June 5, 2012

Calipari moving on from IU scheduling controversy

John Calipari professed himself ready to move on from the Kentucky-Indiana basketball game, but the UK coach still expressed some dismay Thursday about the end of the rivals' annual series.

"We could have played it," Calipari said at a scheduled news conference to announce his John Calipari Basketball Fantasy Experience camp. "I don't know why we're not playing it. We could have been in the Lucas Oil (Field in Indianapolis) playing the game. I don't know what happened."

What happened - as you might recall - was a dispute over the venues at which the Wildcats and Hoosiers would play. Indiana wanted to continue a home-and-home rotation at Assembly Hall and Rupp Arena. Kentucky favored a neutral-site game at Lucas Oil Field.

Indiana was willing to compromise on a four-year deal with two games at Lucas Oil, one at Rupp and one at Assembly Hall. Kentucky wasn't.

"I wanted to do what (former IU coach) Bobby Knight did," Calipari said. "Bobby Knight decided that he thought the series should be neutral. And when it was neutral, the series was huge. Battle of the flags and all those other things. He was the one that made it the first neutral, and I liked the idea because we had to move someone neutral."

For Kentucky, scheduling "isn't about compromise," Calipari said. A neutral-site series works for UK, he said. A four-year contract with home games included doesn't.

Calipari balked at the suggestion that IU wants a home-and-home to allow its students the chance to see Kentucky in Bloomington, Ind.

"They're only two hours away (from Indianapolis)," Calipari said, though the two cities actually are less than an hour apart. "Are they that poor? They couldn't get to that building? Our students are going. I mean, ours would go up there."

At this point, the distance seems moot. Calipari said that he told IU coach Tom Crean that the two should "move on" from the series. And he fired back at critics of his schedule, saying wondering aloud why UK is expected to have a string of traditional nonconference rivalries - Indiana, Louisville and North Carolina - while each of those schools only had an annual series with Kentucky.

"See, they only played us, they only played us, they only played us, they only played us, and we're supposed to play all of you," Calipari said. "Why don't you play each other? 'Because.' What do you mean, because? Because, because, because. What are you talking about? We play. We're scheduling for us. I'm not scheduling for anybody else. And it's not mean. It's real."

Calipari noted that Kentucky will return to playing North Carolina in the 2013-14 season after taking a break in the upcoming year. He's in negotiations for a series with Duke. And he's not giving up on his idea of a "tripleheader" that would feature the Kentucky men's and women's basketball teams playing on a Friday and the UK football team playing on a Saturday in the same venue against teams from the same school.

UK has spoken with "a couple teams," Calipari said, about the tripleheader idea, and Calipari has discussed it with Kentucky football coach Joker Phillips.

"He just said, 'Please don't make it Notre Dame,'" Calipari said.

Towns in town
For the second consecutive summer, Calipari is coaching the Dominican Republic National Team, which this week began its training camp in Lexington.

Among the players attending is 6-foot-10 forward Karl Towns one of the top players in the high school class of 2015, who lists Kentucky among his prospective college choices.

NCAA rules prohibit Calipari from discussing unsigned prospective recruits with the media, but he's allowed to discuss Towns as a member of the Dominican Republic team.

Calipari said that a year ago, he "didn't know anything about" Towns, who plays at St. Joseph's in Metuchen, N.J.

"He's a pretty good player," Calipari said. "He's young. Will he make the team? I don't know. He's 16 years old. He's 6-10 and, you know...but he's getting muscled right now. The guys trying to make the team are throwing him around and it's a good experience for him."

Harrowing experience
In each of his three seasons at Kentucky, Calipari has broken in a freshman point guard who's learning the coach's offense for the first time.

He'll buck that trend this season, when sophomore Ryan Harrow is expected to take over that position.

Harrow spent his freshman season at North Carolina State before transferring to Kentucky. He sat out last season per NCAA transfer rules, but he was permitted to practice with the Wildcats.

"I'm happy because I have a feel for Ryan," Calipari said. "Not only does he have a feel, I have a feel for him. And I think he's going to be fine. He's different than all the other point guards I had."

The 6-foot-2, 175-pound Harrow isn't the "tough bulldog" that predecessor Marquis Teague was, Calipari said, but the coach compared Harrow's shooting stroke to former point guard Brandon Knight's.

"The way we play, he's gotten tougher but he's going to have to continue," Calipari said. "He's going to have to get stronger. But that's why he came here."


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