One can usually tell how close it is to game day based on how coaches and players deal with question and answer sessions.
When it comes to the relationship of head coaches John Calipari (Kentucky) and Rick Pitino (Louisville), to say that these two won’t be seen sharing a meal would be an understatement.
Sure enough there was a disagreement of sorts, with Pitino responding to Calipari’s comments on UK’s reach within the state with the following:
“John has only been in this state three years, so he doesn’t know the magnitude of Louisville basketball, for that matter, the history. You say so many things, you’re going to make a mistake. I’ve made so many myself. He made a mistake probably in what he said.”
To be fair Calipari did offer a clarification on his comments, noting that within their in-state rivalry with the Cardinals there are Kentucky fans all over the state.
“I didn’t say that. …The state is unique in that Kentucky fans are throughout the state. You don’t have many Kentucky fans or North Carolina fans in Durham or many Duke fans in Chapel Hill or UCLA fans in, you know, Sacramento. I mean, it’s just different.
Kentucky’s got a number of fans in the city of Louisville, and they’ve played a regular season game at Freedom Hall (Louisville’s home before the building of the KFC Yum! Center) every season since the 1957-58 campaign.
But with the enormity of the Final Four being what it is, seemingly innocent comments like the one that Calipari made back in October about the popularity of Kentucky Basketball will receive even more attention.
”It’s a unique thing. There’s no other state, none, that’s as connected to their basketball program as this one. Because those other states have other programs. Michigan has Michigan State, California has UCLA, North Carolina has Duke. It’s Kentucky throughout this whole state, and that’s what makes us unique.”
Pitino added in his response that Calipari’s comments wouldn’t provide extra motivation for his team, and frankly if a team needs added motivation with two wins separating them from a national title there’s something wrong.
But for the fans of the two teams, the latest words from the two head coaches is just more lighter fluid for a flame that was already burning.