Rick Barnes is one of John Calipari’s best friends, to the point Calipari reached out to encourage him to take the Tennessee job back in 2015. Now that the Vols are ranked 15th in the country and Barnes has three wins over Calipari since coming to Knoxville, Cal joked he regrets making that call.
“Well, I probably wouldn’t make that call if I’d have known what he’d be doing to us personally,” Cal quipped. “I’m just kidding. I’ve known him his whole – since he was 19 and 20. He is a Basketball Benny who is really into what he does. [He’s] into the kids, about the university and the athletic program they work for.”
What did Calipari say during that call back in 2015?
“I said, ‘Tennessee is a great job. It is a great job. It’s not a good job. They care about basketball there. You’re near Washington D.C., an area which you’ve made a living on.'”
…Knoxville is still a good a seven hours from D.C., but Calipari was pretty spot on about the rest of it.
“I just told him, ‘This league, for you to come in here, you’ll have an impact on this league.’ And he has. I’m happy for him. I mean, I love the guy. He’s helped me in my career. I’m watching and learning from him. I always have. When we play, I hate that one of us has to lose, but obviously there’s no ties.”
Barnes returned the compliments during his portion of the SEC Teleconference.
“John and I come from the same era. We’ve known each other a long time and I do think we believe the game should be played pretty much the same way. [His comments are] a compliment. I’ve learned from him, too and I think we all as coaches learn from other coaches, but he and I are in some ways — we see the game the same way, what we want from our teams. His [team] is different. He’s in a totally different situation than I am here. I don’t think anybody does as good a job at what he does with so many young guys every year, teaching what he has to teach…I do know he understands winning basketball as well as anybody and what he does with so many young guys every year is just a phenomenal job.”