Kentucky Wildcats: A Big Brother/Little Brother History Lesson

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Dec 1, 2013; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Kentucky head coach John Calipari reacts in the first half against the Providence Friars at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Dec 1, 2013; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Kentucky head coach John Calipari reacts in the first half against the Providence Friars at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

There’s little doubt that the hatred that exists between the Kentucky Wildcats and Louisville Cardinals is almost entirely fueled by the fan bases.  Most of the players are coached to see this game as just another on their schedule which is great for them.  But that primarily leaves the hype up to us, the fans, save for the player(s) who seem to channel that hate, ala DeMarcus Cousins.  Take a look at how the jabs have formed over the decades to where we stand now.

Joe B. & Denny

Long before Joe B. Hall and Denny Crum became BFFs sharing their own talk show, the two rival head coaches used to exchange pointed barbs over UK’s long-standing custom of not playing U of L and other in-state schools. In the aftermath of Louisville’s 80-68 overtime win over Kentucky in the 1983 NCAA Tournament, public pressure for annual Cats-Cards games built to a crest. Yet Hall and Crum still disagreed.

Said Hall:

“I think the policy or tradition of not playing state schools has been very good to the University of Kentucky.”

Crum’s sarcastic retort:

“We’ve had greater success lately in the NCAA (Tournament), so maybe (playing Kentucky) would carve into our tradition.”

Little brother

Eddie Sutton lasted only four seasons (1985-89) as Kentucky head coach, but in December, 1986, he contributed what may be the most famous/infamous quote in UK-U of L hoops rivalry lore.

Said Sutton:

“Kentucky is a bigger program than Louisville. Even though they won two national titles in the 1980s (’80 and ’86), Louisville is like the little brother fighting for recognition from the big brother.” Denny Crum’s reply

“Maybe we never will get as big as Kentucky, but we haven’t been on (NCAA) probation three or four times like they have, either.”

Pitino & Calipari

Long before they wound up as the opposing head men at Louisville and Kentucky, Rick Pitino and John Calipari had a complex coaching history. Adding UK-U of L friction onto an already contentious relationship has produced rivalry gold.

In October, 2011, Calipari opined that the commonwealth of Kentucky was a one-team state — UK.

Said Calipari:

“There’s no other state, none, that’s as connected to their basketball program as this one because those other states have other programs. Michigan has Michigan State, California has UCLA, North Carolina has Duke. It’s Kentucky throughout this whole state. That’s what makes it unique.”

Pitino’s reply:

“Four things I’ve learned in my 59 years about people. I ignore the jealous, I ignore the malicious, I ignore the ignorant and I ignore the paranoid. If the shoe fits anybody, wear it.”

One-and-done players

Ever oil and water, John Calipari at Kentucky became the coach most associated with one-and-done players; Rick Pitino at Louisville expressed preference for teams built around veteran players. Without ever mentioning each other by name, the two debated the topic in a March, 2013, USA Today article.

Said Pitino:

“One of the things I enjoy is building relationships with guys, and I don’t want to get to know them for seven months and they move on. Because I never get to know them.”

Replied Calipari:

“That’s not true. Obviously, the relationships I have with my guys, you need to go talk to them. I have loved them when they were here and loved them when they left.”

Parting shots

1.) In the first half of 2013, Louisville saw its football team win the Sugar Bowl, its men’s basketball team win the NCAA championship, it’s women’s hoops team finish as NCAA runner-up and its baseball team reach the College World Series. Kentucky Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart was asked about the success of his school’s archrival:

“They had a nice year. They did some things in major sports. They are to be congratulated on that. They’ve had a nice year.” 2.) After the 2013-14 Kentucky Wildcats lost to Michigan State in their third game of the season, Rick Pitino was asked about those UK 40-0 T-shirts that had been on sale:

“There’s a clearance on shirts.”

3.) Last week, Louisville guard Kevin Ware talked about Kentucky and Louisville:

“We really don’t care that Kentucky exists. We just look at them as another game.”

After what Louisville did in a tourney at Rupp Arena last year, I don’t ever want to hear the disrespect that came from Russ Smith again.  “Russ Arena.” Please.  Almost D-1 athlete can put up crazy numbers when you shoot all the friggin time.  So, of course, he’s ready to come back though Pitino has a pretty tight leash on his lips.

You have been warned.

It’s hard to know which has stuck deepest in Big Blue Nation’s craw these past couple of years — Russ Smith’s ridiculously great performances in Kentucky’s home or his supporters referring to it as “Russ Arena,” as if he owns the place or something.

Then again, Smith has sure played as if he owns it, based on the three times Louisville’s senior guard has used Kentucky Wildcats’ hallowed hardwood for his own personal breakout sessions.

The first came in the 2011-12 Kentucky-Louisville game at Rupp. UK won 69-62, but had to survive a 30-point blitzkrieg from Russdiculous, who was firing right to the end, scoring 17 points in the second half and closing the game with not one, but two three-pointers in the final four seconds.

Then came March 2013, when No. 1 seed Louisville started its national title drive right here at Rupp, handling first North Carolina A&T and then Colorado State.

At the close of business, Smith had scored 50 points, grabbed 10 steals and made five assists. He scored 23 the first game, 27 the second, prompting the pro-U of L crowd to clear their lungs with some lusty chants of “Russ Arena! Russ Arena!”

To Kentucky fans, that wasn’t exactly easy on the ears, much to the glee of Cardinal backers.

Tweeted Louisville fan @ThaBeach88 this week: “Y’all excuse me if I’m emotional this upcoming week, it’s senior day at RUSS Arena on Saturday.”

Saturday will indeed be Smith’s final visit to the venue he has made his home away from home, not that he would admit such a thing, of course.

“It’s just another game,” he said last week after U of L had mashed Missouri State at the KFC Yum Center. “I’ve had good games against Kentucky, I’ve had bad games against Kentucky. It’s just another game.”

It is a big game, which Smith says has had more to do with his scoring sprees than the site of the sprees.

“Some venues you get just get lucky and shots go in, but I won’t give the credit to Rupp Arena,” Smith said last March. “They’ve all been big games.”

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