By Ira D. Combs Syndicated Columnist
Tri State Sports Media Service Inc.
Sorry folks, I can't keep talking and writing about the annual holiday schedule full of dead pigeon opponents that dot the schedules of UK and UL.
Not when the atmosphere from out in the state and inside Jefferson County is filled with the jealousy, bitterness, and pure hatred that it is now between both fan bases and both coaches.
Nope, not when Rick Pitino and John Calipari are sparring back and forth every day in the state's two most recognizable daily newspapers. And unless you've been in a cave that's exactly what's been going on for about eight weeks now. But they do it in a much different manner than Joker Phillips and Charlie Strong. I'm pretty sure there is some actual genuine respect maybe even love between Phillips and Strong.
Don’t even think in those terms when it comes to Calipari and Pitino's friendship or should I say relationship, ah heck, at this point it's a past acquaintance at best.
When Joker and Charlie Strong make a reference toward one another, they actually sometimes say the other's name. But when the two famous Italian basketball coaches talk about a topic or subject, they make reference indirectly toward the other, and you have to delicately connect the dots. But if you look hard enough it's there, they just can't bring themselves to say the others name.
It's kind of a mind game of getting a leg up on the other this time of year. It's happened many times between the UK and UL coaches over the years. But now you've got two of the masters of all-time going at it. Probably the most famous was Eddie Sutton's declaration that Louisville basketball was and always will be UK's Little Brother.
Admit it Card fans that one still sticks in the pit of your gut.
I will give Coach Cal one classy high five he did keep relatively quiet during "The Trial" this past summer. And Coach Cal, you have to admit that was a form of respect or act of gratitude toward Pitino. Since I've brought this ugly topic up, if you’re a Rick Pitino fan aren't you humbly thankful that this year's game is in Louisville. If it was in Rupp Arena, there wouldn't be enough cotton in Mississippi to stuff Pitino's ears from hearing the catcalls he would have absorbed.
This year It all started around 10 weeks ago, when Louisville fans had to absorb the annual Big Blue Madness dramatic showcase of the nation's #1 recruiting class for the second year in a row nationally televised on ESPNU.
Then Big Blue Nation and the rest of college basketball had to sit idly by and watch Louisville bask in the glory of it's sparking new state of the art KFC Yum Center and proclaim it as the Commonwealth's best basketball facility. If that wasn't enough, the Cards then opened the season on a red hot eight-game winning streak. Admit it Wildcat fans you were foaming at the mouth with every made three-pointer and win accumulated by the hated Cards.
This is where it starts getting a little dicey between the two coaches and athletic departments.
UK and Louisville just coincidently scheduled a game in the River City on the same night at virtually the same time. Just a coincidence mind you nothing to do with seeing which programs fan base could out do or take away from the other on that night. Guess what, both facilities basically had a hard sellout. The KFC Yum Center 22,000 plus and Freedom Hall 18,000 plus. That's a little over 40,000 basketball fans two miles apart on the same night at virtually the same time.
Take that Duke and North Carolina.
Only problem is those numbers sparked talk of an NBA franchise for the city of Louisville.
Ole' Cal jumped on the bandwagon. Heck yes, "the NBA would be good for the city of Louisville and the state of Kentucky." said Calipari. Just make sure you play those 41 dates in Louisville fellas! Because the Wildcats have the love and devotion and pocketbooks of the entire state from Pikeville to Paducah to fill those Rupp Arena seats for 20 games a year. Not to mention an NBA team taking away the front page of the Courier-Journal from the Cardinals several times each winter.
Pitino responded mildly to all the NBA talk but made his point in a very stern manner, and in my eyes correctly that the Kentuckiana area wasn't big enough population wise to support Louisville Cardinal hoops and an NBA franchise. And correctly stated that before you even start the conversation somebody of authority with the state and city of Louisville needs to make the initial contact with NBA commissioner David Stern to see if they are interested. In other words, don't just take J. Bruce Miller's word on the subject he is a lawyer and some of those folks speak with forked tongue occasionally . It's been made public within the last few days that he is presently getting a consultants fee from the city of Louisville on the matter. What a waste of Jefferson Co.'s taxpayers money.
J. Bruce Miller and a bunch of high rollers have never been and shouldn't be the voice of the state of Kentucky when it comes to sports priorities.
These type individuals have lived in their lavish lifestyles for several years now and have lost complete contact with the common blue collar citizen who has to actually roll their sleeves up and go to work every day. That is what this state is primarily made of and when these citizens get their paycheck there won't be enough left in it to support U of L and an NBA team that will play 41 home dates with an average ticket price of $90.00-$100.00 per game, and that's if you can get one at face price. Louisville and UK both have loyal and long standing fan bases in Jefferson County that were established many decades in the past. These sports fans will prioritize their entertainment dollar and the NBA will lose both short term and long term.
The Tri State area is struggling at the present to support a now winning Cincinnati Reds franchise that plays in the comfortable lazy hazy days of summertime in their new state of the art stadium at an average ticket price of $22.50.
The NBA can't survive in our state right now and it's highly doubtful it ever will.
Now back to UK and Calipari and UL and Pitino.
Once the NBA talk subsided about 10 days ago all of a sudden Coach "P" surfaced again in the spotlight as being interested in coaching the Puerto Rico National Olympic basketball team.
Then hocus pocus a few days later, Calipari surfaces as a name to possibly lead the Dominican Republic National Olympic basketball team.
My first thought was all those extremely important summer recruiting trips and AAU tournaments the coaches talk about evidently aren't nearly as important or as scenic as the shores of these two Carribbean hot spots.
Then it hit me surely they're playing with each others mind again ..................... aren't they ?????
Time will tell us the answer to that scenario!
But you have to admit, these two guys are bringing back the original hatred of the two programs to the original Joe B. Hall and Denny Crum days.
Isn't it ironic, look how those two guys are getting along these days !!!!!!!!!!!
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