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John Calipari Draws Out The Worst In Sportswriters

Just yesterday I noted how Kentucky coach John Calipari's offhand dismissal of the Louisville Cardinals for the Kentucky fan media had produced a satisfyingly petulant whine around some in the national media as well as Cardinal fan sites, but nothing out there even comes close to the hilarious column written by Louisville Courier-Journal columnist Rick Bozich.  To be honest, when I read this thing the first time, I really thought it was satirical humor.  It took two more readings for me to convince myself he was actually serious.

Bozich says that the reason Calipari has been shooting a few clever insults the Cardinals' way is because -- and I kid you not -- he is jealous of Rick Pitino:

Pitino is tracking for the Basketball Hall of Fame. Louisville is a top-10 program nationally, with the state-of-the art arena that sparkles in the state’s largest city to prove it.

I swear, cross my heart and hope to die, that this is the only sentence in the entire column that could possibly be construed to support Bozich's contention of envy.  Every other paragraph in the entire piece is completely non-sequitur to the point of his article.  I'll also point out for the record that there is some debate as to whether Louisville is actually a "top-10 program nationally," but there is absolutely none about whether or not Kentucky is.

I think now you can see why I thought this was satire.  In reality, it is more like accidental self-parody.  Does Bozich seriously believe that a shiny new arena that seats 3000 fewer people than Rupp Arena does is actually making Calipari green with envy?  It must be the luxury boxes for corporate fat cats.

As to the "tracking for the Hall of Fame" thing, let's compare their records as coaches today:

Career Summary
Statistic Calipari Pitino
NCAA Tourneys 13 16
NCAA Tourney Champions 0 1
Final Fours 3 5
Conf Tourney Champions 11 9
Draft Picks 16 18

I know, I know -- two of those Final Fours didn't happen, despite the fact they really did.  So sue me.

So we have Calipari coming into the prime of his coaching career, and Pitino leaving his best days behind, and this is cause for jealousy?  Seriously?  At least one of these stats are certainly going to be eclipsed by Calipari this year, which is draft picks, and coach Cal has his best shot ever to tie Pitino and notch his first NCAA Tournament title.  Even if he doesn't, with the kind of talent Coach Cal brings in, odds are he'll have one before Rick Pitino has another.

Can it be that Rick Pitino has a better career winning percentage?  Nope -- .771 for Cal, .731 for Pitino.  Maybe the fact that Pitino has a better tournament record at 38-15 (.717) compared to Cal's paltry .711 (32-13).  Yeah.  That must be it.  That and an arena named after a fast food company to go along with the Louisville football stadium named after a fast food company.  Nice symmetry.

So I don't think anyone can credibly say that Calipari is jealous of Pitino's record.  There is also no doubt who has had more success over the last ten years, or the last five, or even the last two, and it's not Rick Pitino.  So that can't be it.  Can't be recruiting -- even Bozich acknowledges that:

It’s similar to the agenda that has resulted in Cal squeezing Pitino on recruits such as Marquis Teague and Gary Harris — and making a belated run at Elisha Justice. As one of Calipari’s sidekicks once told me when the coach arrived from Memphis, if Pitino and U of L need to get steamrolled, they’re going to get steamrolled.

And why not?  Trust me when I tell you that's exactly what the vast majority of the Big Blue Nation wants to see -- Calipari steamrolling not just Pitino, but everybody -- Roy Williams, Coach K, you name it.  All your recruits are belong to us, to coin a somewhat famous Internet malapropism.  We want UK to be an equal opportunity steamroller, but it's especially satisfying when Calipari reminds little brother that they are, well, little brother.

Bozich also takes a cheap shot at Calipari, but I don't really mind and your can read it for yourself.  Cal's shot at Louisville was arguably a cheapie as well, so if Bozich feels compelled to defend Pitino's honor in like kind, that's fair enough.  At least we know where he stands, as if there was ever any doubt.

Mr. Bozich, you have it all wrong.  Calipari isn't jealous of Pitino, he's significantly superior in every measurable statistic right now -- recruiting, record, and tournament success.  Historically, Pitino has only one major advantage -- an NCAA tournament championship that he earned at Kentucky, not at Louisville, just in case you've forgotten. In his ten years at Louisville, Pitino has been to exactly one Final Four and three Elite Eights, and Calipari has been to two Elite Eights and one Final Four in only two years at Kentucky despite taking over a program that was on the ropes nationally.

The message Calipari is sending, if any is this:

Rick, you blew it, and I'm never going to let you forget it.  When I came in here to Kentucky to play against you in 1992, I wanted to be just like you.  I wanted your job and your life -- not given to me, but to have the chance to earn it someday. But I figured you'd be at UK for life and that would be impossible. 

It only became possible because you did the dumbest thing I have ever heard of -- left Kentucky for more money in a situation you knew was likely to go bad.  You even agree with me about that.

You deserve your fate as the coach of a program that will always be a distant second to the one you left, and I'm going to remind you every day I'm here on behalf of the greatest fans in college basketball just how distant that second really is.

Karma, Rick.  Karma.

Thanks, Rick Bozich, for the mock-fodder.  It's been fun.