By Chris Hatfield–
It’s impossible to hide the animosity that exists between Coach Rick Pitino and Coach John Calipari. The tension between the two is unmistakable. It has been scorching since 2009 when the match was struck with John Calipari announcing that he would take the job as head coach at the University of Kentucky.
Time has passed and several things have happened since that match was struck. John Calipari has failed to take a team with five NBA first round lottery picks past the Elite Eight.
On the flipside, Rick Pitino has had a state of the art arena built in downtown Louisville – Dick Vitale refers to it as “Pitino’s Palace.” Pitino has also brought big name players to U of L.
As far as the tension, it may have now reached an all-time high.
John Calipari introduced gasoline to the heated rivalry after making his inflammatory comments a few weeks ago.
“It’s a unique thing,” Calipari said. “There is no other state, none, that’s as connected with their basketball program as [Kentucky]. Because these other states have other programs. Michigan has Michigan State, California has UCLA, and North Carolina has Duke. It’s Kentucky throughout the state and that’s what makes it unique.”
For a long time, Pitino has turned his shoulder to snide comments made by Calipari. This time, Louisville’s head coach wasn’t going to hold back any longer. Pitino fired back after speaking to Jeff Goodman of CBSSports.com.
“Four things I’ve learned in my 59 years about people,” Pitino stated. “I ignore the jealous, I ignore the malicious, I ignore the ignorant and I ignore the paranoid.”
No longer could Rick Pitino sit back and ignore the disrespect by the coach 70 miles to the east. How could you blame him? Pitino stood up for his players, his university and his city. It is apparent that there is no love lost between the two coaches at this point.
Coach Cal has had the upper hand between the two in their most recent encounters. Cal has dominated Pitino since coming to Kentucky. Not only has Calipari bested Pitino on a head-to-head scale but also in the recruiting battle.
However, Pitino has something that Calipari doesn’t have, and that is collegiate national championship rings. The two will go head-to-head on Dec. 31 when Pitino takes his Cards to Rupp Arena.
Photo: Cody Hibbard/The Louisville Cardinal