LEXINGTON, Ky. – Sounds like John Calipari got that kiss.
Kentucky’s coach predicted some extra affection from wife Ellen after he played son Brad in the team’s first exhibition game last week against Clarion – and then the freshman walk-on guard buried a pair of late 3-pointers. So what happened next?
“I walked in the door after the game and I thought I was George Clooney,” Calipari joked Friday, on the eve of the Wildcats’ final exhibition Sunday against Asbury. “I said, ‘I might have to play that boy more.’ ”
Brad Calipari’s first make in that game drew loud cheers, but his second – a falling-down, banked-in three while being fouled – brought Rupp Arena to a roar. He knows the life of a coach’s son usually goes one of two ways, and so far he’s thankful to fall into the fan-favorite category.
“I mean, I’m glad I’m not despised,” he said. “Coming into it, I wasn’t sure. It’s a good feeling, just to know that they want to see you do well. Instead of being a part of that cheering, getting cheered for is a different feeling, but it’s good.”
The reaction of Kentucky’s bench when Calipari’s second shot dropped – a bunch of teammates who’ll soon be in the NBA celebrating like he’d just hit a game-winner in the NCAA Tournament – signified something special about these Wildcats, he thinks.
“We all want to see each other succeed,” the younger Calipari said. “It just kind of shows how much chemistry we have and the bond we have as a team.”
And what about the brownie points his dad is earning at home with his mom these days?
“She’s loving it,” Brad said. “She’s glad to have me back, just because I was away (at a prep school) for a couple of years. I’m the baby in the family, so I know she’s happy.”
But John Calipari sometimes can’t help himself when a good joke presents itself. He said Friday that he’ll continue experimenting with starting lineups and combinations Sunday, but it’s clear he’s excited about Kentucky’s potential.
“It’s a very smart group, a very driven, wired group, competitive group – and then there’s Brad,” he said, to a round of laughs. “I’m not George Clooney tonight!”