John Calipari

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Coach Cal softball game raises $300K for La. flood relief

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John Calipari is known for his ability to amass talent. Over the weekend, that quality helped raise $300,000 for Louisiana flood relief.

The Coach Cal Celebrity Softball Classic brought Kentucky stars like Keith Bogans, Andrew Harrison and Karl-Anthony Towns and the likes of former UK quarterback Tim Couch and NFL Hall of Famer Chris Carter to Lexington to help aid Louisiana in conjunction with the Red Cross after the area suffered major flooding earlier this month.

“I didn’t want to really do a softball game,” Calipari said according to his website, “but then we decided to do it and then Louisiana happens and now you have a cause. … It’s kind of neat. You have a cause, you have a why.”

Towns’ team was the 18-12 victor over Team Calipari on the day.

“This is amazing,” Towns said on CoachCal.com. “This is something that we get a chance to rarely do. We get to help the community out but at the same time have fun. There’s nothing better than doing something that we would do for free but for charity. This is something we’re going to have a lot of fun doing today.”

The softball game was played the same weekend as the John Calipari Basketball Fantasy Experience which generated $1 million that will be shared with 14 charities.

Rick Pitino responds to Calipari’s comments on NCAA investigations

Louisville head coach Rick Pitino reacts during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Clemson, Sunday, Jan. 10, 2016, in Greenville, S.C. (AP Photo/Richard Shiro)
AP Photo/Richard Shiro
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Last week Kentucky head coach John Calipari raised some eyebrows with his comments on a podcast hosted by Mike Lupica. During his appearance on the show Calipari alluded to the NCAA investigations at Louisville and North Carolina, stating that “if it happens on your campus, and it happens with your assistants and those people, you probably have a pretty good idea of what’s going on.”

Now Calipari didn’t refer to either Louisville’s Rick Pitino or North Carolina’s Roy Williams directly, but it wasn’t too hard to figure out the cases he was referring to in his comments. He also remarked on the NCAA’s enforcement of its rules, and the idea that some believe the governing body practices selective enforcement with the more powerful programs getting away with more.

Monday afternoon Pitino issued his reply to Calipari’s comments during his media availability at Louisville.

“Whether it’s Duke last month or us this month, these type of comments – we’re here to build up the image of college basketball, not tear people down,” Pitino said, making a reference to Calipari’s recruiting manifesto that many believed was a shot at Duke and its recruiting tactics.

“I don’t live in a glass house, and I don’t throw stones.”

Throughout the still ongoing NCAA investigation into the Katina Powell scandal that led to Louisville self-imposing a postseason ban, Pitino has stated that he personally knew nothing about the events that took place. Some may believe that while others remain skeptical

Per the Louisville Courier-Journal, Pitino also stated that he would look to see what Calipari meant by his comments should the two see each other at some point this summer. And with the two programs recruiting many of the nation’s top prospects, it’s hard to envision a scenario in which they don’t cross paths when recruiting reopens next month.

Kentucky’s Briscoe looks to improve shooting, draft stock

NASHVILLE, TN - MARCH 11:  Isaiah Briscoe #13 of the Kentucky Wildcats celebrates in the game against the Alabama Crimson Tide during the quarterfinals of the SEC Basketball Tournament at Bridgestone Arena on March 11, 2016 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky guard Isaiah Briscoe was told he needs to work on his game to be a first-round NBA draft pick, and that’s fine with him.

Sure, his dream is playing in the NBA. But there are worst things than helping the Wildcats chase a national championship with another loaded roster.

“I never had a problem coming back to Kentucky,” Briscoe said Wednesday.

The 6-foot-3 sophomore returns as the Wildcats’ leading scorer after averaging 9.6 points and 5.3 rebounds last season. He’s coming off a spring of working out for NBA teams under the new rule that allowed underclassmen to submit their names and participate in the combine and separate tryouts but return to school as long as they don’t sign with an agent.

