I’ve been writing, or trying to write, anyway, respectable journalism for the A-1 news page of The Courier-Journal for the past couple of days. Only problem is, there’s not much way to play around when you do those pieces. So let me get the following column out of my system, so I can move on to other things. In the style (but not the substance) of the late, great Allan Malmud:
Incomplete thoughts on Calipari . . .
Last week, current University of Louisville and former Univeristy of Kentucky coach Rick Pitino said the Kentucky job was unique because, “You not only have to win the game, you have to win the press conference,” . . .
After his introductory presser, consider Calipari 1-0. . . .
In about a 5-minute span, Calipari managed to name drop Richie Farmer, Kyle Macy, Bill Keightley, Adolph Rupp, Jeff Sheppard, and every living former Wildcat coach except his immediate predecessor. Some naysayers, however, noted that Calipari did neglect to mention Colonel Sanders, Happy Chandler and Jim Beam. . . .
Speaking of Billy Gillispie, Calipari did refer to him once, when he asked WLEX-TV’s Alan Cutler, “Did you chase that guy?” . . .
The media distinguished itself with some memorable moments during this 72-hour ordeal. . . .
The Memphis Fox television affiliate trained a camera on a back door at the University of Memphis athletic department hoping to get a shot of Calipari walking through it, and kept the feed going for parts of two days. He never did. . . .
The good news: Fox wants to pick up the live shot of The Door for a reality series next fall, and plans to market a commemorative DVD set to Kentucky fans sometime this summer. . . .
Memphis Commercial-Appeal columnist Geoff Caulkins is one of the finest sports columnists in America, and a dogged reporter it turns out. He followed Calipari into a donut shop — disguised, I’m told, as a bear claw — to try to get some scoop on Tuesday. . . .
Did I mention that Caulkins went to Harvard Law School? Probably explains why he came up with the idea to check out the donut shop and I didn’t. . . .
I tried to go him one better. I hung out at the Krispy Kreme on Bardstown Road for three hours Wednesday, but all I got was three pounds heavier and a quote from some guy who said he’d heard Calipari wanted the job so bad he would “Cruller on his hands and knees to Lexington to get it.” . . .
Last bit of doughnut talk, I promise. Calipari said in his introductory press conference that he’s crazy about Dunkin’ Donuts and he’s not just saying that. He’s had managers scout out locations on road trips. He has been known to drive 90 miles to the nearest Dunkin’ Donuts to Memphis — in Jackson, Tenn. — for a cup of its coffee. . . .
He won’t have to drive that far in Lexington. Problem is, the nearest location is owned by, among others, Rick Pitino. To feed his habit, he’ll have to feed Pitino’s wallet. . . .
Sometimes you get the doughnut, sometimes you get the hole. . . .
Someone suggested Calipari likes his coffee the way he likes his coaching rivals — Italian roasted. . . .
UK athletic director Mitch Barnhart was onto something today when he told me that, amid all the other considerations, he wanted to find a coach who would not just perform in the Kentucky job, but one who would enjoy it. . . .
Sitting at that news conference today, Calipari looked like he was riding a gravy train with biscuit wheels. . . .
It was the first time in a dozen years that I have heard a Kentucky coach speak without sounding like he was trying to weigh the effect of every word before it came out. . . .
When Calipari was about to face Ben Howland in the Final Four last year, the Los Angeles Times dismissed Calipari, calling it “a coaching mismatch.” . . .
Calipari’s response when asked about the story? “Come on,” he said. “Ben’s not that bad.” . . .
The story, incidentally, turned out to be right. . .
Memphis won by 15. . . .
Sources say it was Calipari himself who nixed the idea of a celebratory introductory pep rally, not wanting to blow his arrival out of proportion. At the news conference, he struck this tone, “I do not walk on water. I do not have a magic wand. I’m day to day. . . . I’m not the grand poobah. I’m not the emperor. That’s not what I want to be. We’re regular people.”
When Calipari and Pitino renewed their rivalry for the first time after Calipari arrived at Memphis in 2002, Pitino countered the notion that Calipari is a “regular guy,” . . .
“As you all know, some coaches do the work themselves, and some have 100 valets,” Pitino said. “John’s one of those valet guys. He’s not a hot-dog-and-beer guy. He’s a Chateaubriand and Dom Perignon man. He didn’t realize that Muhammed Lasege and Rashad Brooks and Marques Maybin are not playing for us. The valets have not told him yet that they aren’t playing. It’s very difficult. By the time it gets to John it has to go through 99 people, because that’s what kings do on their thrones – they wait for people to report back to them. But he’ll find out before game time.” . . .
It should be noted, while at Memphis, Calipari also established the reputation of being a sign-the-best-players-in-the-country guy. . . .
Stat of the day: Billy Gillispie did not sign a contract at UK in two years. Calipari and his people negotiated and signed the most lucrative contract in college basketball all in two days. . . .
Now it can be told: One UK administrator near the end of this season said of Gillispie, “You can’t treat everybody like a turkey then expect every day to be Thanksgiving.” . . .
It is, however, fair to say that today, for UK basketball fans, was like Christmas.