Posted on: October 19, 2011 1:01 pm
Edited on: October 19, 2011 1:30 pm

Syracuse's 2003 title team was young, too

By Gary Parrish

I wrote a column last week while in Kentucky about how much the Wildcats will use freshmen this season, and I made the point in that column that "no team in the history of college basketball has ever won a national championship relying so heavily" on the type of young roster John Calipari possesses. I could still argue that's technically true because four of Kentucky's top seven figure to be freshmen, and two others are sophomores. But what I've discovered -- because a friend pointed it out -- is that Syracuse's 2003 championship roster was built similarly.

Three of the top five scorers were freshman -- Carmelo Anthony (22.2 ppg), Gerry McNamara (13.3), Billy Edelin (9.0).

Hakim Warrick (14.8 ppg) was the second-leading scorer.

He was a sophomore.

Josh Pace (4.3) and Craig Forth (3.8) were sixth and seventh in scoring.

They were both sophomores, too.

The lone senior on the team was Kueth Duany.

He averaged 11.0 points per game.

So, yes, Kentucky's top seven this season will be technically younger than Syracuse's top seven was in 2003 because UK will use four freshmen, two sophomores and a senior instead of three freshmen, three sophomores and a senior. But, obviously, it's close. And I just thought that was something worth noting.

Also worth noting ...

That Syracuse team lost its season-opener.

The coach who beat them?

John Calipari.

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: October 17, 2011 3:54 pm
Edited on: October 17, 2011 4:26 pm

Pitino's Louisville First vs. Cal's Players First

By Gary Parrish

LOUISVILLE -- So I was walking around Louisville's practice facility Saturday, and I kept seeing shirts that read "Louisville First." Apparently, that's this season's slogan for the Cardinals. Team first. Nothing else matters. Check your ego at the door. Louisville First.

No big deal, right?

Coaches do stuff like this all the time.

But then I started thinking about John Calipari's Media Day on Thursday and the speech he gave at Friday's Big Blue Madness, and I couldn't help but make a connection between Louisville's new slogan and Calipari's favorite new phrase -- Players First. "This is a players-first program," he said over and over again, and it really is classic Calipari. He's always one step ahead, trying to turn somebody's something into something else. You see, once Pitino decided to tout his program as a program that puts the team first, Calipari decided to take the opposite approach and hammer into recruits' heads whatthat he's a players-first coach and only at Kentucky to help prospects "reach their dreams." Yes, Calipari has used the phrase before, but he's never used it as relentlessly as he's been using it lately. Everything is players-first-this and players-first-that. If Final Fours and national championships happen to come with that, well, that's fine, too. But it's players first at UK. Players first. Players first. Players first. Don't ever forget it.

So funny.

I love stuff like this.

Season tips Nov. 7
Anyway, besides that it's been fairly quiet in the Pitino-Calipari War of Words since the Louisville coach, in response to the Kentucky coach, said he planned to "ignore the jealous ... ignore the malicious ... ignore the ignorant and ... ignore the paranoid." If true, that's too bad because the Pitino-Calipari rivalry makes the Louisville-Kentucky rivalry tops in college basketball. I personally won't be satisfied until Calipari brings up Karen Sypher and Pitino spends 20 minutes talking about how much he'd hate it if one of his five Final Fours were ever vacated, much less two. Up to me, that's where we're headed. But after talking to some Louisville and Kentucky players about it over the weekend, I'm convinced I'm more into the rivalry between their coaches than they are, and you, the fans, probably are, too.

"We don't hear much about it, but our fans are always like, 'That Calipari is this,' and then the UK fans are like 'Rick Pitino is this and that,'" Louisville guard Peyton Siva said with a laugh. "Hey, it's Louisville vs. Kentucky. It's the fans' rivalry, and they feed into it. So anything Coach P says about Kentucky, they're gonna blow it up. And anything Coach Calipari says about Louisville, they're going to blow it up.

"It's fun," Siva concluded. "But we don't worry about it much."
Posted on: October 14, 2011 9:17 pm
Edited on: October 15, 2011 12:15 pm

Calipari: This is a 'players-first program'

By Gary Parrish

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- John Calipari stood on the massive stage, his Final Four-caliber team of future pros seated behind him, the words KENTUCKY EFFECT on a screen as the backdrop behind them, and the larger-than-life Kentucky coach spoke for 12 minutes about what he's done and what he plans to do.

