Thoughts from the House of Cal

I’ve been covering college basketball here now for 10 years, and it’s not often that a college basketball coach invites you into his home. Strike that. It’s not ever that a college basketball coach has invited me into his home.

So when 10 of us showed up yesterday at John Calipari’s home on Richmond Road in Lexington, it was a little different.

For starters, the team wasn’t there yet. And in fact, the TV stations who were there — waiting for the “money” shot of the Wildcats reacting to themselves being named a No. 1 seed — had to wait. It was an empty room that greeted the announcement, with only some members of the Calipari family milling about back in the kitchen when the Selection Show came on.

I guess this No. 1 seed thing is no big deal for them anymore.

The Wildcats, meanwhile, were on a mad dash to get back from Nashville. They rushed onto the bus after finishing their post-SEC championship obligations in Nashville. No traffic. Straight onto the charter plane. Got off at the Lexington airport. Bussed to Calipari’s house.

Just as we reporters started looking at each other wondering if we’d have to interview each other, here came Calipari through the back door. There was no cheer, no nothing. Nobody saw him at first. Then his wife Ellen smiled at him and embraced him and they kissed.

Calipari was carrying his own bag. “I gotta put this away,” he said. And he had to squeeze past a cameraman in his hallway on the way back to the bedroom.

I must say, it was like any other guy getting home from a business trip — with the exception of the reporters in the living room. Since I’m sure I’ll be asked, the Calipari home is very nice, but it’s also not other-worldly in terms of size. It’s not like you’re walking into Dwyane Wade’s house. It’s not the house of someone who is trying to overwhelm anyone who visits. It feels like a home, not a hotel or a monument.

I contrast it with Billy Gillispie’s place in Jessamine County, which was featured in a local magazine. You could shoot Calipari’s house and it would make a nice photo spread, but it’s more of a regular-people place.

The Wildcats then started to wander in, smiling and tired. As they did, they were handed Nike “Refuse to Lose” T-shirts, and pulled them on over their SEC championship shirts. Then everyone found spots on couches.

They handed Calipari a T-shirt and he went into another room to put it on. When he came back all the seats were full and he plopped down on DeMarcus Cousins in an oversized chair and said, “scoot over.”

From that point, it was your pretty standard fare. Joe B. Hall came around. It was low key. The SEC Tournament championship trophy sat on an end table and nobody paid much attention to it.

I’ve shot some video of the players and coaches watching the announcement, and it will go up on C-J.com later today.

You can read more about the time at Calipari’s in my column, which will post on the C-J web site just after 1 p.m.

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