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|John Calipari was introduced as Kentucky's head coach Wednesday morning.|
"I think it's the closest thing to Coach Pitino that Kentucky fans have seen since Coach Pitino left," said Farmer, who was a senior on the 1992 "Unforgettables" team and now serves as the state's agriculture commissioner. "The way he handles himself, the way he interacted with the media and with people, I think that's what a lot of people are looking for. He understands the tradition and what Kentucky basketball means on a national level. Big Blue Nation will be really excited about what's happened here, and I predict that tickets here are going to be at a premium." Still, Calipari comes with question marks that have little to do with his .761 winning percentage.
|Former Kentucky player Richie Farmer, right, thinks John Calipari will be a success as coach of the Wildcats.|
"He has a variety of characteristics that you have to have to be successful at Kentucky," Barnhart said. "He's got the courage. He's not afraid of it. He's passionate. He's got a very good sense of humor." Calipari cracked several jokes on Wednesday, at one point expressing amazement that Farmer -- against whom he coached in the 1992 NCAA tournament Sweet 16 -- had become a state government official. "Is that right?" Calipari asked. "A guy who scored baskets could be governor. That's crazy." No, that's just Kentucky. As Calipari headed out the Joe Craft Center doors around 11:30 a.m., ready to hop a plane to Memphis for another news conference and then on to meet recruits, he was bombarded by fans. He looked a little stunned as the crowd of about 30 enveloped him, shoving cameras and items to autograph in his face. Calipari signed as many as he could while he kept moving forward to the black Chevy Tahoe that would whisk him to the airport. Fans shouted, "We love you, Coach!" and "We're glad you're here!" Joey Greene, a 16-year-old from Lexington, beamed after Calipari signed the right shoulder of his Wildcats sweatshirt. A few feet away, a salesman hawked that morning's Lexington Herald-Leader, which screamed "Cal's a Cat" across the front page. Welcome to Kentucky, coach. "If you don't like being in the spotlight and don't like being somewhat of an icon, you'd better not come here and coach," Farmer said. "That's what it's about. I think Coach Cal is going to bring us back to the national attention that we deserve." Brian Bennett covers college football and basketball for ESPN.com.