Calipari vs. Pitino: The Battle for Kentucky
A brief chronology of the rivalry between Rick Pitino and John Calipari:
1988: Pitino’s alma mater, UMass, hires Calipari, who received Pitino’s recommendation.
- 1992: Kentucky, under Pitino’s helm, beats UMass in the Sweet 16. A late comeback run by UMass is ruined by a technical foul call on Calipari, for stepping outside the coaching box. Calipari has since hinted that he blames Pitino for pressuring the ref to make that call.
- 1995: Marcus Camby and UMass upsets Kentucky in season-opener. The two teams are tied to each other for the rest of the season as title contenders #1 and #1A.
- 1996: Inevitably, UMass and Kentucky meet in the Final Four. Although they had previously been cordial, Pitino and Calipari trade increasingly snippy barbs through the media. Kentucky wins again and goes on to top Syracuse in the Finals.
- 2001: Pitino is hired as head coach at Louisville, just one year after Calipari was hired at Memphis…a rival Conference USA program.
- 2003: After Calipari’s Memphis Tigers beat #4 ranked Louisville 80-73, Pitino complains that Calipari has been “amateurish and unprofessional” in lobbying refs both before and during the game.
- 2005: Despite incurring a $1 million dollar fine and the ire of Calipari, Pitino and Louisville decide against a home-and-home series against Memphis, after leaving for the Big East. Other former-Conference USA teams agree to this regular match-up.
- 2009: Calipari agreest to coach Louisville’s arch-rival Kentucky, taking Pitino’s old job for a contract that makes him the highest paid coach in the NCAA.
- 2010: The Louisville-Kentucky rivalry will be taken to an entirely new level as the media-hype surrounding Pitino and Calipari reaches a fervor.