Any time you think the college hoops offseason news is going to quiet down, merely cast your eye toward the 77-mile I-64 corridor in Kentucky, the stretch of highway that connects and encompasses one of the most heated -- and frequently the most active -- rivalry in college hoops.
Louisville. Kentucky. Rick Pitino. John Calipari. Someone's always saying something.
The latest comes courtesy of both coaches. Pitino, speaking at a Louisville fundraising event in Shelbyville, Ky., Thursday night, decided to take a quick, none-too-subtle jab at the inferiority of SEC hoops. From the Louisville Courier-Journal:
"(Richard) went away for a couple of years to learn how to do things in a second-rate league, then get back to the big time."
Of course, Pitino is talking about his son, Richard, who coached at Florida as an assistant under Billy Donovan for two years before returning to his father's bench as associate head coach in April of this year. But what Pitino is really talking about is comments from Kentucky coach John Calipari, who, in talking about the ways SEC teams can improve their tournament profiles, noted some of the Big East's recent disappointments in NCAA tournament play despite its huge number of bids in recent years.
"This is no knock on the Big East but they’ve had 19 teams in the Tournament the last two years and how many have made it by the first round? How is this happening? When they start playing each other they say the 11th team is really good. What? We have to figure out how you play the best schedule you can play and still win. That’s different for all of us. I think that’s more important than 16 or 18 (conference) games."
Whether Calipari meant to actively insult the Big East or not -- I'm guessing not, but who knows? -- Pitino apparently didn't take too kindly to it. His shot at the fundraiser wasn't his first response to Calipari. At a news conference Wednesday, Pitino also said the following:
"The one thing I don't do, and I really mean this, I don't put my opinion into other people's business. I mind my own business. I don't profess to know how many teams should get in from the SEC or the Big East. That's why we have committees. So I mind my own business on stuff like that. The SEC is an outstanding conference. The ACC is an outstanding conference. Some years the Big East will be the best, some years the ACC, another year the SEC. So I don't put my laundry into someone else's basket."
One could argue that calling the SEC a "second-tier" league is at least a distant cousin of putting your laundry in someone else's basket. Or not. Honestly, I'm not sure I want to start untangling these metaphors. We could be here all day.
The point is, it's the middle of June, actual college basketball is still months away, and the arch-rivalry that is Louisville vs. Kentucky continues to burn just as white-hot as at any point during the actual college basketball season. You may not be a fan of either program. You may hate one and love the other. You may think all of this is silly. (Hint: It is.) Either way, you have to admit: This is what collegiate rivalry is all about.
Just ... no one go poisoning any trees, OK? Never a good idea.