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Calipari vs. Pitino: Who Was "First?"

The Card Chronicle has this piece yesterday discussing a Gary Parrish article in which Parrish finds it telling that Calipari used the term, "players first" over and over again during his speech the other night at Big Blue Madness.  First, Parrish:

So I was walking around Louisville's practice facility Saturday, and I kept seeing shirts that read "Louisville First." Apparently, that's this season's slogan for the Cardinals. Team first. Nothing else matters. Check your ego at the door. Louisville First.

No big deal, right?

Coaches do stuff like this all the time.

But then I started thinking about John Calipari's Media Day on Thursday and the speech he gave at Friday's Big Blue Madness, and I couldn't help but make a connection between Louisville's new slogan and Calipari's favorite new phrase -- Players First. "This is a players-first program," he said over and over again, and it really is classic Calipari. [my emphasis]

So then I asked myself, "Self, when did Coach Cal start using the term 'players first?'  Was it just recently? Is he really trying to tweak Pitino again, as Parrish is claiming?"

The answer is found in this article from WYMT back in June of 2010, where Calipari defends his contention that the five UK players drafted in the 2010 NBA draft was "the biggest moment in the history of Kentucky basketball."

"Well, it depends on your frame of reference and what you're thinking about.  When I took this job, I said this will be a players-first program.  And I said we want to graduate players.  We graduated four.  We want to win national titles.  And it's to help players realize their dreams and we had five -- FIVE-- players that are now realizing their dreams." [my emphasis]

Also, consider this article at A Sea of Blue in April of this year, where we talk about Calipari's use of the term, "players first" on

John Calipari wrote an article yesterday on describing what a "players-first" program means to him.  It is a short piece, but it goes a long way to explain his philosophy about college basketball in the era of "one and done," and even though there is nothing really surprising in the article, there is a lot more meat there than some may realize.[my emphasis]

With all that in mind, consider Mike Rutherford's comments at the Card Chronicle:

The rivalry is back in the news tonight as CBS' Garry Parrish looks at how John Calipari has suspiciously been using the phrase "players first" more and more. It's not a coincidence, Parrish believes, that Rick Pitino has made his theme for U of L's 2011-2012 season "Louisville First."[my emphasis]

Okay, so what we have here is "suspicious" on the part of Calipari?  Really?  I guess these folks don't remember (Mike gets a pass -- he's a Louisville fan after all, but Parrish should have known) that Calipari has been using that phrase in the news for the last year or longer.  Pitino unveiled the "Louisville first" slogan circa July of this year.

So who's tweaking who?  Seriously, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.