By LARRY VAUGHT
The day before Kentucky played Auburn, UK coach John Calipari said that Auburn coach Bruce Peal was “good at what he does.”
Pearl and Calipari have coached against each for years and the Tigers beat visiting Kentucky last year. Saturday at Rupp Arena, Kentucky pulled away for a 92-72 victory.
“For a long, long time, one of the greatest jobs in the history of college basketball is what John Calipari did at UMass. I’ve said it for a long time. I grew up in Boston and I went to Boston College. I was there and I left when I was 22 years old. I know what UMass basketball was, I know what he made it, and I know what it has been since he left,” Pearl said.
“He doesn’t get nearly enough credit for that. When he went to Memphis, he was at a place, and it’s hard to believe this. I was at the big school. I was at Tennessee, and Memphis was a smaller school in a corner. They hated Tennessee, and that was the beginning of John and I having a bit of a rivalry.”
A bit of a rivalry? It was intense when Memphis and Tennessee played.
“I’d like to think that the things he doesn’t like about me are some of the things I don’t like about him, but I had great respect for him. I always have,” Pearl said. “When you have respect for a coach like that, and I do, you have to challenge John. I want him to have to prepare to play Auburn.
I want him to be pissed off that we beat them last year. They weren’t a great team and we made some shots and made some plays. It was a tough place to play and it matters if you can beat John Calipari at Kentucky. You do want to earn the respect of them here because you respect him.”
Calipari found it amusing that Pearl said he wanted him “pissed off” over last year’s loss at Auburn. Then he tried to explain again that he does not dislike other coaches.
“I’m going to say it again. I’ll literally, I’ll fight during the game, I know officials take – I don’t take it personal. I don’t care. Now some of the officials, they are going to get mad. I don’t even know their names. I’m just coaching my team trying to help them win. I don’t want to fight my team the whole game, which I did today,” Calipari said.
“The other coach, I’m not – look, good for him. I hope he does well. I’m not – I don’t take it personal. If I did, any time I lost, I would give the other guy no credit. I’d be mad. Hey, he did good. He coached. Like today, Bruce did a hell of a job to keep his team in this game. We’re a good team and they had a chance to beat us. Did a heck of a job. But he lost. ”
Calipari also laughed when told that Pearl said they disliked the same things about each other when they were part of the Tennessee-Memphis rivalry.
“Why would he think I don’t like him? You guys, it doesn’t matter what I say. It will be, ‘Here is what he meant,’ You guys read my mind. Look, he is – it’s funny, because the styles are totally different. They do stuff on the baseline out-of-bounds, on the side out-of-bounds. They will do different things in how they play, and we are playing a totally different way in what we are trying to do,” Calipari said.
“We had some great games. I don’t think we ever played when I was at UMass. I don’t believe so. We had some great games for a while when he was at Tennessee and I was at Memphis. We beat him. He beat us. Does anybody know the record? I could care less, or nor do I know. I would guess that we’ve won more than he’s won. That’s my guess – It was a joke.
“But you know, it’s like I said. You’re competing in a league. You’re trying to do your best and you’re going against guys, but I have no problem with Bruce. He’s doing a good job.”