On Aug. 16, John Calipari will coach the Dominican national team in an exhibition game against a Kentucky alumni that will include Rajon Rondo, John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Nazr Mohammed, and other former standouts from before Calipari began his reign in Lexington, Ky.
It's the first of its kind, and it's rather brilliant: Technically, Kentucky isn't allowed to be associated with the event, but Calipari can coach his Dominican charges (including current Wildcat Eloy Vargas) and former Kentucky players can play. (Former Kentucky coach Joe B. Hall, on the other hand, can't coach the former pros. He was pretty bummed out about it. Calipari moved him to the Dominican bench instead.) It's not a Kentucky event per se -- and it's all within NCAA rules -- but it's certainly a Kentucky event in spirit.
Where is this nifty little event to be held? Believe it or not, the Wildcats will be briefly occupying hostile territory in the KFC Yum! Center, home of the Louisville Cardinals.
Reporters at Louisville coach Rick Pitino's press conference -- which was ostensibly about the Cardinals' upcoming trip to the Bahamas -- were curious: What does Pitino think about this shindig being held in the Cardinals' building? According to Pitino's quotes, he's fine with it. According to the AP's description of his tone, he's not. From the Associated Press:
But his tone suggested otherwise Wednesday during a press conference to discuss his team's upcoming trip to the Bahamas.
"That's a public facility, it's our homecourt during the season, but obviously anybody can go in there," Pitino said. "Lady Gaga can go in there, or the Dominican team can go in there. [...]
"I know nothing about that," Pitino said. "I haven't followed it, somebody just asked me about it for the first time this morning. I know nothing about it." But "it's no different than Villanova or West Virginia, or anybody else playing there. It's a free country and the KFC, last time I checked, was part of this country."
True! I would go so far as to say the Yum! Center is a rather symbolic part of our country. We love fried chicken. We love sports. America, baby!
In any case, you know, sure, Pitino probably isn't altogether pleased with the idea. The Dominicans vs. former Kentucky pros idea isn't going drastically change the nature of the Wildcats/Cardinals rivalry. Nor is it suddenly going to give Kentucky some massive recruiting boost. (The Wildcats seem to be doing just fine there as it is.) But Calipari has brilliantly carved out another little profile advantage for himself and his program, and he's managed to do it in his most hated rival's backyard. Free country or not, that has to sting.