Tuesday, April 3, 2012
UK asked for glory; Calipari delivered
By Dana O'Neil
NEW ORLEANS -- The night before the national championship game, Bruiser Flint joined John Calipari and a few others in a hotel room.
Flint, who worked with Calipari at UMass, got the Kentucky coach to riff on the old days and spin some good tales about recruiting road trips.
When Flint walked into the Mercedes-Benz Superdome to watch the title game, one of the other people from the hotel room pulled the Drexel coach aside.
"He said, 'Man, I'm really glad you were in there. We needed someone to break the ice,'" Flint said. "You know, it was pretty intense in there."
Intense because Kentucky had the best team in the country by a country mile and everyone knew it, especially the people in the Commonwealth who have waited 14 long years for another title.
Longtime basketball writer Dick Jerardi said an hour before the game that he feared this national championship against Kansas could look an awful lot like Secretariat at the 1973 Belmont Stakes, so good were the Wildcats.
He was right. Kentucky is, indeed, a tremendous machine.
And Calipari knew it. He knew he had the best thoroughbreds in the barn, an amalgamation whose talent is only outdone by its unexpected unselfishness.
Yet for a week, at least publicly, the Wildcats coach has stubbornly insisted winning a national championship would do nothing for him, that his first trophy wouldn't rubber stamp a career 30 arduous years in the making.
And when the trophy was his, the nets were cut and the eighth national championship for Kentucky locked up, with a 67-59 win against Kansas, Calipari refused to edit the script.
"I'm glad it's done," he said. "Now I can get about my business of coaching basketball, getting these players to be the best that they can be. I don't have to hear the drama. I can just coach now. I don't have to worry. If you want to know the truth, it's almost like, 'Done. Let me move on.'"