Calipari explored all options on replacement, admits rescheduling Cards will be difficult

Published 8:14 am Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Kentucky coach John Calipari explored all of his options trying to find an opponent after Louisville canceled Wednesday’s contest because of COVID-19 protocols.

Calipari began working on a possible replacement following Saturday’s 98-69 win over North Carolina.

“This was such a quick turn,” Calipari said. “… But you just didn’t have the time to get something together, but there are a lot of teams that want to play us, but alright, we’ll come to you, but next year you’ve got to come to us and it becomes a home-and-home (discussion).”

Calipari, who is cautious about scheduling home-and-home contests, explored that option as well, but most teams backed away following Kentucky’s easy victory over the Tar Heels.

“I had to make that available,” he said. “I also told them, you understand we don’t take this program just to any place on the road. We don’t do that. (I told them) I’m willing to come to you next year if you’ll come to us this year.’”

Calipari settled on playing Western Kentucky University Wednesday night as opposed to trying to work out two-year deals within a short amount of time. He added that not playing at all this week went “out the window.”

“I still think it’s going to be special,” he said. “Whoever is in the arena, those people are going to say, ‘wow, this was special. I’m so happy I’m here and maybe this worked out for the best.’”

The Hilltoppers, coming off an 82-72 win over Louisville in Bowling Green last Saturday, have the history and respect that Calipari admires and are two reasons the Kentucky coach chose to bring Western to Rupp Arena for the first time in nearly a decade.

“You talk about a top program and what they’re doing now, they’ve got a good team,” Calipari said. “They beat Mississippi good, they beat Louisville good.”

As for making up the game against the Cardinals this season, Calipari said a lot of variables would have to come into play during the remainder of the season.

“If there are cancellations and opportunities,” he said. “Obviously we play it. We just don’t know where this is all going.”

He added that if the game isn’t played, then it should be resumed at Rupp Arena next season.

“It should be played here,” he said. “Didn’t we do that in football? I imagine we would do it in basketball.”

The Kentucky coach also said his team is fully vaccinated and have received the booster shot as the omicron variant becomes more widespread ahead of and after the holidays.

“I’m worried just like I was last year of mitigating and having every opportunity for our team to play basketball games,” he said. “I have enough friends that, if we have games canceled, that we could fill them in with other games and against good opponents.”

Gametracker: Western Kentucky at Kentucky, 6 p.m., Wednesday. TV/Radio: ESPN, UK Radio Network.

Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at Keith.taylor@kentuckytodaycom and via Twitter at keithtaylor21.