Here we are. Kentucky, the No. 1-ranked team in the country — coached by John Calipari — is on the cusp of NCAA history, 31-0 after Saturday’s win over Florida. Meanwhile, the folks at UMass have decided to retire Coach Cal’s “number,” and this weekend marks the 20th anniversary of him refusing to allow a Globe reporter to visit his home for Selection Sunday (nope, no animosity here! - ed).The only time Shank pretends to give a rat's ass about sports at UMass is when he can use it to take shots at John Calipari. That said, there's little to debate with respect to Calipari's tenure at both UMass and Memphis, where he and / or the team were hit with NCAA sanctions both times. He's not exactly Coach K in the ethics department.
Sometimes there is not enough space in our newspaper to articulate all the thoughts, and state all the points, that need to be made.
Let’s start with this: John Calipari is a magnetic figure, undoubtedly the greatest college basketball recruiter of the 21st century. He works the NCAA’s cesspool system better than any man alive. He is charismatic. He came to Amherst more than a quarter of a century ago as a Rick Pitino wannabe, but now he has vaulted over Pitino, and created the Brand of Cal. He is probably going to win a second national championship with Kentucky this year and is no doubt a swell dancer and would make for a fine dinner companion.
But as a Massachusetts taxpayer, I have a problem with UMass “retiring” Coach Cal’s number.
What's interesting here is the italicized part above. When the New England Patriots played in their second Super Bowl in 1997, the Patriots threw a party and Shank was not invited. We believe this to be the point where Shank became a lifelong bête noire of the Patriots. If he disliked the Patriots at that point (or, more specifically, owner Robert Kraft), this snub was the proverbial nail in the coffin.
In much the same manner, if Shank disliked Calipari in 1995, this snub of a fellow Boston Globe reporter pretty much sealed the deal from that point until now.