John Calipari

John Calipari doesn’t get to drive the pace car

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After getting lessons in taking the left turns at Kentucky Speedway from Kurt Busch, Kentucky coach John Calipari was supposed to ride shotgun in the pace car for the Quaker State 400 in Sparta, Ky. on Saturday.

Then he got the news that he’d be driving the pace car, cruising at a manageable 45 mph ahead of the pack. Calipari also was given a custom racing jacket, which he will auction off for charity.

His crash-course instruction included 90-mph splits in the rain around the 1.5-mile oval by Busch, which had the coach “white-knuckled” and holding on tightly on the passenger side as the car came within inches of the outside retaining wall. Fortunately for Calipari, he only has to drive a more comfortable 45 mph ahead of the field.

“When I went 45 (mph), I wasn’t nervous,” Calipari said, “but when he (Busch) was going 90 and 100 (mph) in that rain, all these grooves are great, I’m thinking, ‘Oh, my gosh.’

However, rain delayed the race until noon on Sunday. As a result, he would have to wait.

Looks like Calipari didn’t make it back to the track for a shot at redemption on Sunday.

Understandable. Calipari is a busy man and his time is stretched, even (maybe especially) in the offseason.

But it looks like he definitely has a good excuse for missing to opportunity. I mean, as those of us that are married will tell you, you can’t upset the wife.

The coach had expressed confidence that the race would be run, but he now must make another trip here and figure out how to make it up to his wife on their vacation.

“The good Lord knows how mad my wife is right now,” Calipari said before knowing he might have to take another vacation day.

Even in auto racing, Calipari can’t best Louisville recently.

Follow David Harten on Twitter at @David_Harten

USC athletic director Pat Haden to step down in June

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LOS ANGELES (AP) University of Southern California athletic director Pat Haden says he will retire on June 30.

USC President Max Nikias made the announcement Friday.

Haden has run the athletic department for 5 1/2 years, leading the Trojans through a multiyear stretch of NCAA sanctions against its vaunted football program. He created a large NCAA compliance program and improved graduation rates and grade point averages across the athletic department.

The former USC quarterback also received criticism for the football program’s relative underachievement and for his handling of coach Steve Sarkisian, who has sued the school over his termination last year.

Nikias says Haden’s department also raised over $400 million during his tenure.

Nikias says Haden will start a one-year job guiding the renovation of the Coliseum after he retires.

PREGAME SHOOTAROUND: Ivy League’s best meet in New Haven

Columbia guard Maodo Lo, right, steals the ball from Northwestern forward Aaron Falzon, left, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game on Friday, Nov. 20, 2015, in Evanston, Ill.  (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh
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GAME OF THE NIGHT: Columbia at Yale, 5:00 p.m.

The two best teams in the Ivy League, with matching 4-0 league records, meet for the first time this season. The Lions were close to suffering their first loss last weekend, but an Alex Rosenberg jumper as time expired gave the Lions the win at reigning champion Harvard. Rosenberg’s one of four players averaging at least 12.2 points per game for Kyle Smith’s team, with senior guard Maodo Lo leading the way at 15.8 per contest.

They’ll face a Yale rotation led offensively by point guard Makai Mason (15.7 ppg, 4.1 apg), and the front court tandem of Justin Sears and Brandon Sherrod has been outstanding. The winner get a leg up in the Ivy race, with the rematch scheduled for March 5 in New York City (regular season finale).

THIS ONE’S GOOD TOO: Central Michigan at Akron, 8:00 p.m.

Two of the top teams in the Mid-American Conference meet at the JAR, as Akron looks to extend its win streak to six straight. The Zips’ balanced offensive attack has been led by forward Isaiah Johnson (12.5 ppg, 7.6 rpg), who currently leads the team in both scoring and rebounding. As for the visiting Chippewas, guards Braylon Rayson and Chris Fowler combine to average 32.7 points per game, with Fowler also responsible for a MAC-best 6.3 assists per contest. CMU’s had some struggles on the defensive glass in league play, ranking 11th in that category, but they’ve done a better job defensively than they did in non-conference play.

OTHER NOTABLE GAMES

  • MAAC leader Monmouth is back in action, as they host a Fairfield team led by one of the conference’s best players in senior forward Marcus Gilbert. The Hawks have a deep lineup led by junior guard Justin Robinson, who at this point in time is the likely frontrunner for MAAC Player of the Year honors.
  • Looking to catch Monmouth is Iona, which is a game behind the Hawks at 9-3. A.J. English and the Gaels visit Canisius in a matchup that should not lack for offense. Iona’s more inclined to run, but Canisius doesn’t lack scorers either with guard Malcolm McMillan leading four players averaging double figures.
  • Given the fact that they’re 1-3 in Ivy League play, Harvard’s essentially in the spoiler role unless some chaos breaks out at the top end of the standings. The Crimson can help in that regard with a win at Princeton, with the Tigers (2-1) a game behind Columbia and Yale in the loss column. Princeton’s been the better offensive team this season, thanks in large part to junior forward Henry Caruso who leads the team in both scoring and rebounding.