Kentucky basketball got a much-needed dominant win today, blowing out the Pac-12’s Utah Utes 88-61 at Ripp Arena.
At halftime of the game, Kentucky honored the 1993 Wildcats team, which went 30-4 and reached the first Final Four under Rick Pitino, and the program’s first in nine years.
Of course, Pitino wasn’t present for the moment.
The former UK and Louisville coach hasn’t exactly had the warmest relationship since he took the Cardinals job years ago. That goes for his relationship with John Calipari, who took over Kentucky in 2009.
Ahead of this special moment for the 1993 Kentucky basketball team, John Calipari reached out to invite Rick Pitino to Lexington.
As expected, Pitino did not make his return to his former school, but it sounds like Calipari hopes that he can make the trip soon to be honored for his contributions to the program.
Just a year or two ago, such an offer was basically unthinkable. From the Courier-Journal:
UK coach John Calipari, whose own sometimes tense relationship with Pitino has garnered no shortage of attention and speculation itself, says he wishes things were different, though.
“He was with family and he had things going on,” Calipari said. “I just said, ‘Look, you need to get up here. This will be respectful here.’ What that program did to change this back, we should recognize it. You may be mad he went to coach at Louisville. So, what? When he was here and when we needed this program on a different track he put it (there).”
Calipari was optimistic that Kentucky fans would welcome Pitino back with a warm reception, which is a very big question.
“I think our fans would be great,” Calipari said. “I think they’re by all that. He may not think that, but I’m convinced if he came back the fans would be great to him.”
In the article, Pitino thanked Calipari for the invite. He also tweeted to congratulate his 1993 team on the 25 year mark of that run.
Congrats 93 UK team! Proud of you guys and love the hell out of you. Thx Cal for reaching out. Much appreciated.
— Rick Pitino (@RealPitino) December 15, 2018
It seems like we’ll eventually see Pitino return to Lexington as something other than the coach of the hated rival Cardinals, but it may have to wait a few more years for the wounds to heal a bit. Maybe at this same 25 year anniversary of the 1996 national championship in a few seasons, it might be time.