College Sports

Pitino, Duke, North Korea get mentions at UK Media Day

Photo Slideshow : UK basketball practice

The University of Kentucky basketball team opened its practice to the media on Wednesday as the Wildcats prepared for their trip to the Bahamas next week.
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The University of Kentucky basketball team opened its practice to the media on Wednesday as the Wildcats prepared for their trip to the Bahamas next week.

The straight line that produced the biggest laugh at Kentucky basketball’s Media Day on Thursday involved whether John Calipari might invite his perceived coaching nemesis, Rick Pitino, to speak to the UK players.

Of course, archrival Louisville fired Pitino as coach a year ago in the wake of an FBI investigation into college basketball corruption.

“Probably not,” Calipari said before a well-timed pause. “Based on it would put North Korea on the back burner. Let me say that.”

Of course, Media Day officially tips off the ultra-serious business of another Kentucky basketball season. That season begins with an ultra-dramatic game against Duke.

Calipari downplayed the significance of the game.

“It’s so early,” he said. “We’ll learn where we are at that point. Same with Duke.”

In terms of NCAA Tournament significance, Calipari likened the Duke game to when Kentucky played UCLA in early December of 2016.

UCLA beat UK in Rupp Arena. Then an entirely different game unfolded when the teams played in the NCAA Tournament the following March. Kentucky won the rematch.

“We agreed to do it . . . ,” Calipari said of the opener against Duke with a tone of resignation. “It wakes you up in the morning.”

As for this coming season’s Kentucky team, Calipari hit on several already-familiar themes.

He doesn’t have to coach effort. “Now, you know what you’re coaching? Basketball,” he said. “And I love coaching basketball.”

Calipari likened coaching effort to “taking a guy to the dentist. . . . It’s painful for them and it’s painful for me.”

The current Cats resemble his UMass teams, Calipari said. That might be his ultimate compliment. “The UMass teams had a chip on their shoulders,” he said. “This team kind of feels that way.”

Calipari said he wished this UK team showed a better knack for blocking shots. He also said Tyler Herro was a better defender than he expected.

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