Rick Pitino v John Calipari: The History of the Rivalry

This is the second part of a quick two-part series on the Louisville-Kentucky rivalry, with the ultimate matchup taking place this weekend in the Final Four.

Yesterday I walked you through the rivalry’s surprisingly brief history. Today, we look at the two biggest stars of Saturday’s matchup: the coaches – Rick Pitino and John Calipari.


Image credit: SI

Rick Pitino versus John Calipari

Technically Calipari is 8-7 based on the fact that one of the losses came during the 1996 Final Four that he and UMass later vacated, but I’m almost certain that the game actually took place.  So 8-8 it is!

During Pitino’s time at Kentucky, he was 4-1 versus Calipari with the lone loss coming early in the 1995-96 season that later saw them meet again in the Final Four.  One of the other matchups came in the NCAA Tournament, when Kentucky beat the Minutemen by 10 points in 1992 in the game before the East Regional Final (aka the one with the Laettner shot).

Calipari and Pitino split their eight games while the two were Conference USA foes at Memphis and Louisville, respectively.  The Tigers won three of the first four meetings, and the Cardinals did the same over the remaining four.  The teams met twice in the C-USA Tournament with Louisville winning both, the second of which was in the 2005 Championship Game.  That game is remembered less for Louisville’s victory and more for Darius Washington, Jr.’s missed free throws that could have won or tied the game with no time left on the clock.

Since coming to Kentucky, Calipari is 3-0 against Pitino and the Cardinals, winning each game by at least seven points with the most recent victory coming on New Year’s Eve in a contest marred by 51 fouls.

So at the end of all that, they still have an 8-8 record against one another. 

Louisville fans will be quick to cite Pitino’s 4-0 post-season record against Calipari.  But since the last NCAA Tournament matchup was 16 years ago, and since the last conference tournament matchup was seven years ago, it’s difficult to say how relevant that is.  However, you also can’t point to the fact that Calipari is undefeated against Pitino at Kentuckyand but completely dismiss Pitino’s track record of overall tournament success either.

As a college hoops fan with no dog in this fight, I have the luxury of not having to pick a side in that argument.  Instead, I can sit back and enjoy what should be an entertaining game between two heated rivals, both of whom boast well-known and successful coaches.  And as a fan, you can’t ask for much more than that.

About Andy Bottoms

While Andy was born and raised in Indiana, he would like to point out that he grew up shooting hoops in his driveway and not against the side of a barn like you see in all the March Madness promos or in the middle of a field like Jimmy Chitwood. Andy ranks among the top bracketologists according to the Bracket Matrix and has provided his projections to Fox Sports for the past three seasons. When not compiling excuses for missing work during the NCAA Tournament, Andy enjoys spending time with his wife and two daughters. He is a proud IU graduate and co-hosts The Assembly Call postgame show following every IU game. Twitter: @AndyBottoms


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