INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (WDRB) – Year Eight is winding down for John Calipari at the University of Kentucky.

The Wildcats are matched against gritty Wichita State in the second round of the NCAA Tournament Sunday, a game that should tip around 2:30 p.m. at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. As the two-seed, the Wildcats are favored by 4 ½ points over the Shockers, an undervalued 10-seed.

If the Wildcats win, they advance to the South Regional semifinals next Friday in Memphis. If they win two games in Tennessee, they proceed to suburban Phoenix for the Final Four the following weekend.

Did I mention this is Year Eight since Calipari arrived from Memphis?

Thought so. This is why: Rick Pitino also worked at Kentucky for eight seasons.

Because the Pitino and Calipari comparisons are fascinating and the competition between the two titans never ends, this is an ideal moment to compare the work they have done over a similar stretch of basketball.

I’ll toss Tubby Smith into the discussion, too, because he won a national championship during the 12-season gap between Pitino and Calipari. Smith worked at Kentucky for 10 seasons.

To tighten the comparison, I’ll limit Smith’s numbers to his first eight seasons in Lexington. I’ll also remind you that Pitino inherited a program on NCAA probation that was ineligible for post-season play during his first two seasons.

They’ve all succeeded. They’ve done it with different styles – on the court and in recruiting. Calipari has lit up the NBA Draft boards. The recruiting gurus love every move he makes.

Pitino signed his share of talented guys (Jamal Mashburn, Tony Delk, Rodrick Rhodes and Ron Mercer) but coached up his share of winners like Nazr Mohammed, Scott Padgett, Anthony Epps and the Unforgettables).

It’s always been fashionable to knock Tubby’s work (especially as a recruiter) but when you’re finished criticizing his time at Kentucky try to remember that Tayshaun Prince, Keith Bogans, Chuck Hayes and Rajon Rondo played for him.

Enough tap-dancing. Let’s get to the numbers. Draw your own conclusions.


Overall record: 219-60, .814

Five SEC Tournament titles (in six appearances).

NCAA Tournament Record: 22-5, .815

One NCAA title, One Runner-up, one additional Final Fours, Two Elite Eights.

Three losses to lower seeded teams

Best season: 1996 national champions, winners of 34 of 36 games.

Season to forget: Second-round NCAA flameout to Marquette in 1994.


Overall record: 219-58, .791

Five SEC Tournament titles (in first eight seasons).

NCAA Tournament Record: 21-7, .750.

1 NCAA title, three Elite Eights.

Four losses to lower seeded teams

Best season: Thunderous drive to 1998 national title, highlighted by wins over UCLA, Duke, Stanford and Utah as a two-seed.

Season to forget: Secord-round stumble against UAB in 2005 from a team that won 27 of 32 games.


Overall record: 247-52, .826

Five SEC Tournament title in eight years.

NCAA Tournament Record: 24-5, .828.

One NCAA title, one runner-up, two more Final Fours, one Elite Eight.

Two losses to lower seeded teams.

Best season: Tough and determined 2012 national champs that won 38 of 40 games, beating Louisville and Kansas in the Final Four.

Season to forget: Following up the 2012 NCAA title by losing to Robert Morris in the first round of the NIT.

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