LEXINGTON, Ky. — John Calipari is prone to entertaining press conferences and he didn’t disappoint after beating Bruce Pearl and Auburn 92-72 Saturday at Rupp Arena.
Pearl was first at the microphone and was asked about his relationship with Calipari. After calling Calipari’s work at UMass “one of the greatest jobs in the history of college basketball,” Pearl brought up their Memphis-Tennessee matchups.
That’s when it got fun.
“I was at Tennessee, and Memphis was a smaller school in a corner,” Pearl said. “They hated Tennessee, and that was the beginning of John and I having a bit of a rivalry. I’d like to think that the things he doesn’t like about me are some of the things I don’t like about him, but I had great respect for him.”
So, when it was Calipari’s turn, he was asked about what makes he and Pearl “so unlikable.”
“Why would he think I don’t like him? You guys, it doesn’t matter what I say,” Calipari said with a smile.
The Kentucky coach couldn’t help but joke about his winning record against Pearl before giving the Auburn coach some credit.
“You’re competing in a league,” Calipari said. “You’re trying to do your best and you’re going against guys, but I have no problem with Bruce. He’s doing a good job.”
Auburn kept the margin within reach for most of the game Saturday before Kentucky sailed to a 20-point victory behind freshman Malik Monk’s 24-point game. Monk was 4 of 8 from behind the 3-point line and the Cats shot a collective 58 percent from deep — a better mark than they shot from the free throw line.
Kentucky moved to 5-0 in the SEC while Auburn moved to 1-4. But Pearl couldn’t help from sending a subtle reminder about Auburn’s 75-70 victory over Kentucky last season.
“I want him to have to prepare to play Auburn,” Pearl said. “I want him to be pissed off that we beat them last year. They weren’t a great team and we made some shots and made some plays. It was a tough place to play and it matters if you can beat John Calipari at Kentucky.”
Calipari had a classic response.
“Did they beat us last year? Oh, they did? Oh. Yeah, I’m pissed off they beat us last year,” he said with more than a hint of sarcasm.