Here’s the quote that’s got everybody all shook up in Card Nation:
“It’s a unique thing, There’s no other state, none, that’s as connected to their basketball program as this one. Because those other states have other programs. Michigan has Michigan State, California has UCLA, North Carolina has Duke. It’s Kentucky throughout this whole state, and that’s what makes us unique.”
No one seems to think that John Calipari didn’t know exactly what he was saying, and how it might be received, when he said it to Matt Jones of KSTV (check the 2:00 mark in the YouTube clip) over the weekend. Many are comparing the comment, at least in terms of its effect on both the UK and U of L fan bases, to something Eddie Sutton said when he was at UK, calling the school in the state’s largest city “Little Brother.”
Calipari, who was visiting students camped out waiting for tickets to the team’s first practice, may be college basketball’s most adept manipulator of the media. No, he doesn’t need the actual media to get a message out — the man has 1,139,504 followers on Twitter, and puts out double-figure Tweets daily. He’s got more than 300,000 people “Liking” his official Facebook page. So he knew that he was dissing U of L fans when he said his Wildcats were the only school in the state.
Meanwhile, U of L’s Rick Pitino’s Twitter account, if it’s the real one, has 8,386 followers, but whoever’s running the account hasn’t done the first tweet. Pitino’s social media efforts, in fact, seems to be a blog that is only occasionally updated.
Calipari’s comment sparked a full day’s worth of discussion on talk radio, with plenty of U of L folks bashing Coach Cal just like they did when he made the brash move of bringing an exhibition game featuring a bunch of ex-Wildcats to the Yum Center.
So in the midst of this awful football season, Calipari has the state’s sports fans all riled up and talking about a basketball game that won’t be played until New Year’s Eve. The man knows what he’s doing.