It’s no secret John Calipari and Bob Huggins have been close friends on and off the court for several decades, with the legendary head coaches seeing their first head-to-head matchup back in 1993 and playing 11 more times since. Off the court, they have been outspoken about their fondness for one another, regularly attending the same events, doing shows together, and relentlessly throwing lighthearted public jabs.
And today, that trend continued, as Calipari surprised Huggins on an appearance on CBS Sports Connected, where the coaches reminisced about their on-court battles and friendship off the floor.
“You’re like my big brother,” Calipari said to Huggins, with the West Virginia coach quickly responding, “Your whole life you’ve wanted to be like me.”
CBS Sports’ Tracy Wolfson asked the coaches when their friendship began, with Calipari and Huggins taking the show over from there.
“We’ve been good friends for a long time,” Huggins said. “It took Cal probably, how many games did it take before you finally won one [against me]?”
“Against you? Or against anybody?” Calipari responded.
“He’s so happy, he’s doing his TV show,” Huggins said of the time their friendship began. “We’re supposed to have dinner, and I go down, and he’s not at dinner, and I’m like, “Where’s Cal?” They’re like, “Oh, he’s doing his TV show.” I said, “Where?” They said, “Right over there.” So I walk in his TV show. You should’ve seen the look on his face.”
Calipari then jumped in to tell his side of the story, adding that things changed a bit when he beat Huggins for the first time in 2003.
“Let me give you the other side of the embellished story,” the UK head coach said. “Every time we play, he’s beating our brains in and asking me to do dinners, do radio shows, hugging me after the game. Great, unbelievable handshakes. What a great friend this guy was. And then we beat him.
“I made him come to the hotel lobby after the game, and we were drinking wine together. I made you come. You’re like, “Man, I…” Bull crap! You are coming to this lobby after you took that beating, and you’re going to sit down and have a nice glass of wine.”
“He was so [desperate] to win he brought his priest from UMass, and then makes me sit beside him at dinner,” Huggins joked.
Wolfson then asked Huggins and Calipari about some of their favorite memories, with the former telling the story of his heart attack in 2002.
“I have a heart attack,” Huggins said. “Actually, they kind of shock me back to life, they get me in an ambulance. We’re in the ambulance, and I don’t think the guy is paying a whole lot of attention to me. I’m kind of in and out of consciousness, so when I wake back up, now he’s really paying attention. And I’m like, “Did I get your attention?” And he’s like, “Listen, I’m John Calipari’s cousin. I can’t let you die till he beats you at least once.”
“And then I went to the hospital in Pittsburgh to see you,” Calipari added. “I saw the paddle marks on his chest. He coached the next year, and he coached good! I talked to him about it, and he said, “You don’t have to worry about this because you don’t have a heart.”
After CBS Sports posted a snippet of the interview on Twitter, Calipari gave another quick shoutout to his friend.
“You know what I love about [Coach Huggins]? One of the fiercest competitors, yet one of the most loyal and humble people in our game. He’s never changed! Had a fun time surprising him and trading a few jokes.”
Here was CBS Sports’ clip featuring the legendary head coach:
"He's only growing a beard because I did…your whole life you wanted to be just like me."
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) May 21, 2020