Kentucky coach John Calipari has made a lot of enemies on his way to perhaps the best coaching job in college basketball. For years, you could have counted former Temple coach John Chaney among that group.
The first public sign of bad blood came in 1990, when Chaney’s Owls held on for an 83-82 triple-overtime victory over Calipari’s UMass Minutemen. Chaney shoved Calipari as the two were trying to talk to referees with 3:44 left in regulation and the score tied at 64-64 in that contest, according to this Philadelphia Inquirer game story.
The newspaper said that the beef stemmed from the officials’ deference to a timer who negated a basket by Temple after it was determined that the shot clock had expired.
The most-famous standoff came in 1994, again with game referees as antagonists, when Calipari ripped into the refs as they were coming off the floor. According to most reports, Chaney was upset that Calipari had been given a longer leash with the refs and A-10 commissioner Ron Bertovich than he had.
So after completing his portion of the press conference and leaving the scene, Chaney returned to crash Calipari’s time on the podium in a memorable confrontation that’s replayed often in reference to all-time coaching tirades.
Chaney had to be held back by coaches, players and security as he screamed toward Calipari, “I’ll kill you! You remember that! When I see you, I’m going to kick your a**.”
It seemed as though the feud had been long boiling. The Memphis Commercial Appeal in 2008 described Calipari’s recruiting in Philadelphia as a Pitt assistant that may have infringed on Chaney’s Philadelphia territory and the general ascent of UMass – one of the doormat programs in Division I basketball before Calipari’s arrival – in the Atlantic 10.
The aforementioned Commercial Appeal references were part of a larger piece on Calipari’s feuds with other coaches, including Louisville’s Rick Pitino, Connecticut’s Jim Calhoun and St. Joseph’s Phil Martelli.
By all accounts, Calipari remains disliked at least among part of the coaching fraternity, but he and Chaney have patched things up. There was the home-and-home series Temple and Memphis played while Chaney still was coaching and Calipari with the Tigers and, as the Commercial Appeal pointed out, a Calipari fundraiser for juvenile diabetes after the 1994 season at which Chaney appeared with his mouth taped shut and wearing handcuffs and joked about the pair’s confrontation.
A lengthy Sports Illustrated story from last year suggested that the two smoothed things over for good after they no longer faced off in the A-10. Calipari, who left UMass for the New Jersey Nets after the 1995-96 season, invited Chaney to a coaches retreat and sought to learn from him, according to SI.
“I admire him, and he knows that,” Chaney told SI, speaking of Calipari.
That sentiment isn’t shared by legendary former coach and current ESPN broadcaster Bob Knight, who once targeted Calipari as a scapegoat for what is wrong with college basketball – apparently referring to Calipari’s penchant for funneling one-and-done players through his programs.
Knight has been in hot water for refusing to say Kentucky’s name on the air while doing college basketball analysis for ESPN. He finally broke that silence by mentioning the school by its proper name Wednesday morning on ESPN radio.
As for Calipari, his Final Four appearance with UMass in 1996 and national runner-up with Memphis in 2008 have been vacated due to NCAA infractions. Calipari has never been directly implicated in either case, but it’s drawn the ire of fans and other coaches like Knight.
Will Knight one day have a change of heart about Calipari like Chaney has?
Don’t hold your breath.