UK Men's Basketball

Calipari shrugs off Knight's comments

John Calipari respectfully disagreed Friday with Hall of Famer Bob Knight, who questioned the Kentucky coach's integrity the day before.

At a fund-raiser for the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame on Thursday, Knight singled out Calipari as an example of how coaching integrity was in decline.

"You see we've got a coach at Kentucky who put two schools on probation, and he's still coaching," Knight said. "I really don't understand that."

Knight also questioned the trend of so-called "one-and-dones," players who are required to attend class only one semester if playing one college season before turning pro. "I don't think that's right," Knight said.

UK freshman John Wall is widely expected to be the third straight one-and-done player for Calipari, following Derrick Rose and Tyreke Evans at Memphis the past two seasons. Calipari has repeatedly volunteered glowing reports on Wall's academic performance.

When asked about Knight's comment, Calipari said, "I'm a big fan. Respect him as a basketball coach. Always have. Matter of fact, I took my staff down to Texas Tech. Spent a day. Watched them practice.

"(Knight) helped me with the dribble-drive. Made it even better.

"I don't agree with what he said, but it doesn't change how I feel about him."

Calipari declined to answer any follow-up questions. He simply said "next question" and turned his face from a reporter who asked whether head coaches should be held accountable for rules violations in a program and later asked what Calipari thought of former UK athletics director C.M. Newton saying this year that Calipari was one among many coaches who tested the limits of rules.

Before the standard day-before-a-game news conference, UK spokesman DeWayne Peevy told reporters Calipari would make a statement but not answer questions about Knight's comment.

If reporters asked questions about Knight's comments, Calipari might abruptly leave for practice, Peevy said.

Through spokesmen, UK President Lee Todd and Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart declined to comment.

Jim Haney, executive director of the National Association of Basketball Coaches, noted that Calipari was not named as a participant in violations found in his programs at Massachusetts and Memphis.

Calipari is the only coach to have two Final Four appearances vacated at two different schools because of NCAA improprieties. Star Marcus Camby's admission of taking gifts from an agent caused the NCAA to order Massachusetts to vacate its 1996 Final Four appearance. And earlier this year, the NCAA ordered Memphis to vacate its 2008 Final Four because Rose was found to have cheated on his college entrance exam. Memphis is appealing the judgment, which also ordered the school to vacate its 38 victories that season.

Bob Marcum, who was Calipari's athletics director at Massachusetts, said he did not know about Knight's criticisms. But Marcum said Knight was wrong to imply that the NCAA put UMass on probation. In fact, neither of Calipari's programs were placed on probation.

Marcum said the school voluntarily reported Camby's association with an agent to the NCAA and "worked pretty closely" with officials in Camby's home state of Connecticut to find out what happened. Knight's comments came five days after Indiana fans made Calipari's integrity a subject of chants and sign waving.

One fan held up a sign that read "Calipari borrowed my SAT." Fans also chanted "S-A-T, S-A-T" and "Calipari is a cheater" during the game.

Fans are expected to insult visiting coaches and players. Knight provided a surprise with such pointed criticism of Calipari.

Newton, whose son Martin works as Calipari's director of operations, brushed off Knight's comments.

"I don't know what Knight might have said and, frankly, I don't care," Newton said.

Newton acknowledged this was not the first time Knight had questioned Kentucky basketball's desire to abide by the rules. When UK hired Newton as athletics director in 1989 and asked him to clean up the mess made by the program's major violations of rules, Knight said the title should be director of corrections.

Earlier this year, Newton said Calipari was like "many, many others" in coaching who "go to the edge" of rules compliance.

"You'd like to think everybody operates within the spirit of intent of the rules, and you can shoot for that," Newton told USA Today. "But in the real world we're in now, where the dollars are driving it, you're in a big business."

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