UK Men's Basketball

UK basketball notebook: Calipari rejects offer to play in Maui

Kentucky Coach John Calipari had nothing left to say as Robert Morris defeated Kentucky 59-57 on Tuesday in the first round of the NIT.   Photo by Mark Cornelison | Staff
Kentucky Coach John Calipari had nothing left to say as Robert Morris defeated Kentucky 59-57 on Tuesday in the first round of the NIT. Photo by Mark Cornelison | Staff Herald-Leader

On a recent recruiting trip, Missouri Coach Frank Haith found himself sitting between John Calipari and Roy Williams. This would be akin to having Rand Paul on your right and Barack Obama on your left, so to speak. Professional courtesies aside, they figure to ultimately disagree.

The paths diverged when Williams mentioned that he planned to take his North Carolina team to the Maui Invitational in 2016. Kentucky apparently won't be returning to Maui ... while Calipari is coach.

"Cal did say, it's too long a trip," Haith recalled. "He just brought it up."

Calipari has made no secret of how he dislikes the arduous trip to and from Maui.

"That's legit," Haith said of Calipari's concerns about traversing across five time zones. "He hates it. It's just too far for him."

And how did the North Carolina coach react when Calipari recoiled at the idea of taking another team to Hawaii?

"Well, Roy said, 'I'm going every four years,'" Haith said with a laugh. "He did."

Maui officials would love to hear Calipari say such a thing. Fuhgettaboutit.

Tournament Director Dave Odom, the former South Carolina and Wake Forest coach, has been trying to get Calipari back to Lahaina ever since Kentucky participated in 2010.

"The invitation was there," Odom said last week, "and he turned it down.

"I certainly don't want Kentucky fans to feel anything less than they're wanted. ... We'd love to have them on a rotating, four-year basis like we always have."

That timetable would mean a spot for Kentucky in the 2014 Maui Invitational. But when that year's field was announced recently, there was no UK. Message: Calipari meant it when he said he did not see any compelling benefit for Kentucky to play on Maui during Thanksgiving week.

"I think every coach has the right to decide what's right for their program," Odom said. "I respect that."

While other dynasty programs regularly participate (Kansas returns in 2015 and UCLA also has a spot reserved), Odom acknowledged that the Maui Invitational will miss Kentucky.

"It's hurtful, for sure," he said. "Wherever Kentucky goes, Kentucky has a presence. We'd like that presence every four years to be in Maui."

It has been a predictable treat for UK fans and reporters. Palm trees. Glistening water. The Opakapaka at the Hula Grill (sigh).

With NCAA rules limiting appearances to once every four years, Kentucky has participated about as often as possible: 1993, 1997, 2002, 2006, 2010.

The Maui Invitational tries to have a representative from each major conference each year. The SEC will have Arkansas in this coming season's event. Missouri takes what could be considered Kentucky's spot in 2014.

Haith mentioned several reasons to accept an invitation. Only one sounded possibly alluring to UK: The event now includes a fourth game that does not count against the NCAA limit on schedules, a prelude at home (with the home team getting the proceeds) before the three games on Thanksgiving week. So UK could get another payday, plus a palooka to punch around.

Otherwise, Haith mentioned:

■ A recruiting tool (does Kentucky and Calipari really need it?)

■ Good competition (Kentucky will play Louisville and a handful of made-for-TV matchups).

■ A reliable gauge for your team's strengths and weaknesses (see above).

■ A boost to the Ratings Percentage Index and Strength of Schedule numbers (see above).

One point Haith made hit home.

"It's something early in the year for your guys to get excited about rather than playing just a bunch of guarantee games," the Missouri coach said.

In Haith's first season as coach in 2011-12, Mizzou played Notre Dame and Cal in the CBE Invitational. Last season, Mizzou played in the Battle 4 Atlantis event in the Bahamas. The Tigers played Stanford, Louisville and VCU.

"It's really healthy for your team," Haith said of the early-season events.


Apparently, there's much discussion this spring about a shakeup in SEC officiating.

It's widely considered a done deal that Gerald Boudreaux is out as the league's Coordinator of Men's Basketball Officials. Why? Maybe because of the perception that SEC officiating has gotten worse in recent years.

Coincidentally or not, several veteran referees no longer work SEC games. They include Tom Eades, Mike Stuart, Gary Maxwell, Bert Smith and J.B. Caldwell. The loss of such seasoned officials — who might have a combined 100 seasons of experience — could not be a plus, could it?

Supposedly, Boudreaux has acknowledged his own departure. He could not be reached for comment.

Stay tuned. Perhaps no later than the annual Spring Meeting Memorial Day weekend in Destin, Fla., the SEC will set the record straight.

'Method actor'

Sportswriter Chris Dortch, most noted as editor of the Blue Ribbon Yearbook, appears in the movie 42. In an example of conservative casting, he plays a sportswriter.

