John Calipari and Rick Pitino hate each other.
They have a bitter, long enduring feud that goes back to his days at Memphis. And maybe even before that. The details of why and how this feud erupted are slim on details and long on legend. But after listening to John Calipari’s "Cal Cast" podcast, I’m beginning to wonder how much of it is even true.
When it was announced that Cal was going to have Pitino on his podcast, the internet and social media were abuzz. How in the world did these two hated rivals come together for an hour without verbally assaulting each other for the entirety of the episode? Many people thought that it was unthinkable that Cal would even ask him.
We’ve seen the two recently shaking hands and playing nice on the basketball court. In 2012, we had the pleasure of watching them together on TV in a studio before they faced off in the Final Four.
But they have also been sniping at each other through the media during that time. When Calipari came up with his "Players First" slogan for the program, Rick Pitino held a press conference at which he declared his program’s slogan was "Louisville First, Cards Forever." They’ve battled for the same recruits, and Cal has won that battle every single time. At one point when the UK coach was catching heave criticism, he point blank asked, "Do you want Rick back?"
And of course, Pitino LOVES to poke BBN. He’s called us crazy and insane, not lovingly like Cal does, but in a mocking way. He flipped off the crowd at Rupp last season after a close loss. He refuses to do postgame press conferences at Rupp when he loses. How much of that is because of his "contentious" relationship with John Calipari?
After listening to the podcast, I’ve come away with the opinion that the relationship isn’t as contentious as people think. The two, in fact, don’t hate each other. Calipari starts off the podcast with admitting that they don’t trade Christmas Cards, but they respect one another, and they respect the job that each do. They are rivals on the court, but it ends there.
It’s interesting to listen to both of them talk about how they made their way up through the coaching business in similar fashions with help from the same people. They discuss the uniqueness of the UK vs. UofL rivalry and how that has shaped them. Pitino spends time talking about the state of Kentucky basketball when he arrived there in the early 90’s, and Cal credits him for rebuilding it to what it is today.
They get into what it is like to having sons in their business and how they live and die with everything that they do. There is a real bond there between them.
While John Calipari didn’t mention directly the current scandal happening at UofL and the things that have happened in his own career, he gets Pitino to talk about accountability that coaches have in regards to player’s activity during the hours that they are on their own. Again, the two find common cause in similar experiences.
The reality is that Cal and Pitino are more alike that maybe we want to admit. I’m not a big Rick Pitino fan but after listening to him talk to Calipari, he is a coach that I admire a great deal. I find myself not disliking him as much as I did before the interview.
It’s good for bloggers and media to further the perception that Cal and Pitino hate each other. I know a certain big time UK radio host will not back down off his stance that the two coaches despise one another. It’s good for his business, and it’s good for his schtick. But I come away from that podcast with the belief that most of it is BS. Unless the two guys are the greatest actors in the world, and they very well may be, they sounded sincere in their admiration and respect for one another.
I declare the hatchet buried.
If you haven’t had a chance to listen to it, I highly recommend that you do. I’ve enjoyed all of Cal’s podcast so far.