Duke Basketball Side Has Issue with Basic Math when Taking Potshot at Hogs

John Calipari, Arkansas basketball, Duke basketball

When John Calipari was introduced as the new Arkansas basketball coach, all hell broke loose online.

Over the course of his three decades as a college head coach, the decorated Hall of Famer has become a bit of a “love him or hate him” type of figure in the basketball world. Maybe it’s the hair gel or the fancy suits, or maybe it’s just how successful he’s been – but everybody seems to have a take on Coach Cal.

As someone who helped rain down boos on him every time he visited Bud Walton Arena, count me into that group. But I never really hated Calipari per se; it was just that he coached my team’s rival. There’s no denying his success, and you’ve got to respect what he’s done for the sport.

But his recent and unlikely marriage with Arkansas seems to have struck a nerve with a lot of people, particularly with the sportswriters that cover a couple blue blood programs. Kentucky basketball fans having irrational takes on this move is to be expected, but who saw Duke piling on?

For some reason, Arkansas caught a stray bullet with a ham-fisted snark piece released by the Duke Basketball Report, the SB Nation affiliate covering the Blue Devils.

Duke University: The Entitlement Strikes Back

The article is pretty much based on an entirely inaccurate take from author JD King, whose tone drips with sarcasm throughout. His main beef with the situation seems to be with, of all entities, the Arkansas sports media. Weird.

“The media seems awestruck,” King wrote. “A Hall of Fame coach picked us? Little ol’ us? Gosh!”

That comment is strange for multiple reasons. First off, Calipari’s latest move makes him the third Hall of Fame coach to lead the Razorbacks, alongside Eddie Sutton and Nolan Richardson. 

Duke, by contrast, only has one of those to its name. Someone, apparently, doesn’t do training wheels arithmetic too well.

Sure, Coach K was in Durham for an eternity, but to suggest that Arkansas has never been in the midst of such basketball royalty is ignorant. After all, fans of the Blue Devils should remember the Razorbacks’ history with Hall of Fame coaches vividly, as Richardson famously got the better of Kryzyzewski in the 1994 National Championship Game.

Clearly that matchup 30 years ago, as well as Arkansas’ defeat of Duke not even five months ago, still leaves a sour taste in the mouths of Duke fans. But if you’re going to hold a grudge against someone, at least report accurately when you do it. 

The article notably includes zero examples of the supposedly starstruck Arkansas media fumbling over their words with Calipari in the room. That’s because – and I know because I was there – that didn’t happen. 

The only comment that even came close to that was when a reporter said that he was still trying to get used to Calipari wearing Razorback red which, let’s be fair, we all are. The rest of the questions were pretty standard, asking Cal about roster-building and the process of how his hiring went down.

Best of Arkansas Sports contributor Sam Eifling referred to Duke basketball as the Death Star in a piece written after the Hogs and Blue Devils faced off in the Elite Eight in 2022. It’s clear that Calipari’s move to the Natural State has brought about Episode V of that Star Wars metaphor: The Entitlement Strikes Back.

John Calipari Move Makes UK Media Trip

The most interesting media development from this whole situation was a grand contradiction that occurred between two prominent sportswriters in Kentucky media: Matt Jones of Ky Sports Radio and Dick Gabriel, a longtime UK sports broadcaster.

Up until the eleventh hour of the deal’s completion, Jones was insistent that Calipari had not yet notified athletic director Mitch Barnhart of his negotiation with Arkansas, even going as far as suggesting Calipari had breached his contract.

Then, on Tuesday, Gabriel reported that Calipari had asked Kentucky to counter Arkansas’ offer, and Kentucky said no.

Well, which one is it, fellas?

Those two reports directly contradict each other. Calipari was simultaneously not telling Barnhart his intentions but also negotiating a counter-offer from UK? That doesn’t compute. Also, why would he ask for a counter when the contract he signed at Arkansas is for $1.5 million less per year than his one at Kentucky? It doesn’t make sense, from a number of angles. 

It certainly seems like a case of Kentucky basketball writers throwing whatever they could at the wall and hoping that something stuck. That’s when Tom Mars, Calipari’s personal attorney and a UA law school graduate, set the record straight – and he brought receipts, too.

Gabriel quickly retracted his report and apologized.

There was also a Barstool Sports article on the subject that claimed Cal’s opening presser was “nothing but lies, sales and weirdness – highlighted by the Tyson Chicken guy getting a standing ovation”.

The story has a pretty bitter tone to it, even trying to suggest that Kentucky “always has been, always will be” the draw for big crowds. Sure, Big Blue Nation gets opposing fanbases fired up. But saying that about a program who has had season sellouts for the past few years is…interesting, to say the least.

If you click on the profile of “Reags,” the author, you’ll see that he’s a Kentucky grad. Seeing John Calipari in Razorback red clearly rubbed him the wrong way and was the cause for the saltiness throughout the article. 

I’m with you, Reags. It’ll take some getting used to, but it’ll be okay. After all, you wanted this guy gone, right? Surely a program of Kentucky’s stature won’t have any trouble getting the coach that they want. Oh wait…

Green Eyes for Arkansas Basketball, Apparently

Calipari’s shocking move to Arkansas stole all the headlines in the sports world this week, even getting the attention of a lot of national sports talk shows. Unfortunately, all of that coverage from people who aren’t very tuned in to Arkansas or college basketball as a whole led to some pretty horrific takes on the issue.

If you can bear it, here’s a compilation of these reactions.

The gist of these clips seems to be that many sports talking heads, particularly those based in New York and Los Angeles who only pay attention to professional sports, can’t comprehend a coach of Calipari’s stature moving to Arkansas.

Setting aside the fact that Fayetteville is routinely rated as one of the country’s best places to live, Arkansas is also a historic basketball power with tremendous access to resources and some of the best per-capita production of basketball talent in the entire nation.

If you do a little research first, it’s easy to find that stuff. Or you could just be a mouthpiece for the blue bloods of the world. Or you could listen to a number of in-the-know college basketball analysts who understand the landscape:

You could also just take it from Calipari himself, who probably knows a thing or two about hoops.

“Kentucky is the bluest of the blue,” Calipari said. “There’s only a few schools like that and, I hate to tell you, Arkansas is one of them.”

This certainly won’t be the last time Arkansas gets lazy insults lobbed its way, especially not with a famous coach like Cal leading the program. Here’s to hoping folks learn a thing or two about the state before they make outlandish claims about it.

They can start with coming to grips with the fact this is one place where, yes, a chicken man with a briefcase full of Benjamins landed a Hall of Fame coach and challenged a nation’s preconceptions.

That chicken man, by the way, isn’t through making it rain. The talent floodgates are about to open thanks to the Razorbacks’ new-found NIL riches. And it may just all start with former UK commit Karter Knox, a 5-star small forward from Tampa, Florida.

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