BOZICH | Bill Self, not Rick Pitino, is John Calipari's number o - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH | Bill Self, not Rick Pitino, is John Calipari's number one coaching rival

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John Calipari (left) and Bill Self have met in two national championship games. John Calipari (left) and Bill Self have met in two national championship games.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Rick Pitino is the name most people identify as John Calipari's primary coaching rival. Even Cal sometimes has Pitino on his brain, the way he did Sunday when he brought up Pitino's name on his post-game radio show in Rupp Arena.

Wrong.

There have been sparks between the two. But Pitino is not Number One.

Mike Krzyzewski is another popular target. It's fashionable to bash Coach K and Duke, especially in Kentucky. Christian Laettner. Corey Maggette. Coaching the U. S. national teams. All that fun stuff that many fans have no interest in forgetting.

But I wouldn't start with Coach K.

Give me Bill Self of Kansas, the coach that Calipari and Kentucky play Tuesday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

Self is the coach least likely to move along to the next phenom when he hears that Calipari is serious about a five-star recruit.

Self is the guy who is nearly as comfortable working one-and-done players though his roster as Calipari has been at Kentucky.

Self is the guy who stood in the path of Calipari winning his first national championship in 2008 at Memphis – with the miraculous assistance of Mario Chalmers.

Self is also the guy who watched Calipari celebrate on the Superdome floor in New Orleans when Anthony Davis gave Cal that magical title in 2012.


Calipari is 2-1 against Self. Cal has coached 20 NBA Draft picks, Self 16. Cal's career winning percentage is .771. Self sits at .754.


Self is the guy some in the media seem to fawn over while giving Calipari the business, a plot twist that could certainly annoy the Kentucky coach.

Self wants to be your golfing buddy. He's Mr. Aw Shucks. Cal prefers to debate, determined to change the NCAA and the way the world looks at college basketball.

Self is the guy most likely to swim in the same recruiting waters where Calipari does his best work. Whatever magic recruiting dust Calipari has, Self has an equally potent blend. Make no mistake, nothing fuels a rivalry the way recruiting fuels a rivalry.

Pitino howled several months ago after Louisville lost a basketball recruit (Antonio Blakeney) because he was convinced U of L could not overcome its adidas connections while trying to sign a player with roots in a Nike AAU program.

He might be right. Don't tell that to Self. He's not afraid of Nike, Under Armour, New Balance, Florsheim, Cole Haan or Skechers.

In 2013, Self brought Andrew Wiggins, the nation's top prospect, to lovely Lawrence, Kan. Nike kid, adidas school. And Kentucky, a school at the top of the Nike food chain, wanted Wiggins as much as Kansas wanted the kid.

Over the last three seasons, Self and Calipari have gone sneaker-to-sneaker for a dozen players. Here is the scoreboard:

Calipari 7 (Archie Goodwin, Julius Randle, James Young, Aaron Harrison, Andrew Harrison, Dakari Johnson, Marcus Lee), Self 5 (Perry Ellis, Wayne Selden, Kelly Oubre, Cliff Alexander, Wiggins).

Add the 2015 recruits to the discussion, and Calipari has stretched his lead to 9-5 because Kansas also made scholarship offers Skal Labissiere and Charles Matthews, prospects who signed with Kentucky last week.

Some guys run the other direction when they hear that Calipari really wants a player. Self cracks a few jokes, adjusts his hair and works even harder.

Focus on two freshmen that Self will use against the Wildcats in Indianapolis – Alexander and Oubre.

Alexander played high school basketball in Chicago, where only the strongest (and savviest) recruiters survive. Scout.com ranked him the sixth best prospect in the Class of 2014. Rivals upgraded that number to fourth. Kentucky wanted him. Kansas signed him.

Oubre actually made it to Lexington last year for Midnight Madness, taking his visit Oct. 18. He's a wing, a slasher, a guy who can make plays late in the shot clock, even though Oubre played only four minutes and did not score in the Jayhawks' season-opener against UC-Santa Barbara.

It's stretch to say the Wildcats have a major gap on their roster. But you always make room for a guy like Oubre. Kentucky wanted him. Kansas signed him.

No reason to fret. Kansas doesn't have Karl Anthony Towns, Dakari Johnson or Willie Cauley-Stein. Or a few others.

The tug-of-war continues. Bill Self does not retreat. That's why Self is John Calipari's Number One coaching rival in college basketball.

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