Karl-Anthony Towns had some jokes for John Calipari after his big contract news was shared on Saturday.
News emerged that Towns had agreed to a five-year extension with the Minnesota Timberwolves that could be worth as much as $190 million. His college coach at Kentucky, Calipari, sent a tweet expressing congratulations for Towns. Towns wrote back with a joke about Calipari holding him back in college.
Though Towns was joking, there is a little something to the story.
In an interview with CBS Sports’ Reid Forgrave last year, Towns talked about just how hard Calipari was on him during his one season at Kentucky in 2014-15. He said that Calipari was even tougher on him than Tom Thibodeau is with the Timberwolves.
Q. Who’s tougher on you, Thibs or Cal?
A. Haha. Ahhhh … I’ma say Cal. Cal was very hard on me. Thibs is hard on me, but Cal was otherworldly hard on me. It was definitely something I enjoyed, funny enough. I was always able to take the criticism. I was always able to talk to him. They both have love for me.
To be clear: there is no beef between them. Towns talked glowingly about Calipari and how much the coach loves his players. But the point is that Calipari was hard on Towns, and maybe Towns is now seeing that it paid off.
The college basketball rivalry between Kentucky and Louisville is one of the most heated in sports, and John Calipari has grown accustomed to being berated by Cardinals fans over the years. However, an insult that was hurled his way this week appears to have crossed the line.
On Tuesday morning, Calipari spotted a Louisville fan on the set of NBC’s “Today” show holding up a sign that read “JOHN CALIPARI HATES PUPPIES GO CARDS!!” As a proud dog owner and lover, the Wildcats coach just had to respond.
Nothing a Louisville fan has EVER said to me has ever bothered me but this one got to me a little bit. McGruff and Palmer were so mad that they came to my office to ask me about it. pic.twitter.com/EE0BlqtKxD
Five-star point guard recruit Ashton Hagans has verbally committed to Kentucky, and you can understand why John Calipari is excited that the No. 1 point guard in the nation is joining his loaded 2019 recruiting class. As it turns out, the Wildcats coach may be a little too excited about it.
Calipari was asked a question about Hagans at the SEC’s spring meetings last week, and he committed a minor recruiting violation by responding. The question had to do with whether or not Calipari believed Hagans, a Georgia native, would still have flipped his commitment to Kentucky if former University of Georgia coach Mark Fox was not fired.
“He wanted us all along and we had waited, and Mark did a good job and jumped on it. I told him, ‘You’re smart,’” Calipari said, according to Seth Emerson of The Athletic. “But then the kid opens up when he figures out that stuff is happening. And we get a terrific player.”
Hagans’ father told SEC Country two weeks ago that Ashton is finishing up an online course and plans to enroll at Kentucky not later than August. The youngster almost certainly is not going to change his mind now, but Kyle Tucker of SEC Country notes that it is against NCAA rules for a coach to speak publicly about a recruit who has not yet signed a letter of intent.
What Calipari said will constitute a secondary violation, meaning it will not affect Hagans’ eligibility. It should amount to nothing more than a slap on the wrist, which seems more than reasonable considering the circumstances. Calipari, of course, is no stranger to NCAA violations, but this one seems like nothing.
John Calipari has been one of the most vocal about how the NBA’s age limit isn’t working, and he’s taking his case directly to the NBA Players’ Association.
Calipari again called for the removal of the age limit rule, and said that he met last week with the NBPA and urged them to establish a “combine” event for high school juniors.
“The players and the families need to know – here are the ones who should be thinking about the NBA, and here are the ones who should not,” Calipari told Mac Engel of the Star-Telegram. “That’s why you need a combine.
“If they want to go out of high school, go. If they want to go to college and then leave, let them leave when they want to leave. Why would we force a kid to stay? ‘Well – it’s good for the game?’ It’s about these kids and their families. Because let me tell you, if we (abolish one-and-done), the kids that do come to college will stay for two to three years.”
Calipari also suggested the NBA ensure G-League contracts contain college education funds to ensure that younger players aren’t encouraged to forgo an education to seek their big break professionally.
