The Maui Invitational is pretty great. I think the gym has a lot to do with it. Instead of Random Sterile Corporate Arena X or a strangely converted hotel ballroom space, the Lahaina Civic Center looks and sounds like a high school basketball gym, at least on TV. The combination of good basketball and good trappings give it the best osmotic televised atmosphere of any early-season event, and the hoop usually follows suit. Plus ... it's in Maui. Who wouldn't want to go to that?
Wait, don't answer that. Because it turns out there is at least one man in America who doesn't find the charms of Maui worth the not inconsiderable travel logistics: Kentucky's John Calipari. This is via Missouri Frank Haith, who essentially confirmed his friend's distaste to the Lexington Herald-Leader this weekend:
"Cal did say, it's too long a trip," Haith recalled. "He just brought it up."
Calipari has made no secret of how he dislikes the arduous trip to and from Maui.
"That's legit," Haith said of Calipari's concerns about traversing across five time zones. "He hates it. It's just too far for him."
You can understand why someone might feel that way: It is an awfully long flight! And as Haith pointed out, there isn't a ton of reasons for Calipari specifically to be interested in the event, because it doesn't do anything for him or Kentucky's schedule (nonconference neutral court games, good competition, etc.) that he can't already do for himself. Other than getting his players excited for a vacation to Hawaii, what benefit is there?
But it's a great, fun early event and no doubt a lot of fun for the players, and probably totally worth a long flight. Just sleep on the plane, right?
The only concern is that, as with all things Calipari and Kentucky, this preference becomes a trend. For whatever reason, I'm guessing this one won't catch on. After all ... it's in Maui.