It was more Obama than Krzyzewski.

More campaign speech than are-you-ready-for-some-basketball.

And that's because Calipari wasn't talking to you or I as much as he was talking to them -- the prospects here at Big Blue Madness both officially and unofficially, a group headlined by Class of 2012 stars Shabazz Muhammad, Alex Poythress, Archie Goodwin, Dajuan Coleman and Willie Cauley. They won't all attend Kentucky. At least I don't think they'll all attend Kentucky. But some of them will, and Calipari made an obvious effort to make them aware that when they enroll they'll be part of a "players-first program."

"This is a players-first program," he said. "We are here to help them reach their dreams."

That's the thing about basketball prospects these days.

Season tips Nov. 7
Their dreams are different than your dreams.

Fans have dreams of No. 1 rankings and national championships, but kids, for the most part, just want to get picked in the lottery. If they happen to make a Final Four along the way, great. But the dream is almost always the NBA. Calipari understands this as well as anybody. And he doesn't fight it. He embraces it. Which is why he stood on that massive stage in front of a capacity crowd at Rupp Arena and talked mostly about what the UK program can do for players and what those players can then turn around and do for the UK program.

That the Wildcats produced five first-round picks in 2010 was mentioned.

That is, after all, the kind of thing that gets recruits' attention.

"That had never been done before and it may never be done again," Calipari said. "Unless we do it here, of course."

Posted on: October 14, 2011 9:11 am
Edited on: October 14, 2011 2:59 pm

It's Madness Day and we are everywhere

By Gary Parrish

LEXINGTON, Ky -- It's Big Blue Madness Day in Kentucky, and folks really do like blue around here. They wear blue shirts and blue hats; I've even seen some blue shoes. And I'm not talking about students, exclusively. Old people wear lots of blue, too. It's a little crazy, but I'd expect nothing less from the nation's most passionate fan base as their national-championship-caliber team prepares to open practice tonight at Rupp Arena.

I will be there.

Then I'll spend Saturday with Louisville.

And Sunday with Vanderbilt.

Season tips Nov. 7
And Monday with Memphis.

Meaning my next four days will be spent with the coaches who have the teams ranked No. 2 (Kentucky), No. 7 (Vanderbilt), No. 8 (Louisville) and No. 9 (Memphis) in our preseason Top 25 (and one). Meantime, my colleague Jeff Goodman is spending the next two days with No. 1 North Carolina and No. 6 Duke, then he'll be with No. 5 Ohio State on Monday. My colleague Matt Norlander is with No. 3 Connecticut. My colleague Jeff Borzello is with No. 4 Syracuse.

What does that mean?

It means CBSSports.com staff writers will spend the next four days with the teams ranked first to ninth in the preseason Top 25 (and one), and I'm not sure any website or newspaper in America (or any other country in the world, for that matter) can match how we're attacking this college basketball season. So you're in the right place. We've already had Jerry Palm project the Field of 68, and Goodman and I have filled out his bracket. We've got conference previews running daily, and columns on North Carolina, Kentucky, Connecticut and Syracuse up now.

Check them out.

Check everything out.

Then bookmark this blog and keep coming back.

Because we aren't planning to slow down until at least mid-April.

Posted on: October 7, 2011 10:19 am
Edited on: October 7, 2011 10:40 am

Kentucky Villains charity game: a brilliant idea

By Matt Norlander

Because Kentucky is Kentucky, it can do extraordinary things with its basketball program. And I must say, this Kentucky Villains vs. Big Blue All-Stars charity game that's been organized is one of the better ideas UK athletics has conjured up in recent years. (And it wouldn't be possible without the stubborn, unwitting help of the NBA lockout.)

On Oct. 24, Rupp Arena is hosting -- and will likely sell out -- another exhibition game. The official announcement came Thursday evening, when former Wildcat Jeff Sheppard -- who organized the event -- announced it at a press conference. The beauty of it, the perfect touch: Christian Laettner will coach the Villains. And there is no better choice. None. Laettner's even made a promo video, wherein he clearly has to check the teleprompter when stating his name. Totally a Burgundy move.

