The Wildcats will play Big East power Connecticut on Dec. 9 in the third annual SEC/Big East Challenge. The game will be part of a doubleheader at New York's Madison Square Garden.
UConn and Kentucky have met just once, with the Huskies winning in the second round of the 2006 NCAA tournament.
The Calipari stimulus is grounded in much more than celebrity, however. Everywhere John Calipari has gone he has generated excitement AND economic activity with a long-term impact. In addition to building a sustainably successful basketball program at the University of Massachusetts, he pushed state and local leaders to build the Mullin Center, a top-notch basketball and hockey facility. In Memphis, he combined an aggressive blue-chip national recruitment strategy with an intense and successful public relations campaign to reignite interest in college basketball there. (Winning didn't hurt, either.) Calipari's track record is clear – he's most successful when he invests time and effort not only in his team, but in his community.
While the Big Blue Nation waits with excitement for a new season on the court, some people are also wondering how Calipari will make his mark in the community. Of course, you can argue that an economic boost of any kind helps the least fortunate – as President Kennedy said, "a rising tide lifts all boats." However, some in our community are hoping that Coach Calipari quickly follows up on what he said to CBS when asked about his newfound financial windfall: "My wife and I will be good stewards of this blessing. We'll support Memphis and Lexington with the blessing we've gotten."
Kentucky fans were critical of Smith's recruiting, his inability to reach a Final Four over his last nine years – he missed in 2005, losing in double overtime to Michigan State in the round of eight – and his style of play.
And what did they get in return? They got the Billy Gillispie experiment, in which a hot young coach and recruiter came in, one who was going to turn the program around with his fresh ideas, and bring in Lebron Bryant players who were going to decimate the SEC like the English did the French at Agincourt.
Uh, not so much. Gillispie was forced out after two seasons of disappointment.
Now the Bluegrass State has hired John Calipari, who was only able to be pried away from Memphis with a crowbar made of gold. It remains to be seen how this experiment works out.