The controversy surrounding the end to the UK and Indiana men’s basketball series seems to be the story that just won’t go away.
Less than a week after UK Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart issued his latest statement about the end of the series, head coach John Calipari did not mince words in his defense of the decision while speaking to the media Tuesday.
“I wanted to do what Bobby Knight did,” Calipari said referring to the former Indiana coach. “Bobby Knight decided he thought the series should be neutral. And when it was neutral, the series was huge.”
Calipari reiterated that UK offered to play each of the next two seasons in Indianapolis but would not sign any contract longer than four years. Indiana didn’t agree with that plan, so UK moved on.
“When we schedule, we do it for us,” he said. “I’m not scheduling for anyone else. (Critics say), ‘Well, schedule for America!’ I’m not scheduling for America. I’m scheduling for us.”
For Calipari, the story should be finished.
“I told Tommy (Crean), ‘Tommy, move on. It’s done,’” he said. “We’re good. I’m good. You’re good. You have your schedule, we have our schedule.”
He also took issue with the idea that UK somehow owed students at both schools to play on campus.
“They’re only two hours away,” Calipari said of the Indiana students. “Are they that poor? They couldn’t get to that building? Our students are going. I mean, ours would go up there.”
Calipari hopeful that six Cats will go in first round
Six standouts from the 2012 National Championship team will have the chance to further prove themselves in front of scouts and evaluators at the NBA Combine in Chicago this weekend. Calipari believes four of his former players — Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Terrence Jones and Marquis Teague — are virtual locks for the first round, while guards Doron Lamb and Darius Miller could work their way to the first round with strong workouts.
“The good news is they’re all six going to be drafted, it’s a matter of where,” he said. “It’s pretty clear Anthony (Davis) will be the one pick. From there I think Michael (Kidd-Gilchrist) will be next, and then I think Terrence (Jones) will be next. How does it play out with those other three? I think all three of them are in great shape.
“I would say four are a lock, and the other two have to work out.”
Calipari said at least one team has called him to talk about an impressive workouts from Miller.
“A lot of people like Darius based on the fact of how he played, how he sacrificed, his skill set, his size,” Calipari said. “They like him.”
Calipari will attend the draft on June 28 in New Jersey, but he has left most of the preparations for his former players up to their agents.
“There are times that they go in interviews and they say the wrong things, and it will get back to me or the agent,” Calipari said. “I’ll call the agent: ‘Do you know that he’s not saying the right things in here?’ You’ve got to make sure he understands. At this point, they come from being my child to now they’re 24/7 with the people that are representing them.”
Dominican team offers Calipari first-hand look at potential recruit
The Dominican National team is on campus working with Calipari again this summer, despite his offer to back out of the coaching obligation.
“I kind of gave them outs to say no to me,” Calipari said. “I can do the Puerto Rico things for a couple days, but I can’t be with the team the whole time. Some of the guys called me and wanted me to do it. I’m enjoying it.”
One side benefit to coaching the team for Calipari is the chance to personally coach class of 2015 recruit Karl Towns, who is currently ranked No. 1 nationally in the class by ESPN.com. Towns, a 6-11 center from Piscataway, N. J., is eligible for the team because his mother was born in the Dominican Republic.
After confirming that he was allowed to talk about Towns (the NCAA generally prevents coaches from talking directly about recruits to the media before they sign a national letter of intent), Calipari acknowledged working out with professionals is a good experience for him.
“He is a player who is a good player that I did not know a year ago, didn’t know anything about,” Calipari said. “He’s a pretty good player. He’s young. Will he make the team? I don’t know. He is 16-years-old. He’s getting muscled right now. The guys trying to make the team are throwing him around.”
KyForward file photo of Calipari coaching Dominican National Team by Mark Boxley.