Rex Chapman, who played at Kentucky from 1986-88, will coach Kentucky's side. Enes Kanter is definitely playing, and that's the greatest aspect of this for so many Kentucky fans. Finally, Kanter gets a game in Rupp. Rajon Rondo, Tayshaun Prince and John Wall are believed to be playing, and as for the Villains side, Joakim Noah is not locked in, but Kentucky fans definitely want him involved.

Sheppard said the rosters are trying to get finalized as soon as possible, but he tossed out these names as strong possibilities:

  • Nolan Smith 
  • Terrence Williams
  • Kenneth Faried
  • Rudy Gay 
  • Eric Gordon
  • Zach Randolph
  • Tyler Hansbrough
  • Shelvin Mack
Big Blue All-Stars:
  • John Wall
  • Tayshaun Prince
  • Enes Kanter
  • Rajon Rondo
  • Nazr Mohammed
  • Keith Bogans
  • Jodie Meeks
  • Chuck Hayes
  • DeMarcus Cousins
Mohammed recently organized a workout with UK's team and the Oklahoma City Thunder, which he plays for. Rondo and the Celtics were also in Lexington this past week. The possibility for a true all-star affair seems likely.

The star of this night is going to be Laettner, though. He's got such a hold on UK fans' hearts, in the worst way, that this is all so brilliant. The beautiful irony that stems out of this: Because of his participation, Laettner will be more beloved in the state than he ever thought he'd could be.

You want more information? A website's been built in honor of this exhibition. BigBLueAllStars.com. You'll find a schedule and merchandise -- yes, merchandise -- for the game, including "I STILL HATE LAETTNER" T-shirts.
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: October 7, 2011 1:31 am
Edited on: October 7, 2011 10:19 am

Memphians targeting D-Rose is dumb, shortsighted

By Gary Parrish

Three Memphis-area attorneys who double as University of Memphis boosters got so angry about John Calipari leaving their basketball program on probation that they last year threatened to sue Calipari, one-and-done star Derrick Rose and athletic director R.C. Johnson on behalf of unnamed season-ticket holders, according to reports late Thursday from The Commercial Appeal's Kyle Veazey and Geoff Calkins.

Nevermind that, according to university counsel Sheri Lipman, the complaint “had all sorts of holes in it." And nevermind that, according to common sense, any lawsuit would've almost certainly been dismissed. Calipari, Rose and Johnson still each opted to settle out of court. Calipari and Rose agreed to pay the attorneys a total of $100,000, and Calipari also agreed to donate the bonus he received for taking Memphis to the title game of the 2008 NCAA Tournament back to the school's Tiger Scholarship Fund. Johnson agreed to return the bonus he received that year, too.

Calipari's donation is estimated at $232,000 while Johnson is expected to repay a little more than $71,000.

So it's a victory for Memphis fans, I guess.

Season tips Nov. 7
They hit Calipari in the pocketbook.

That must've been fun.

But why did these attorneys think it was wise to threaten to sue the school's most famous alum?

Because that's not wise.

That's just stupid.

Say what you want about Rose, but he's merely a pawn in this game, a product of the system, a kid most believe only played at Memphis because somebody else took his SAT, a kid I believe should've never been essentially forced to play college basketball in the first place. Let's be honest: Rose didn't belong at a university any more than I belong in the NBA, and I mean that in the most respectful of ways. He's a basketball player, plain and simple, and it was pretty clear for years before Rose ever enrolled at Memphis that he'd eventually make millions of dollars slashing to the rim.

And it was very clear in March 2010 when three attorneys threatened to sue him.

So, again, who thought it was wise to do that?

Rose, the NBA's reigning Most Valuable Player, will make hundreds of millions of dollars in his career, and all Memphis had to do to benefit from that was stay on good terms with the Chicago Bulls point guard. Remember how Carmelo Anthony donated $3 million to Syracuse to help build a practice facility named in his honor? It's reasonable to think Rose, whose next contract will likely be worth more than he could ever spend, might've done something similar for Memphis someday. But why would he now? Why would he donate big money to Memphis after Martin Zummach, a past president of the Memphis alumni association, threatened to sue him during his second season in the NBA?

Answer: I have no idea.

So congratulations, Memphis attorneys/boosters.

