LEXINGTON, Ky. – Christmas came early for basketball fans in the state of Kentucky: John Calipari’s latest podcast, with rival Rick Pitino, went live late Wednesday night.
Calipari teased it earlier in the day, saying fans would be shocked to hear how it got “heated” at one point, and then the podcast started with sound effects faking a fight – including swords! –over Pitino stealing his wife’s famous brownies. “You bit me! What the …” Calipari yelps, before getting serious. “Folks, that was fake news.”
Here are some of the highlights of Pitino and Calipari’s conversation, including what both their surreal experience has been as the Kentucky basketball coach:
- Pitino, who won a national title at UK (1996) and Louisville (2013), says “the rivalry is special because the fans make it special,” and the bitterness of it “makes it different than Duke and North Carolina.” Pitino tells a story of Kentucky fans stealing dirt from his property when his Lexington home was being built a quarter century ago.
- To that point, “You just beat us,” Calipari said. “I gotta live with this for a year.” Pitino shoots back: “Well, how would you like to live with being 1-8?” That was Pitino’s record against Calipari since the former came to UK, before this season. Calipari howled with laughter. Back when Pitino was the Cats’ coach, after a loss to the Cards, he says a mentally unstable woman knocked on the door with a copy of the movie “The Bodyguard,” because he was going to need one after that rivalry defeat.
- “I didn’t mean to cut you off,” Calipari says at one point, “but I’ll do that occasionally. I can’t help myself.” To his credit, though, of all times to show restraint, this was actually the most Calipari has let a podcast guest speak. That supports what he said in the intro to Pitino interview: “Look, we don’t exchange cards … but you will find out there is respect.”
- First question from Calipari to Pitino? “Have you read my (latest) book?” Pitino laughed, said he knew he’d ask that, so he thumbed through a copy of Calipari’s book, saw the first chapter was on assembling talent, and immediately bought a copy for each of his Louisville assistants. Calipari enjoyed that.
- Pitino talked about recommending Calipari for the Nets job, because he figured they needed a salesman to steal some headlines from the Knicks. Calipari told a story about being an assistant at Pittsburgh when Providence came to town (Pitino was the head coach there), and the Friars playing a scrambling, reckless style and launching a bunch of 3-pointers (which few teams did back then). Calipari remembered being impressed by that approach.
- Calipari talks about coaching his son Brad this year and asks Pitino about having his son, Richard, as an assistant and now watching him lead his own program at Minnesota. “It’s a helpless feeling,” Pitino said, adding that he “lives and dies” by the Golden Gophers’ results now. Calipari understands. “When you’re watching your son, it eats you up even more than your own stuff.”
- Calipari says “no one has done a better job of preparing assistant coaches” than Pitino, reeling off the list of guys from his coaching tree that have succeeded as head coaches. Pitino says his advice to young assistants is: “If you want to be a head coach, act like a head coach. Go to bed every night worried about every little thing like a head coach.”
- That opens a door for Calipari to indirectly bring up Louisville’s recent scandal, and the two talked about it (or at least around it) at some length. Calipari is, to some extent, on Pitino’s side on this one. Click that above link for their thoughts on the subject, or just listen to the full podcast here: