LEXINGTON - Boy, a lot went on with University of Kentucky basketball, both men’s and women’s, while I was away last week attending the reception at the White House for coach John Calipari’s men’s team.
For the men, Indiana University officials more or less made the sad decision to end the series with Kentucky, Calipari more or less made the decision to end the series with North Carolina, and UK officials gave Calipari and his assistant coaches a significant raise in pay.
For the women, UK re-worked coach Matthew Mitchell’s contract, making Mitchell arguably the highest paid women’s coach in the Southeastern Conference now that Tennessee coach Pat Summitt has stepped aside in Knoxville to be “coach emeritus.”
First, the UK-IU series: By all accounts, Indiana officials wanted to keep alternating the game between on-campus sites, while Kentucky wanted to go back to neutral sites, Louisville and Indianapolis. The looooonnng series was previously played at those neutral sites between 1992 and 2006 (with UK holding a 12-3 edge in those years, by the way).
I don’t blame IU for wanting to stay on campus, but not at the expense of the series. I do realize you could use similar logic the other way as well. I just believe Kentucky’s profile these days should give the Wildcats some latitude in this issue.
And apparently Calipari thought the fans were meaner in Bloomington than they are anywhere else UK plays on the road. I can’t blame him for that. They are.
It’s also possible that Calipari didn’t relish the probability that Tom Crean’s loaded and experienced Hoosiers could come to Lexington this coming season and end Kentucky’s long home winning streak.
That streak should be safe now, that’s for sure. Surely there’s another Big South team willing to come play the Cats at Rupp. Sure, we lose the chance to see a great rivalry game. But just win, baby. Radford’s just dying for revenge. This could be the opening needed to get Gardner-Webb back on the schedule. Wouldn’t even have to go home and home.
There are some people who suggest that Calipari does not enjoy playing in Chapel Hill either. I don’t know how much merit there is to that thought. I do believe that North Carolina is one of the most generic atmospheres in college basketball. If you’re going to play a top 10 team on its home court, UNC is the team to play.
It would be nice to see UK replace Indiana and North Carolina with some more compelling rival games. Duke and Kansas come to mind. But that would defeat the point, wouldn’t it? We don’t want the Wildcats’ freshman-dominated teams getting too stressed about these pesky teams that offer a challenge. Save that for the tournament.
At least one can presume from all of this that the Kentucky-Louisville series is safe. Surely. In basketball at least. UK might need to re-think that football series.
And as far as the pay raises go for Cal and his assistants, they’re great to see, more for the assistants than for Calipari. Calipari long ago passed the point of how much money can one possibly need? Now he’s up to HOW MUCH MONEY CAN YOU POSSIBLY NEED? I mean to be as simple as possible about it.
But, on to happier thoughts: Keeping Matthew Mitchell at Kentucky as women’s coach. Mitchell came to UK from Morehead five years ago for around $100,000 a year. He will likely make more like $1 million a year now, including incentives.
At a press conference this past week, Mitchell sounded surprised that some UK fans are relieved he’s staying on board with the Kentucky women.
But that concern by the fans is simply because of what has gone on in Knoxville the past two years with the health issues suffered by the beloved and great Pat Summitt.
When Summitt stepped down recently, Tennessee officials elected to make long-time assistant Holly Warlick Summitt’s replacement.
To that, I say to UT: Thank you very much. If I were the Vols, I’d have come after Mitchell who has Tennessee connections and a reverence for the UT women’s program, as any rational person would.
Wouldn’t it have been amusing if Tennessee had offered Mitchell the job but refused to pay his moving expenses, as UK reputedly did when it tried to hire Summitt way back in 1972? Summitt then made the decision to take the UT job instead.
Anyway, Kentucky gets to keep Mitchell.