“What do we do with these kids now? What do we do if they are not academically ready at all, because they didn’t plan on it?” Calipari said. “Who wants to take care of those thousands of kids whose family, many times, are dealing with generational poverty and their chance was maybe to get him an education?
“Now, how many kids do you think who went thinking, ‘I’m here one, or two, and done and stayed all four years? It’s been proven by the graduation rates it’s a ton. What’s wrong with that? I don’t care what they do, but let’s not force them to go to the G League. If they choose to do that, that’s fine, but why don’t we make sure if they don’t make it in, they at least have a chance at a guaranteed education.”
John Calipari said after his Kentucky Wildcats lost to Kansas State in the Sweet 16 on Thursday that the inexperience of his young team showed through during the game.
Calipari’s Kentucky squad lost 61-58 in a game where fouls became the story. Kentucky was sent to the line 37 times and made just 23 of their attempts. They were tied in the final minute at 58 but came up short, and Calipari said afterwards that the youth of the team was an issue.
“But again, there were plays that you could see late that just inexperience came through a little bit,” Calipari told CBS. “But give Kansas State credit. They played hard, they played physical, they played great defense. They shot 35 percent and won a Sweet 16 game. That says a lot about their program.”
Kentucky did not have one senior on the team and featured eight freshmen, four sophomores and two juniors.
Despite pointing out the inexperience, Calipari credited Kansas State on the win and took responsibility for the late-game play.
“This is on me, that last play.”
Though Calipari took a timeout to set up his team for their last possession, he did not call a timeout on the previous possession with the team down two after Barry Brown’s layup put Kansas State up 60-58. In hindsight, he would have called the timeout there to set up his team.
The Kentucky Wildcats are suddenly the highest remaining seed in the NCAA Tournament’s South regional, with the top four seeds in the region falling to early upsets. That means the young Wildcats may have a surprise Final Four bid in their future.
John Calipari doesn’t want his players to listen to any of that, warning his players “don’t drink that poison.”
“The poison being we have an easy road,” Calipari said, via Alex Scarborough of ESPN. “If they drink the poison, we’ll be done on Thursday.”
Calipari thinks the talk could influence his young team “probably because they’re young and they know they don’t know better.”
“Don’t read it, don’t watch it,” Calipari said.
Calipari has been in fine form this tournament. Now he’s working on keeping a young team that might not necessarily have expected to have this scenario on front of them focused on the prize.
John Calipari doesn’t seem too worried about rival Duke’s recent success in recruiting.
Calipari’s Kentucky teams used to consistently dominate in the recruiting front and land all sorts of top-10 players every year, while Duke seemed to shy away from the one-and-done types. That’s changed somewhat as Duke landed three top-10 recruits for the class of 2017 and now has four for 2018 thanks to the Zion Williamson commitment.
Calipari thinks he knows what Duke’s recruiting pitch is to top players — that the program will take care of them forever — but he’s not buying it.
“I don’t sell, like, ‘When you come here, the university and the state will take care of you the rest of your life,’ ” Calipari said at a press conference Monday, via SEC Country. “You may buy that, and I’ve got some great property in some swampland down in Florida to sell you, too.”
Calipari got his information about Duke’s “set for life” pitch from one of his players, Hamidou Diallo, who described the two schools’ pitches in 2016.
“Kentucky’s pitch was just the NBA thing,” Diallo said via the Louisville Courier-Journal. “Duke’s pitch was if you come to Duke, you’re going to be set for life. It’s more than just basketball. (John Calipari’s) pitch was he gets guys ready for the next level. Look at the numbers: it shows. It’s the best place for you if you want to make it to the NBA.”
But wait, there’s more! We haven’t gotten to the best part yet. After dismissing Duke’s “set for life” pitch, Calipari then boasted about his program we this awesome quote:
Everybody’s talking about Calipari’s supposed Duke shade when this is actually the best part of his presser pic.twitter.com/pgXQ6SgCa8
A billion dollars! The way he delivered that was awesome. And you know he loves doing it too based on his rivalry with Duke.
Who are some of the Kentucky players making money in the pros? How about John Wall, Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, Enes Kanter, Karl-Anthony Towns, Brandon Knight and Eric Bledsoe to name a few? Yeah, Calipari still has a pretty good pitch to recruits.