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Vol Villains Round One: John Calipari vs. Rick Pitino

It's Big Blue Day as we enter the second half of the first round in our Greatest Vol Villains Tournament. Today's matchup will have more to do with your age than any other in the opening round: if you're under 25, you might be curious why Pitino is in the bracket at all. But don't let the fact that his opponent has a ten year resume of evil against the Vols keep you from weighing the argument: though they've done it differently, both have inflicted a great deal of pain on Tennessee Basketball fans. Calipari had less success against better Tennessee teams. Pitino had all success against lesser Tennessee teams. Both are especially villainous.

John Calipari

  • Came to Memphis in 2000, and after splitting his first two against the Vols, led the efforts to discontinue the series. Calipari didn't want the Vols to have a recruiting presence in the city - and Josh Pastner says the same thing today with a straight face - but Calipari disguised it as a holier-than-thou belief that playing our basketball program was beneath theirs.
  • Fans take on the nature of their head coach: Cal created a belief that Memphis was the vastly superior basketball program once he removed the opportunity to prove it on the court, and their fans believed it passionately...despite the fact that the Vols led the all-time series 10-6...before Pearl showed up. It's now 14-8.
  • When Pearl showed up, the Tigers won the first matchup with Bruce raising the hand of Dane Bradshaw at the end of the game. A personal rivalry was born.
  • It took beating undefeated #1 Memphis on their home floor in 2008 to break Tiger High faithful of their false beliefs about our program. Calipari, the last coach in the world to give Tennessee credit for anything, opened the postgame press conference by saying his team needed to lose. Happy to help, Coach.
  • They wouldn't lose again until the National Championship Game, where his poor free throw shooting team - which he had said would "Make the ones we have to make" - went 1 for 5 at the free throw line in the final 1:15. Calipari chalked it up to the will of God.
  • Beat the Vols 54-52 in his final appearance in the UT-Memphis rivalry, then walked through that door to the Bluegrass.
  • Apparently also needed to lose to the Vols with his first UK team. Did not need to lose in the SEC Tournament, where he handed Bruce Pearl his worst loss until his final game, 74-45.
  • Without getting into rampant speculation that might hijack the thread, let's just deal with fact: when he leaves a program, Final Four banners are soon to follow.
  • We can't win the Beer Barrel anymore because UK is conscious of the association with alcohol, but they'll take a ton of money to put his face on a bottle of Maker's Mark.
  • Has altered the course of UK's prestigious basketball history with his legion of one-and-dones, to the point that he can say that the 2010 NBA Draft was the greatest day in UK history and a percentage of UK fans will find some way to rationalize and agree with that ridiculous statement.
  • Hated Bruce Pearl and has less respect for Tennessee than any coach in either sport...which is odd, since we've beaten his two best teams.
  • Career record against the Vols: 7-4 (3-3 Memphis, 4-1 Kentucky)

Rick Pitino

  • Once upon a time, he was the basketball coach at Kentucky (1989-1997).
  • Started his tenure 5-3 against the Vols. On February 24, 1993, the Vols beat his #2 Wildcats 78-77 in Knoxville. On March 12, he returned the favor in the SEC Tournament to the tune of 101-40. Thanks to the Blizzard of 93, no one knew.
  • That was the first of nine straight wins against the Vols. Average margin of victory in those nine wins: 24.8 points. The most notable one that wasn't covered up by a blizzard: 90-50 in Thompson-Boling Arena in 1996. These games were glorified dunk contests.
  • After running my beloved Boston Celtics into the ground, returned to college basketball at Louisville just in time to open a four game series that Buzz Peterson still regrets signing.
  • Down six with thirty seconds to play in December 2001, the Cards won 73-72.
  • In January 2003, Louisville trailed for the first 36 minutes, then won 72-69 thanks to some clutch shooting and questionable officiating.
  • In January 2004, a furious Vol rally cut a U of L lead to two with 4 seconds left, then the Cardinals' Francisco Garcia obviously stepped out of bounds on the inbounds. But no call, followed by a foul, followed by another Louisville win.
  • On Buzz's farewell tour in January 2005, Louisville led 57-56 with nine minutes to play when the old Pitino finally showed up. The Cards closed the game on a 28-6 run.
  • The old Pitino also showed up to face UT's all-time winningest team in the 2008 Sweet 16, and dismantled the Vols in mid-90s UK fashion, 79-60.
  • Career record against the Vols: a sickening 19-3, including a preposterous 14 in a row. The last time Tennessee beat Pitino, Bill Clinton was in the first month of his presidency.