TV Time Out

Calipari, Pitino rivalry heating up

By: Steve Moss
By: Steve Moss

Like an epic heavyweight championship fight, the rivalry between John Calipari and Rick Pitino is proving to be good theater. After a year of sharing the spotlight -- Calipari for signing the nation's best recruiting class and then winning an SEC championship with them; Pitino for his Summer of Love tour -- fans of these basketball crazy schools are left wondering: what's next? Let the turf battles begin.

Like an epic heavyweight championship fight, the rivalry between John Calipari and Rick Pitino is proving to be good theater. 

After a year of sharing the spotlight -- Calipari for signing the nation's best recruiting class and then winning an SEC championship with them; Pitino for his Summer of Love tour -- fans of these basketball crazy schools are left wondering: what's next?

Let the turf battles begin.

On Thursday, Calipari delivered a vicious uppercut, after Indianapolis Pike guard Marquis Teague, the No. 2 ranked player in the Class of 2011, announced he would be attending Kentucky, instead of Louisville, the school most believed would land his services.

What makes Teague's announcement so stunning is that Pitino has invested so much time and effort in recruiting the 6-foot-2 guard.  Additionally, Pitino, who coached Teague's father at Boston College, hired a Pike assistant to the U of L staff.

Teague was to be the centerpiece of U of L's recruiting efforts next season.

Or, so Pitino thought.

Even more troubling for Louisville fans is that the city will open a new dowtown arena, a showplace for Pitino and his Cards.

So Calipari continues his recruiting bonanza and hits Pitino with another roundhouse punch.

After signing one of the best recruiting classes in history just days after arriving in Lexington, Calipari again is putting together impressive classes for 2010 and 2011.

UK has received commitments from the top-ranked players for both classes during a recruiting special on ESPNU.  Guard Brandon Knight will play ball next season for the Cats; Michael Gilchrist is coming in 2011.

The Cats also received a verbal commitment from guard Doron Lamb, rated No. 21 by Rivals.com.  Throw in No. 27 Stacey Poole, Jr. and 4-star center Enes Kanter, and Cal is sitting on another top-ranked recruiting class.

So, Calipari has the Nos. 1 and 2 for the Class of 2011, and No. 3 Quincy Miller is expected to commit to the Big Blue as well.  That has never happened before.

Meanwhile, 80 miles down the road, Pitino is dealing with the fallout from his summer of discontent and wondering if the UK coach is going to steal away more of his recruits.

Michael Chandler, the 6-foot-11 big man from Indianapolis, committed to Louisville in January of 2009.  He since has re-opened the recruiting process.

After UK hired Calipari last April, there were those who wondered aloud how the two coaches would react to coaching in the same state. 

After sparring evenly for a couple of early rounds, Calipari responded with a decisive win in Round 3.  It's time for Pitino to answer the bell.

Those are the highlights... stay tuned.

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