John Calipari future with D.R. in air
Kentucky coach John Calipari was a game away from coaching a rare double in the same year -- an NCAA championship and Olympic game in a calendar year.
But Nigeria's American contingent led by Ike Diogu's 25 points were too strong in an 88-73 victory over Calipari's Dominican Republic squad Sunday night in Caracas, Venezuela at the Olympic qualifying tournament. The Nigerians, not the Dominicans, will make their first-ever Olympic appearance in two weeks in London.
Less than 24 hours later, Calipari was back in Lexington working out his reshaped Kentucky team.
He'll do that again Wednesday, before coaching the Dominicans one more time, against the United States Olympic team Thursday night in Las Vegas in an exhibition.
"We didn't get where we wanted to, but I'm hoping that we've turned a generation of athletes on to basketball," said Calipari. "It has been a baseball nation. We were able to help the federation and the country."
Calipari made a two-year commitment to the Dominican team, which was led by NBA players Al Horford and Francisco Garcia. He said he will meet with the Dominican National Federation in Las Vegas later this week to discuss the future. He said he is non-committal about his involvement going forward.
But Calipari said he is hopeful that his Kentucky assistant Orlando Antigua, who was on the staff along with Rod Strickland and longtime NBA head and assistant coach Del Harris, would be considered for the head coaching position. Calipari said Antigua would be "a great choice."
"I'm not ready to say what I'm going to do," Calipari said. "It has been fun but it takes a lot of time. I worked my team out as soon as I got off the plane and I'll work them out again Wednesday before I fly to Vegas, come back and work them out Monday and Tuesday to work them out again. I ended up having two jobs. If we would have qualified for London that would have been, well, think about that. It would have been tough to get recruiting done."
Calipari said the only way it worked for him to be head coach of the Dominicans was to move training camp to Lexington the past two years.
"I wouldn't have done it if we hadn't trained here for two years," Calipari said. "That's time away. We were training here and I was able to do two jobs. We had our camp, I coached their team and coached my team. It was a tough four weeks."
Calipari said he knows he enters Thursday's exhibition game at the Thomas & Mack Centre at a decided disadvantage against the Americans and Duke's Mike Krzyzewski. In any matchup with Krzyzewski, Calipari usually has had equal or superior talent.
That won't be the case Thursday.
"It'll be fun," Calipari said. "I'll see if they want us to play zone or play a certain way. I'll do whatever they want to help them out at this point."
Calipari said the highly-touted Kentucky freshmen class was in attendance (Alex Poythress, Archie Goodwin and Willie Cauley) at the workouts Monday except for the top center in the class and a projected top two pick in 2013 in Nerlens Noel.
"He's not here," Calipari said. "Since he reclassified he had to do a few more academic things and he's finishing school. We only have one summer session (to work the team out)."
Calipari said he doesn't anticipate any eligibility problems for Noel to start the season as the Wildcats attempt to repeat as national champs with a completely different team after five players left early for the NBA draft (top picks Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist as well as Terrence Jones, Marquis Teague and Doron Lamb) and two seniors (Darius Miller and Eloy Vargas) finished their eligibility.
The Wildcats have one key player returning from last season in Kyle Wiltjer and NC State transfer guard Ryan Harrow becomes eligible after sitting out the season.
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