Unlike former Wildcat teammates Jamal Murray, Tyler Ulis and Skal Labissiere – whose names are expected to be called on June 23 in Brooklyn, New York – Briscoe’s pro prospects weren’t as promising. He wasn’t invited to last month’s combine and wasn’t projected as a selection, still he waited until the May 25 deadline to announce his return for a second season.

“In a way it was kind of hard because I was doing so well in the workouts,” Briscoe said of his decision after talking with coach John Calipari and assistant Kenny Payne. “But I think the conversation me and K.P. had brought everything to light and it was best for me to come back to school.”

NBA scouts offered Briscoe feedback to ponder as well.

“Shooting is important,” he said with a laugh.

Briscoe struggled with consistency last season, particularly from long range. He averaged 44 percent from the field but made just 5 of 37 attempts (14 percent) from behind the arc and shot just 46 percent from the foul line.

Briscoe said NBA personnel told him they like his shot but suggest he work on consistency. That’s been his priority since the combine, a facet Calipari mentioned last month.

“With Isaiah, the whole thing comes back to just shooting the ball,” he said. “They know the other skills he has translates, including physically, defensively and rebounding. … So, he’s just got to be a more consistent shooter.”

Though highly touted De’Aaron Fox joins Kentucky’s backcourt next season, Briscoe is preparing for the point guard role after playing as a wing last season. There he expects the “real Isaiah” will emerge, one he hopes will get him on some NBA teams’ radars next spring.

“I don’t think the NBA is going anywhere,” he said, “and coming back to Kentucky for another year to develop as a person on and off the court will only help me.”

Calipari’s suggestion made in jest should spark serious idea

Tyler Ulis, Derek Willis, John Calipari
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With the SEC managing to earn just three bids to this past season’s NCAA tournament, the strength of the conference’s basketball product was one of the items discussed at SEC spring meetings in Florida earlier this week. Some alterations were made, such as mandating that teams put together non-conference schedules with an average opponent RPI no lower than 175 (that will be raised to 150 in the future), but that wasn’t what grabbed the attention of the masses.

What did was Kentucky head coach John Calipari’s suggestion that the SEC move its conference tournament from March to November. As one would expect, the reactions within the meeting room were swift and in opposition to Calipari’s suggestion. But here’s the thing: the “suggestion” was more about the impact (or lack thereof) of SEC tournament results on NCAA tournament selections and seeding than it was actually moving the event.

Back in March Calipari expressed his surprise over the fact that Kentucky, winners of the SEC tournament, was given a four-seed while Texas A&M (the team they beat in the title game) received a three. A team’s overall résumé is of higher priority than late-season results when it comes to the selection process, but one can see why a coach would essentially question just how much of an impact winning a conference tournament can have on their placement within the NCAA tournament bracket.

There’s no way that the SEC would move its conference tournament to November, and Calipari knows that. But here’s a move that the league should consider: setting up the schedule so that the SEC tournament concludes on Saturday (the day before Selection Sunday) as opposed to Selection Sunday itself.

Currently the SEC is one of five conferences that plays its tournament final on Selection Sunday, with the American, Atlantic 10, Big Ten and Sun Belt being the others. The main reason for this is to ensure that your conference gets to play the game that determines its automatic bid recipient on national television, giving the conference a platform that won’t have much in the way of competition for viewers.

But there’s also the argument that playing this close to the announcement of the NCAA tournament field can hurt a conference when it comes to seeding and team selection. The selection committee does have its contingency brackets to account for a variety of scenarios, but would the processes of team and bracket evaluation be helped by there being no games played on Selection Sunday?

It’s something worth considering, but it’s highly unlikely to happen due to television networks’ desires for inventory and conferences looking for as much national exposure as they can get (this is especially true for smaller conferences).

Still without an associate commissioner for men’s basketball, there will be a lot for that person to address whenever SEC commissioner Greg Sankey fills that vacancy. Obviously moving the tournament to November won’t be one of those issues, but why not consider moving the tournament up a day? Who knows, it could help the SEC when it comes to the late evaluation of its teams.

