Calipari says schedule will challenge Cats


Tammie Brown

Kentucky’s Davion Mintz made a move behind Jacob Toppin’s screen in a 77-74 win over Vanderbilt last season. (Kentucky Today/Tammie Brown)

By Keith Taylor, Kentucky Today

LEXINGTON (KT) — The Kentucky men’s basketball team will open the Southeastern Conference portion of the schedule at hone against Missouri on Dec. 29.

The Wildcats will open the new calendar year at LSU on Jan. 4, followed by a home game on Jan. 8 against Georgia at Rupp Arena. Kentucky will play five road games in January, including back-to-back road games at Texas A&M on Jan. 19 and Auburn on Jan. 22. 

The Wildcats will take on Kansas in the Big 12-SEC Challenge on Jan. 29 at historic Lawrence Fieldhouse in Lawrence, Kansas.

Kentucky plays three of its first five games in February on the road at Alabama (Feb. 5), South Carolina (Feb. 8) and Tennessee (Feb. 15). Kentucky closes the SEC schedule at Florida on March 5.

Kentucky coach John Calipari said earlier this week the league will be as good as its ever been.

“I was told two weeks ago our league, by people that would know and some in the league this may be the best our league has ever been top to bottom. (It’s) never been better.  We will be challenged, but we’ll have some games, too that we can learn from.”

The Wildcats will bring back former coach Tubby Smith to Lexington when High Point visits Dec. 31.

“Bringing Tubby (Smith) home and letting Tubby see how much he is loved in this state (is a good thing),” Calipari said. “(I’ve) been asking him for the last couple of years.”

Calipari predicts fans will welcome Smith back with open arms. “(I told) Tubby, I don’t know if coach (Joe B.) Hall knew how much these people loved him.’

“I remember when we asked him to stand up and do the ‘Y’ and people didn’t stop clapping for Coach Hall and, to this day we know, and he knows more importantly, how they feel about him —the same with Tubby. Doing things around the event is going to be fun.”


LEXINGTON (KT) — The honors keep coming for Kentucky coach John Calipari.

A statue of Calipari, along with Marcus Camby, Julius Erving and Jack Leaman will be unveiled Saturday at the Mullins Center in Amherst, Massachusetts.

“It’s kind of neat,” Calipari said. “I tried to get Ellen to come. She says, I see you enough. I’m not looking at you in a statue. So, she’s not going to go, I don’t think.. But to be there with Julius (Erving), with a coach that I respect like I respect Coach Hall, Jack Leaman, and then Marcus Camby, who I’ve told over and over again that what you’ve done for me and my family, I could never repay. And he always follows it, ‘Coach, what you did for me, and I love you.’ I mean, to be there with that is kind of unique and special.”

Calipari led the UMass men’s basketball team to an overall record of 193-71 in his eight seasons as coach from 1988-1996. His .731 career winning percentage remains the best in school history, and he ranks second all-time at UMass in victories. 

Calipari led the Minutemen to five straight NCAA Tournament appearances from 1992-1996, after UMass had gone to the NCAAs only once in the first 81 years of the program. His Minutemen made the Atlantic 10’s first and only Final Four appearance during the 1996 season, during which they went 35-2 overall and spent 10 weeks ranked No. 1 in the nation.

Calipari will be honored again this month on Sept. 21 at Clarion, where the court at Tippin Gymnasium will be renamed, “Coach Cal Court.”

Calipari played at Clarion after transferring from UNC Wilmington in 1981. He led the Golden Eagles to their first appearance in the NCAA Division II Tournament that season.

“We are so grateful for the leadership and philanthropy that John and Ellen have shown Clarion University over the years,” said Clarion University President Dr. Dale-Elizabeth Pehrsson. “Their impact on Clarion and our students is immense, and we are proud to be able to recognize this legacy with such a visible tribute.”