John Calipari and Rick Pitino were longtime rivals at Louisville and Kentucky, but now that Pitino is no longer the coach of the Cardinals, Calipari wants him to receive some recognition in Lexington.
Kentucky hosted Utah on Saturday and won 88-61 at Rupp Arena. Pitino’s 1993 Kentucky team that went to the Final Four was recognized throughout the day, though Pitino did not attend. Calipari said that he reached out to Pitino and asked him to attend, but Pitino had a previous commitment.
“He was with family and he had things going on but I said, ‘Look, you need to get up here. This will be respectful here.’ What that program did to change this back, we should recognize it. You may be mad he went to coach Louisville. So what? When he was here and we needed this program on a different track, he put it and that group, and I thanked that group last night,” Calipari said, via Kentucky Sports Radio.
Pitino did send a tweet to congratulate the team.
Congrats 93 UK team! Proud of you guys and love the hell out of you. Thx Cal for reaching out. Much appreciated.
— Rick Pitino (@RealPitino) December 15, 2018
Pitino coached Kentucky from 1989-1997. He made three Final Fours, winning one championship. Kentucky also won the title under Tubby Smith the season after Pitino left for the NBA. But Pitino crossed Kentucky fans when he went to rival Louisville and coached the Cardinals from 2001-2017. That rivalry is a big deal, as Calipari will tell you.
Maybe Pitino feels more time needs to pass for Kentucky fans to welcome him again.