John Calipari Flushed Out Big Part of Kentucky Past in Free-for-All

John Calipari, Arkansas basketball, Kentucky basketball, Arkansas vs Kentucky
photo credit: Twitter/John Calipari

Kentucky basketball fans hoping to grab a slice of the John Calipari era before he left town for Arkansas apparently missed their chance.

It has become commonplace for coaches changing jobs to donate their gear from the previous school to places like Goodwill, but the Razorbacks’ new coach took a different approach to purging his wardrobe of the Wildcats.

On Wednesday, Calipari was a guest on the Dan Patrick Show and after he rehashed the details of his journey to Arkansas, host Dan Patrick asked if he could have some of his Kentucky gear.

“It’s gone already,” Calipari said with a smile.

Apparently it’s been gone for a while, as he got rid of it before leaving Lexington.

“I just threw it in my house, on my bed, on couches and all my friends and their kids came over and (I told them to) take what you want,” Calipari said after joking he’d sold everything. “The best items were the Kentucky shoes that had UK on them — (they’re) gone.” Certainly, just cleaning house in one go seems a little easier than going whatever now-Gonzaga Bulldog Khalif Battle is trying to accomplish here involving his Razorback gear.

That was one of several funny exchanges between the old friends and Hall of Famers in their respective fields, but something else Calipari mentioned should have caught the attention of Arkansas basketball fans.

Calipari Comments on Mark Pope at Kentucky

John Calipari has never been one to shy away from his past. He routinely tells stories from his time at UMass, Memphis and Kentucky — as well as his short stint in the NBA.

Despite the free-for-all at his house to flush out a chunk of his past with the Wildcats, Calipari has kept a positive tone when talking about his former employer.

He has reiterated numerous times, including on Wednesday, that it was simply time for him to move on. After 15 years at the helm, Kentucky needed a new voice in charge of the program. It also gave him a fresh start at Arkansas, where he had a blank slate.

“For me to do what I’m doing, I needed that tailwind, no headwinds,” Calipari said. “We needed to be able to move in what we were doing and as far as saying, ‘Well, they pushed you out.’ No, I don’t think that was the case.”

Calipari also told Dan Patrick that he viewed it as a positive for Kentucky, as well, because it led to Mark Pope returning to Lexington.

“But again, let it be good for both,” Calipari said. “I had 15 great years there. Let Mark Pope have 15 great years. Let me finish how I want to finish. Let me build another program. Let’s win another national championship. Let’s help another 25 families.”

That line — about hoping Pope gets “15 great years” at Kentucky — is something Calipari doubled down on a couple hours later in an appearance on the Jim Rome Show.

His intent is obvious. He’s trying to further prove that he has no ill-will toward the Kentucky basketball program. However, digging deeper into that comment reveals that might not be the best thing for the Razorbacks.

The Arkansas vs Kentucky Rivalry

For any coach to last a decade and a half at one school, he has to win and do it early. That’s especially true for a program like Kentucky basketball, which is one of the blue bloods of the sport.

Not only will the Wildcats chafe at any losing, but they want to win big — in the regular season and, more importantly, in March. In fact, lack of success in the NCAA Tournament the last few years led to a chunk of Big Blue Nation turning on John Calipari, and he had a national championship and multiple Final Fours on his resume.

For Mark Pope to ultimately enjoy 15 years at Kentucky, he must come out of the gates strong. That probably multiple deep runs with a Final Four or two mixed in, if not a national championship.

After all, his predecessor won a title, finished runner up, made another Final Four and reached another Elite Eight all within his first five seasons.

It’d be hard for Pope to replicate the early success Calipari had at Kentucky, but if he managed to do it, it’d make things that much harder on Arkansas.

The Razorbacks are already having to deal with Nate Oats at Alabama, Bruce Pearl at Auburn, Rick Barnes at Tennessee and several others, as the SEC has become one of the best conferences in college basketball. If Kentucky remains strong, that’s yet another challenger in the league’s pecking order.

And that extends beyond the court. The Arkansas vs Kentucky rivalry will also continue to play out on the recruiting trail, especially if Pope keeps the Wildcats in the upper echelon of the sport. Just last week, Will Riley — a top-10 prospect in the 2025 class — dropped Arkansas from his top 6 while keeping Kentucky on the list. As you can imagine, that had Kentucky basketball fans gloating.

All of that is significant because Calipari is already 65 years old and will turn 66 in February. He agreed to a five-year deal at Arkansas, which would have him coaching through his 70th birthday, and that doesn’t even include the two automatic one-year extensions that are triggered by his first two NCAA Tournament appearances.

Roy Williams was 70 when he retired. Mike Krzyzewski was 75. In college football, Nick Saban is 72 and retired in January. It’s hard to imagine Calipari coaching much longer than those legendary figures, so the Razorbacks probably have a window of 5-7 years to get to the promised land under his leadership.

Rather than replicating his own success at Kentucky, it’d probably behoove Arkansas and Calipari if Pope’s career more closely mimics that of Calipari’s predecessor, Billy Gillispie.

But of course Calipari would never publicly say that. Why give the Wildcats any more bulletin board material ahead of the Arkansas vs Kentucky showdown at Rupp Arena next season?


Watch the full John Calipari interview on the Dan Patrick Show here:


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