Jim Calhoun and John Calipari have a long history.
Coach Jim Calhoun isn't looking past Thursday's second-round opponent, No. 8 Iowa State, but he does realize that if the Huskies beat the Cyclones they'll meet the South's No. 1 seed -- and the top seed in the tournament -- Kentucky. And he likes the thought of that.
During an appearance on WFAN Wednesday, Calhoun was asked about the possible get-together with the Wildcats.
“I don’t know about John [Calipari], but I would like to play Kentucky," he said via SportsRadioInterviews.com. "We were fortunate enough to beat them twice last year. They are stronger than we are this year. Last year by the end we were stronger than they were. It’s a great matchup. We would love – the slogan on our team: ‘Let’s play to get to Saturday.’ If we keep our minds on Iowa State let’s play to get to Saturday. That’s a good motto for us because we’d love an opportunity to go against John’s team. They are in my opinion along with Syracuse, which has the best staff, the best team in the country, so why not get the best chance to go against the best team in the country? I’d love that opportunity and I think our kids would.”
We wrote about it last April, but Calipari and Calhoun have an interesting relationship dating back to when Calipari was the UMass coach. According to the Boston Globe's Mark Blaudschun, the rivalry goes back to the early '90s when Calipari, at UMass, claimed that “We will play anyone, anywhere, anytime,'" presumably in an effort to get the Huskies on the schedule.
Calhoun's response at the time: “Calipari said he plays a national schedule, so obviously he doesn’t need us. We play Kansas and Duke, and we think those are pretty good teams. We’re happy with who we are playing now."
Pretty tame by today's standards of what constitutes a rivalry, but at the very least, it adds another layer to the storyline should the two teams meet Saturday. For now, though, Calhoun only had laudatory things to say about Calipari.
"John, at present rate, if you look at the numbers, is going to the Hall of Fame," Calhoun said via the Hartford Courant, "assuming he stays in college basketball. If you stick with it long enough, and you smell it enough, you'll get [the championship]. I don't think he has to prove anything more in college basketball."
No interview with Calhoun could be complete if there wasn't some mention of his future. When asked if he wanted to be part of the program even after he's done coaching, he offered this: “At this moment I would no question want to be part of the program. I love UConn. I think I can offer an awful lot. I’ll be very honest with you. I’ll be honest with you the reason Georgetown after a couple of years of getting John Thompson in there [became a better program]. John Thompson is a big part of that program.”