Bluegrass Drama: Is A Kentucky Exhibition In Louisville Adding To Rick Pitino’s Headaches?

  • Timothy Burke

It’s been an awkward week for Louisville head basketball coach Rick Pitino. Not only has the woman convicted of extorting him filed a federal court appeal, but now an exhibition game between the Dominican Republic national team (coached by his rival, Kentucky coach John Calipari) and a group of Kentucky alumni has been scheduled on the Cardinals’ home court in Louisville.

The game — slotted for August 16th at UL’s KFC Yum! Center — became reality when the original exhibition at Rupp Arena in Lexington (to be played the prior evening) sold out. Calipari’s Dominican Republic team features his own Kentucky player, center Eloy Vargas, along with Louisville alums Edgar Sosa and Francisco Garcia. NBA stars Charlie Villanueva and Al Horford are other featured players on the Dominican roster.

Facing the Dominicans is a team of Kentucky alumni starring Rajon Rondo, John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Eric Bledsoe and Nazr Mohammed, among others.

How does Pitino feel about this Kentucky-centric exhibition being played on his home court? Video via WLKY:

That sounds less than convincing coming from a man whose contract bans Kentucky from playing at games at the Yum! Center. Even the Associated Press claimed Pitino was “obviously irritated.”

Pitino clearly would have preferred the exhibition be held in Freedom Hall, the Cardinals’ former home at the Kentucky Exhibition Center. John Calipari addressed the controversy on WKRD-790 radio in Louisville:

(The “concert” is actually two days later, featuring Lady Antebellum, who apparently need several days to set up a show — or are providing Coach Cal a convenient excuse.)

Adding to the controversy are two former basketball coaches: Kentucky’s Joe B. Hall and Louisville’s Denny Crum. Hall, who was scheduled to coach the UK alums, was bounced from the bench due to NCAA rules concerns. He’ll assist Calipari instead. Crum, for whom the court at Yum! Center is named, will assist with coaching, yes, the Kentucky all-stars.

So Louisvillians have the opportunity to watch the coach they hate face a team of players who attended the school they hate led by the legendary coach they love on the court they named for him.

The response? Here’s a sample, from country music singer & Louisville fan Olivia Henken:

Denny Crum coaching the UK legend game…. What is the world coming to?


The court is NAMED after Denny Crum…he shouldn’t even be coaching the UK water polo team! Dang!

We give credit to Calipari for finding ways to antagonize Cardinals fans even in the middle of summer. Circle New Year’s Eve on your calendar — that’s when Pitino and Calipari face off (in Lexington) with their REAL teams.