Calipari suggests moving SEC tournament to November

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John Calipari has another big idea.

The Kentucky coach wants to move the SEC tournament from after the regular season to November, according to CBS Sports.

The idea, which didn’t receive much support in the room according to CBS, stems from Calipari’s well-known distaste for conference tournaments. Just last year, the Wildcats received a No. 4 seed in the NCAA tournament after winning the SEC title game against Texas A&M, which received a No. 3 seed.

“If this is what happens, why are we playing that game?” Calipari said in an interview on ESPN after the Selection Show. “We won the game. A technical [foul] got them a game, and they get a 3-seed, and we got a 4.”

The idea of moving the tournament to November wasn’t the only radical alteration Calipari is proposing either. In a series of tweets Wednesday afternoon, he suggested playing games simultaneously on two courts inside a football stadium.

 

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Calipari, in essence, thinks the SEC tournament has the prestige of an AAU tournament.

Sure, it’s a whacky idea whose merit doesn’t seem particularly clear (SEC basketball would be relevant in November, I suppose), but it’s just another example of what makes Cal, Cal.

It’s the outside-the-box attitude and willingness to embrace ideas that fall outside conventional thinking that’s made him one of the game’s most forward-thinking figures.

Oh, and it has Calipari and Kentucky basketball making news on June 1. Forward-thinking and a savvy marketer, that guy.

College names surface in reports regarding Lakers coaching vacancy

Connecticut coach Kevin Ollie has a word with guard Rodney Purvis (44) during an NCAA college basketball game against Michigan on Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2015, in Paradise Island, Bahamas. (Brad Horrigan/The Courant via AP)
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With some NBA head coaching jobs opening up, it’s that time of year when the names of prominent college basketball head coaches get mentioned for such opportunities. Of course we’ve all become used to the annual rumors involving Kentucky head coach John Calipari, who has yet to move away from one of the top jobs in the sport.

His name is one that has come up in recent reports surrounding the Los Angeles Lakers’ opening, with Connecticut’s Kevin Ollie and Villanova’s Jay Wright among those being mentioned by various outlets as well.

Ollie, who led his alma mater to a national title in his second season at the helm, was mentioned in reports by both Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com.

Ollie told ESPN’s Andy Katz on Monday that he has had no contact with the Lakers. He said he will always listen if called but it would take “something very special” to pull him away from UConn.

Ollie’s contract, which was signed after he led the Huskies to the national title in 2014, has a clause that would allow him to terminate his contract without penalty “on or after the one-year anniversary” of the departure of either athletic director Warde Manuel or UConn president Susan Herbst. Manuel left UConn in January to take over as athletic director at Michigan (his first official day was March 14), so a departure now would not meet the one-year requirement.

The buyout to leave for an NBA job would be $4 million until May 31, with the buyout amount dropping to $1 million after that date.

The latter report also named Wright, Calipari, Tom Izzo and Roy Williams as names the Lakers could consider for their opening. Wright led Villanova to its second national title earlier this month, and his Wildcats have won the last three Big East regular season titles.

NBA franchises have been more willing to look at successful college coaches in recent years, with Fred Hoiberg and Billy Donovan making the jump to the pros last season. Hoiberg took over in Chicago, but things didn’t go as planned for the Bulls as they missed out on the playoffs for the first time since the 2007-08 season. As for Donovan, he’s running the show in Oklahoma City where the Thunder are up three games to one on the Mavericks.

Both coaches took jobs with (at first glance) the talent needed to be successful, which is a far cry from the jobs Calipari and Rick Pitino took with the Nets and Celtics respectively during the mid-1990’s. Does the Lakers job fit that mold? Having won a total of 38 games in their last two seasons, not to mention needing to fill the hole left by the retirement of Kobe Bryant, one can argue that this would not be an optimal job for a college coach to take.

But with the Lakers being a franchise that’s won 16 titles, the appeal of leading such a storied franchise can’t be denied even with the recent struggles.