"There was an open casting call seeking experienced sportswriters to play roles in the movie," Dortch wrote in an email message. " ... Part of the movie was filmed in Chattanooga, at historic Engel Stadium, so it was easy for me to get to the set and work the long hours the gig required.

"I just pitched myself as a baseball fan (the first sport I loved, long since replaced by college basketball) and an admirer of Jackie Robinson, plus my many years as an ink-stained wretch. By coincidence, I had read a Jackie Robinson biography a year before. So I was well versed on my Jackie Robinson lore.

"I sent in my résumé and a few pictures and they called and told me I got the gig.

"It was one of the neatest things I've ever done, and one of the toughest. My costume was a vintage 40s-era wool suit and hat, so suffice it to say, it got a little heated at times while filming in 90-degree temperatures. No work day was shorter than 14 hours, and a couple were closer to 16.

"But I got a rare and unique view of the process of making a movie. And better still, it was almost as though I got to go back in time and experience what it was like for Jackie Robinson. I was a fan already, but being on the movie set gave me an even greater appreciation for him, what he went through and what he did for not just baseball, but all of sports.

So I was grateful for the chance to be a part of that."

Dortch participated in three days of filming.

"I was a method actor," he wrote. "I just pretended I was in a real-life press conference situation, like maybe at a Kentucky basketball game, with media all around a player. In order to be able to hear that player or record him, you have to get as close as you can. I did the same thing in the movie."

Dortch noted that Robinson was an accomplished college basketball player for UCLA. He led the Pacific Coast Conference's Southern Division in scoring in both 1940 (12.4 average in 12 league games) and 1941 (11.1 average in 12 league games) and was chosen All-PCC Southern Division in 1940.

Vitale gala

Kansas Coach Bill Self, former Florida State football coach Bobby Bowden and former UConn coach Jim Calhoun will be honored at the annual Dick Vitale Gala, an event that raises funds for pediatric cancer research.

This year's event will be held May 7 at the Ritz-Carlton in Sarasota, Fla. In the past, the gala has raised more than $8.6 million.

Dick Vitale stages the event as part of his work for The V Foundation for Cancer Research, which is named after the late coach Jim Valvano.

College basketball coaches expected to attend this year's gala include John Calipari of Kentucky, Mike Brey (Notre Dame), Mark Gottfried (N.C. State), Jim Larranaga (Miami), Steve Prohm (Murray State) and Jay Wright (Villanova).

The after-party entertainment includes The Temptations Review, featuring former lead singer of The Temptations, Dennis Edwards.

Tickets and sponsorship opportunities for the Dick Vitale Gala are available. Individual tickets for the Gala start at $1,000 with sponsorships starting at $12,500. A raffle drawing for a Mars Red Mercedes E350A convertible will also occur during the Gala. Tickets for the raffle are $100 and winners do not need to be in attendance at the Gala for the drawing.

More information is available at or by contacting Danielle Smith at

Mike Rice Sr.

Reading a column by Brendan F. Quinn in the May issue of Basketball Times led to an interesting discovery. Quinn, who covers Tennessee basketball for the Knoxville News-Sentinel, wrote about the controversy that led to Rutgers firing Mike Rice.

Of course, the firing came after video surfaced showing Rice verbally and physically abusing players in practices. When frustrated, he acted like a child, flinging balls at players and kicking players.

Now, for the interesting part:

Quinn noted how Rice's father, also named Mike Rice, is known as "The Wild One."

The elder Rice made his reputation as an unabashed commentator on telecasts of Utah Jazz games. According to Wikipedia, Rice once acknowledged regret for on-air comments saying, "I don't give a damn about a lot of things. Later on, I think back, 'Now why'd I do that?'"

In 1994, Rice gained notoriety by being ejected from an NBA game while working a radio broadcast. He reacted to a call by raising his hands and waving off the referee.

The referee ejected Rice.


More than one alert reader noticed a mistake in a note about the NBA Draft last week. The note incorrectly said that Anthony Davis in 2012 was the first UK player taken as the overall No. 1 pick in an NBA Draft.

Of course, John Wall holds that distinction. He was taken first in the 2010 NBA Draft. This year Nerlens Noel can become the third UK player in four years taken first in an NBA Draft.

When meeting with reporters last week, Noel called being the No. 1 overall pick in a draft a "dream come true."


To Wally Hall, the longtime sports editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. He has been appointed president of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame.

This two-year appointment figures to be more than a mere ceremonial pose. Job One figures to be to help track down missing funds totalling more than $100,000.

Happy birthday

To Bob Tallent. He turned 67 on Friday. ... To former UK assistant coach David Hobbs. He turned 64 on Thursday. ... To Todd Bearup. He turned 46 on Thursday. ... To Chris Harrison. He turns 40 on Tuesday. ... To LeRon Ellis. He turns 44 today. ... To Dwight Anderson. He turns 53 today.