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By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky coach John Calipari caught a lot of flak nationally â€” and even from a Lexington Herald-Leader political cartoon â€” for saying Kentucky was a â€œnon-traditionalâ€ program and couldnâ€™t lock itself into long-term series after Indiana and UKâ€ˆcould not agree on continuing their annual series and the UK-North Carolina series was stopped for at least one year. But New York Daily News columnist Dick “Hoops” Weiss, one of the nation’s most respected college basketball writers, says Kentucky has never had a â€œtraditionalâ€ basketball program.
He cited former UK coach Adolph Ruppâ€™s involvement with the Olympics and progressive thinking to run a fast break and do other things. He noted that former UKâ€ˆcoach Joe Hall built Wildcat Lodge, a luxurious spot for players to live on camp, and also took players across the state to play preseason intrasquad scrimmages. He also started Midnight Madness. Weiss said former UKâ€ˆcoach Rick Pitino went to more neutral site games and even hired Bernadette Locke-Mattox to be on his staff.
â€œHe feels he runs a non-traditional program at Kentucky, but thatâ€™s what Kentucky basketball has always been. Itâ€™s why Kentucky is what it is. It sets standards,â€ Weiss said. â€œJohn wants to play games that will have his team ready to respond in Final Four settings and not be inexperienced playing in domes like this team was two years ago in Houston.
â€œI donâ€™t disagree with his reasoning for not playing home and home with Indiana. Kentucky offered to play two years at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis that could accommodate an extra 15,000 to 20,000 fans. I frankly do not have a problem with that. Obviously, (Indiana coach) Tommy (Crean) wants home-and-home. But you never know who will be better off. UKâ€ˆis going to be a totally different team next year. They wonâ€™t have three guys back who have played in the Final Four. John has his reasons for what heâ€™s doing and I understand them.â€