jersey Nets.

"We spent time (together) in coaching meetings," Riley said. "He was a young coach at that time."

Riley offered a bit of Hall of Fame trivia: Calipari's last game as coach of the Nets was a loss to Riley's Heat.

Later, when Calipari coached for the University of Memphis, he would meet with Calipari when the Heat played at the Grizzlies.

"We'd visit a lot," Riley said.

With multiple Kentucky players entering the NBA Draft each year, Calipari would call Riley and other NBA personnel to get a sense of what the pros thought of the Cats. This year was no exception.

"That's when he asked me if I would escort him up to the stage," Riley said. "And I said, 'Yeah.'"

Riley, a player on arguably UK's most beloved team, Rupp's Runts, lauded Calipari as a worthy Hall of Famer. Besides winning games, Riley noted the many players who go on to NBA careers.

"I've got great respect and appreciation for all he does," Riley said.

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