John Calipari Wants Rick Pitino Back in Rupp Arena
Now THERE'S a headline I never thought I'd write. But, to be perfectly honest, I always thought that "Calipari and Pitino hate each other" thing was a little overblown.
That being said, it's a headline that requires explanation. So let's get into it.
During Saturday's UK game, in which the Wildcats trounced their old NCAA Tournament foil Utah 88-61, members of the 1993 Final Four team were honored on not-exactly that Big Dance's silver anniversary, but we'll take it.
That team's star, Jamal Mashburn, was not on hand. Neither was that team's coach.
In 2001, I witnessed, first hand, the reception afforded Rick Pitino when he returned to Rupp Arena for the first time after becoming the head coach at Louisville.
It wasn't pretty.
And it never was again, although not to the 2001 extent.
But the history of the Kentucky program is so vitally important to John Calipari and he loves honoring that history.
And he knows as well as you and I know that Rick Pitino reignited UK basketball after the disastrous, penalty-ridden post-Eddie Sutton years.
Those Pitino seasons--which include a national title, three Final Fours, and two more Elite Eights--will always create a warm feeling in any member of Big Blue Nation.
Even IF they can't stand the coach BEHIND those seasons.
I get it. Kentucky/Louisville is a heated rivalry and 'Cat fans were outraged when Pitino returned to college hoops to helm the Cardinals' program.
Those feelings never went away and were likely exacerbated by Louisville's recent scandals.
But I totally see John Calipari's point. Shouldn't the architect of the UK revival be recognized in Rupp Arena?
Calipari thinks the fans would show respect, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal.
Maybe it IS time for everyone to get past all this. However anyone might feel about Rick Pitino and what's happened in recent years, holding on to what amounts to a big old grudge is reductive.
For what it's worth, Pitino's respect and love for the Kentucky program has never waned. In fact, he's said, on more than one occasion, that he wishes he'd never left.
And, as far as that "bitter" Pitino/Cal rivalry? Rick says Calipari has reached out to "check on me multiple times."
Now, will Pitino ever return to Rupp Arena?
I'm gonna bet the "under."