Kentucky coach John Calipari told the New York Athletic Club dinner crowd — and veteran basketball writer Dick "Hoops" Weiss — that he was not going to be coaching the New York Knicks or any NBA team. He left college once for the NBA and was fired by the New Jersey Nets before going to Memphis and then Kentucky.
"I have got the best job in basketball, in my opinion. You don't need to make decisions financially, which I did the last time when I went to the Nets. Fifteen million back in 1996, when you're a kid, is like $30 million now. At Kentucky, you can win championships. And you have a stage that really helps the young people. I'm not going to the Knicks," Calipari said at the dinner.
Weiss believed him.
"He's got a big contract and a great job. He's making (Alabama football coach) Nick Saban money. And he loves Kentucky," Weiss, who wrote that UK?has "surpassed" Duke as the nation's top program, said.
Here are some other subjects Weiss touched about Calipari:
— Kentucky-Indiana series.
Calipari caught a lot of flak nationally for saying Kentucky was a "non-traditional" program and couldn't lock itself into long-term series after Indiana and UK?could not agree on continuing their annual series and the UK-North Carolina series was stopped for at least one year. But Weiss says Kentucky has never had a "traditional" basketball program.
He cited former UK coach Adolph Rupp's involvement with the Olympics and progressive thinking to run a fast break and do other things. He noted that former UK?coach Joe Hall built Wildcat Lodge, a luxurious spot for players to live on camp, and also took players across the state to play preseason intrasquad scrimmages. He also started Midnight Madness. Weiss said former UK?coach Rick Pitino went to more neutral site games and even hired Bernadette Locke-Mattox to be on his staff.
"He feels he runs a non-traditional program at Kentucky, but that's what Kentucky basketball has always been. It's why Kentucky is what it is. It sets standards," Weiss said. "John wants to play games that will have his team ready to respond in Final Four settings and not be inexperienced playing in domes like this team was two years ago in Houston.
"I don't disagree with his reasoning for not playing home and home with Indiana. Kentucky offered to play two years at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis that could accommodate an extra 15,000 to 20,000 fans. I frankly do not have a problem with that. Obviously, (Indiana coach) Tommy (Crean) wants home-and-home. But you never know who will be better off. UK?is going to be a totally different team next year. They won't have three guys back who have played in the Final Four. John has his reasons for what he's doing and I understand them."
— NCAA investigating UK?signee Nerlens Noel.
Weiss said Calipari never mentioned Noel's status with him Tuesday and "was in such a good mood that I?really don't think he even knew it was coming." However, the New York Times had a story reporting that NCAA investigators are checking Noel's background.
"I don't know if it is just routine checking or what. It's a little surprising the same paper didn't write anything about the North Carolina (athletics academic fraud in a class basketball and football players took)," Weiss said. "I have trouble believing some of the things being checked."
The Times reported that NCAA representatives visited Everett High School, where Noel spent two years, and asked about Noel's relationship with Errol Randolph, a former substitute teacher at Everrett who might have connections to basketball agent Andy Miller. The NCAA also had questions about how Noel paid for unofficial visits to UK?and Louisville.
It was no surprise to Weiss that Calipari and UK?director of compliance Sandy Bell have had no comment on the story.
"What can they say? I?just have a hard time believing a kid is that worried about an agent when he's a freshman or sophomore. I?just don't see this turning into a problem for Kentucky," Weiss said.
— Calipari's personality.
Weiss wishes more Kentucky fans, and media members, could spend one-on-one time with Calipari like he has been able to often.
"John was great here in New York at this dinner. He gets New York.?He gets the old people who have given so much. He does these things pretty good, just like he does things in Kentucky," Weiss said. "I have a good relationship with him, a lot like I?do with (Louisville coach) Rick (Pitino) even though UK fans might not want to hear that. John is so much better one-on-one than in a crowded interview or setting.
"Kentucky is one of the few places where you have so many people who have made their lives' work covering the Cats. John knows that more than he lets on because he knows how important basketball is to everyone in that state."