You may have asked yourself, “Why is Kentucky playing Columbia?”. Usually, Kentucky’s smaller non-conference foes have some connection to the program, whether it be Calipari’s former assistants or friends. What’s the connection here? Kyle Smith, Columbia’s head coach, once drove Calipari around as part of an internship. From the New York Post:
There came a day, during Kyle Smith’s extended coaching internship, when he found himself in California, in a car, behind the wheel, shuttling one of the featured speakers at a coaching clinic airport to gym and back again.
John Calipari was between jobs then, hard as that is to imagine now. The Nets had let him go, the University of Memphis had yet to hire him, so Cal was doing what Cal always has done, moving, selling, yelling, serving as a protÃ©gÃ© to older coaches and a mentor to younger ones, dispensing wisdom like a country doctor filling prescriptions.
At that point, Smith was an assistant at the University of San Diego, and ate up Calipari’s advice with a spoon. Smith said that Cal once told him “A great job is a job where you have a chance to win the league every year. A good job is one you can get.” So far, Smith has heeded that advice, and has Columbia as one of the favorites to win the Ivy League.
One of these days we’ll be able to play Six Degrees of Calipari.