Rick Pitino and John Calipari have competed on the court, on the recruiting trail and through the media since the latter's arrival in Lexington four years ago. Now they're going to be competing in bookstores.
With Pitino's latest book, The One-Day Contract: How to Add Value to Every Minute of Your Life, set to be released on Oct. 1, Calipari's camp announced Tuesday that the front man for UK hoops will be putting his own book on shelves this spring.
The book, which will be titled Players First: Success from the Inside Out, focuses on the lessons Calipari has learned over the course of his first four seasons in Lexington. A few excerpts have been released, and they've already caused a bit of a stir.
I respect the hell out of the tradition-I'm lucky to be a part of it and I've got the best job in basketball-but I don't do what I do for the commonwealth of Kentucky, for the university, for the legacy of the program, or for the greater glory of Big Blue Nation. There was a time I coached partly for myself-for status, respect, money, wins. But I don't do that anymore, either. Good for those coaches who get to seven hundred, eight hundred, or even a thousand wins, but I'm not staying in it that long. I can promise you my record will not be on my tombstone.
I coach for the names on the back of the jersey-not the front.
The list of programs with a fan base that would make a fuss (or care at all) about statements like these is small, but it's topped by Big Blue Nation.
Any Louisville fan growing up in the Commonwealth has been beaten over the head with "the glory of Big Blue Nation" (as Calipari refers to it) for as long as they can remember. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that "tradition" is the main cog for 95% of superiority claims made by Kentucky fans.
That being the case, it's more than a little intriguing - if not downright ballsy - to read a Wildcat coach almost brazenly dismissing the notion that his motivation should be, at least in some part, to strengthen the legacy of Kentucky basketball. That Calipari sees any such strengthening as nothing more than a byproduct of his primary goal of sending players to the league is unlikely to sit well with the some devout members of BBN, although it'll sit much better than it would if he hadn't won a national title.
Three years ago, Kentucky fans took Pitino's "Louisville First" slogan as a direct response to Calipari and the success he was having at UK with his "one and done" philosophy. Now that U of L has won a national title doing things Pitino's way, the shoe will be on the other foot in terms of how the intention of the book is perceived, and understandably so.
Already this summer we've heard Calipari make comments about how he would never try to talk one of his players into returning to school for another season, which has led to widespread accusations from Kentucky fans that Pitino somehow "tricked" Russ Smith and Chane Behanan into not declaring themselves eligible for the NBA Draft.
While I don't think "Louisville First" vs. "Players First" is quite as simple as Louisville vs. Kentucky, I do think it's silly to dismiss the notion that the rivalry isn't the primary fuel here. Each coach thinks they have a hook that is superior to the other's, and they're going to play it up.
I've said this before, but I don't think things can get any more intense than they are right at this moment. Though the war of words has died down considerably over the past year and-a-half, you still have two coaches who allegedly don't care for one another and who have taken indirect public shots at one another. I also think the Internet and social media have helped make the relationships between the two fan bases more contentious than it's ever been before. And then of course you have a pair of programs that met in the Final Four two years ago, that own the last two national championships, and that are probably going to begin this season ranked No. 1 and No. 2. It certainly feels like we're on the brink of some sort of climax.
I'm very happy with the side I'm on.