Jim Calhoun and John Calipari are probably never going to be on one another’s Christmas card exchange list. The two coaches developed a solid college basketball Cold War in the early-to-mid 90s when Calhoun was at UConn and Calipari across the border at UMass. The feud reached its peak around around 1995-6 when both teams became Top 25 fixtures — the Minuteman powered by Hartford’s Marcus Camby — yet didn’t play each other aside from virtual games on Coach K Basketball for Sega Genesis. (Eventually the teams played in the “U Game” at the Boston Garden, but it lost all its juice since Calipari had bolted to the New Jersey Nets by that time.)
With UConn back in the National Championship Game Monday night against Calipari’s Kentucky team, Calhoun went on WEEI’s Dennis & Callahan morning show. The topic of Calipari came up — specifically the hosts asked Calhoun how much Coach Cal annoys him — and here’s what the former UConn coach had to say:
“The one thing about John, John can become, you know, a bullshitter. … The good thing about John … that’s why I actually have a better relationship with John than I used to many years ago, John kind of knows that. At least I think he knows that. He’s actually kind of a tolerable guy to be around. He’s actually a pretty good guy to be around. I don’t do business the way he does. But he’s done a good job coaching. His way, one-and-done, most institutions are not going to allow you to do what Kentucky does. But that’s okay. That’s a lot of kids to leave early. But he can coach. He gets his teams to play. He’s done a good job certainly getting talent.”
Calipari hasn’t said much about Calhoun in the day leading up to the championship game. The Hartford Courtant reports the former rivals shook hands in a tunnel inside AT& T Stadium. Calipari coached current UConn head coach Kevin Ollie in Philadelphia with the 76ers and considers him a “friend.”
I’ll go out on a limb and say whatever lingering animosities Calhoun and Calipari still might have for one another won’t bear much influence on the 10 players out on the court later tonight in North Texas.