You made your threats and got some money, and I suppose that's good on some level. But including Rose in all this was silly and shortsighted. Yes, I realize he's now obligated to "consider … making a suitable donation” to the Tiger Scholarship Fund sometime before 2015, according to the agreement he signed. But if I were Rose I'd consider it only for a second, then simply decide I'd rather not.
Posted on: October 6, 2011 9:25 am
Edited on: October 6, 2011 9:28 am

Rick Pitino shoots back at John Calipari

By Jeff Goodman

It was only a matter of time.

Just a few days after Kentucky coach John Calipari's verbal jab directed squarely at Pitino and Louisville, the Cards' head coach fired back.

"Four things I've learned in my 59 years about people," Pitino told CBSSports.com on Wednesday. "I ignore the jealous, I ignore the malicious, I ignore the ignorant and I ignore the paranoid."

"If the shoe fits anyone," he added. "Wear it."


To refresh your memory, here are Calipari's comments earlier in the week in which he purposely omits Louisville when talking about programs in the state of Kentucky.

"It's a unique thing," Calipari said. "There's no other state, none, that's as connected to their basketball program as this one. Because those other states have other programs. Michigan has Michigan State, California has UCLA, North Carolina has Duke. It's Kentucky throughout this whole state, and that's what makes us unique."

This is why the Kentucky-Louisville rivalry currently has no peer in college hoops.

At least while Pitino and Calipari run their respective programs.

It edges out the one with closer proximity down in Tobacco Road between Duke and North Carolina. Not due to the hatred between fan bases, because that exists at a similar level in Bluegrass country.

But because of the hatred of the two coaches who run the programs.

Duke's Mike Krzyzewski and North Carolina's Roy Williams aren't exactly partners, but those guys are buddies compared to Calipari and Pitino.

Louisville Courier-Journal columnist Rick Bozich touched upon Calipari's jealousy in a column this morning and there's certainly some merit to his points.

It's no coincidence that Calipari accepted the job to coach the Dominican Republican national team shortly after Pitino agreed to (and later decided against) coach the Puerto Rican National club.

Calipari is envious of the fact that Pitino won a national championship.

Calipari is brash -- and even his closest friends in the business will tell you behind closed doors that he'll turn on anyone. I mean, think about the fact that Pitino was a key proponent in Calipari getting the UMass job years ago.

But that is ancient history now.

Pitino is nearing 60 and doesn't care what he says or who he offends these days.

A year ago, his team was over-matched talent-wise by Calipari's Wildcats. This year, although Kentucky remains loaded due to another stellar freshman class, the gap has closed significantly.

The two coaches will square off on New Year's Eve.

This makes for terrific theater, so grab some popcorn and enjoy the show.

Because it's not going to last forever.

Photo: AP
Posted on: October 4, 2011 9:43 am

Calipari's new geography eliminates Louisville

By Matt Norlander

Of all the veiled shots John Calipari has taken at Louisville basketball and Rick Pitino, this might be my favorite.

Because Calipari doesn't mention either. He simply refuse to acknowledge that Louisville has a basketball program, and that basketball program is located within the defined borders of the state of Kentucky.

Calipari is very smart, very wily and very much in hate with the Cardinals and their coach. Our former blogger, Matt Jones, now has a full-time gig working Kentucky television and radio. He landed an interview with Calipari the other night, when all the UK fans were still camping out for tickets. Calipari got to talking about how great that was, how Kentucky's unlike any other school. The typical stuff. And without prompt, as he's prone to do, Calipari managed to sneak in a shot at Louisville.

"There's no other state -- none -- as connected to their basketball program as this one," Calipari said. "Because those other states have other programs. Michigan has Michigan State. California, UCLA has all those ... North Carolina has Duke. It's Kentucky, throughout this whole stae, and that's what makes this unique."

No love for Morehead State, coach? They did beat Louisville in the tournament last year, after all. If you want the context of the quote, here's the video.

This is completely unnecessary and hilarious. Some Cards fans are reacting the way you'd expect. Calipari knows exactly what he's doing. It's why we thought he was talking about Mike Krzyzewski when he made these comments. There is nothing that isn't calculated by this man. More often than not, it serves to our benefit to watch him needle others. There are so few coaches that can and will do this, and that's because there are so few coaches with as many enemies as Cal.
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com