The Maui Invitational is one of the coolest events in sports. It features some of college basketball's best programs showcasing their newest players and latest iterations, and it does so in the Lahaina Civic Center, a 30-year-old facility that looks more like a high school gym than the mecca of college hoops it becomes each November. Plus, coaches get to wear their finest Hawaiian shirts. Plus, it's Hawaii. Who doesn't like Hawaii?
Kentucky coach John Calipari, that's who. Of course, Calipari doesn't dislike Hawaii per se. (True story: It's chemically impossible for a human being to dislike Hawaii. Yes, I just made that up. But it has to be true.) He just doesn't like the idea of having the Maui Invitational on the schedule. From the Danville, Ky. Advocate-Messenger:
“The thing I didn’t like about the schedule was Hawaii. We were locked into it (Maui Invitational). It was done before I got here and people had flights. You could have home games. Those are three games for a young team traveling across country, and then coming back.
"The games after that are hard. I have done that. When I saw it, I didn’t like it. It takes away from what you have at home. That’s what you buy into. Instead of having 31 games, you have 30. That one game for this program is $600,000."
There's no question the flight from Kentucky to Maui is going to be a bear, but after years of traveling to camps, AAU tournaments and recruiting visits, I have a feeling most of Calipari's young team won't be as fazed by the travel as he might think. And if you're going to travel for early-season college basketball, it might as well be to Hawaii. (Ahem: Is it too late to start buttering up my boss?)