Not since I got this issue of Sports Illustrated in the mail on May 29, 1989 has news relating to Kentucky Basketball made me as happy as I am right now.
Kentucky hired John Calapari.
Do you love this news as much as I do?
I’d be willing to wager that whether you are an IU or a UK fan you are equally excited by this news, but for very different reasons.
Why are Kentucky fans so excited?
There’s only one answer. They care exclusively about winning. Calapari will win games. He’ll bring in big recruits. That’s enough for Joe Bluegrass.
Why am I, as an IU fan so excited?
Let me count the ways.
1.) There are probably four coaches for whom I have a vitriolic dislike. They are Kelvin Sampson, John Calapari, Bruce Weber and Bob Huggins. There is only one basketball program I actively hate. I was spending all this time hating UK and Memphis (because of Calapari). Now I can accomplish the same amount of hate in half the time. It’s like combining two high interest credit cards into one, low, monthly payment. Of Hate.
2.) As much as I dislike UK, I hadn’t spent much time thinking about them lately. When I was in high school I could name the player on UK like I could on IU. That’s probably due, in large part, to living so near so many UK fans when I was in high school and living near virtually none for the last ten years. I just don’t have anyone to argue with about it, so I haven’t paid as much attention. It’s also due to the fact that we haven’t had much to brag about recently. The addition of Calapari gives me new reason to amp up my dislike.
Which, based on the few back and forths I’ve had on facebook recently, has brought a whole new level of fun to this rivalry.
3.) I am, once again, reminded of the core difference between IU fans and UK fans. When IU hired Kelvin Sampson the reaction to that hiring was split roughly down the middle. On one side you had your Kent Benson crowd, the “I can’t believe you hired a guy who doesn’t graduate his players and is on probabation. This guy’s a scumbag and we have no interest in a guy like that running our program.” and, for lack of a famous standard bearer I’ll call this the Jeff Taylor crowd, whose reaction went something like this, “That stuff at Oklahoma doesn’t seem very good, but he’s our coach now and I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, but he’s on a pretty short leash with me.”
I went slumming on a UK message board to get a feel for their reaction and (Packer Method) I’m going to put the split there 75-25 between “HELL YEAH!!! WE FINALLY GOT THE GUY WE’VE WANTED ALL ALONG!!! WE’RE GOING BACK TO THE FINAL FOUR IN THE NEXT TWO YEARS!!!!” and “Are we sure about this? Hasn’t he been involved in some shady stuff in the, oh hell, who am I kidding GO BLUE!!!!!”
When something seems dirty to us, we question it and decide to support our team anyway, or we get completely disgusted and turn away completely. Pay attention to how your average Wildcat fan reacts to anyone questioning the integrity of Coach Cal. I wish I knew a word that meant super-defensive.
4.) I was right. About the character of UK basketball, about the priorities of the fans, about UK in general. I was right not to speak to my cousin the entire time she was a student there.
5.) And perhaps my favorite reason of all. In one fell swoop, Kentucky has given us back the moral high ground. We hired a guy who was a liar and a cheat. He drove the program into the ground and soiled its reputation. You know what we did? We fired his ass in the middle of a season with a team that could have gone to the Final Four.
Kentucky hired a real scumbag, and you know what they did? The held their heads up high once again, becasue they were going to go back to the NCAA tournament next year.
And lest you think I’m just a UK or Calapari hater for no reason.
(Hunt missed one game for that, btw)
Also, remember all those banners he hung at UMASS? Well, your memories are all you’ve got cause they’ve come down thanks to Marcus Camby and the gifts he got from boosters.
If I were lobotomized and became a Kentucky basketball fan, I’d be pissed off that 20 years after you hired C.M. Newton and Rick Pitino to come in and clean up your wire transfer issues, that you’d hire a guy who had this bad a stink on him.
Enjoy your deathtrap, ladies.