John Calipari, who worked as an assistant coach at Kansas University from 1982 to ’85, knows firsthand how loud it gets on game day in 16,300-seat Allen Fieldhouse.
“I’m going to tell you, our building (23,500-seat Rupp Arena) ... we played North Carolina here and won on the last play. It was so loud. Allen Fieldhouse is louder, like much louder,” Calipari, Kentucky’s seventh-year coach, said at a news conference Friday afternoon in Lexington.
“Acoustically, it (Allen) is built like that,” he added, waving his arm in an arc, “so the sound hits it (roof), and it comes right back at you and literally moves you. If you are standing, and they (KU fans) get really loud, it’ll move you. I was there. I coached there, and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I can feel it.’
“It’s like you are at a concert, and you are near the bass and ‘Boom, Boom, Boom’ you feel it. It’ll be interesting for these young guys to walk in and hear it and feel it,” Calipari continued, referring to his Wildcats (16-4), who meet the Jayhawks (16-4) today in a 6 p.m. tipoff on ESPN.
Calipari’s pre-KU news conference was dominated with talk of the atmosphere in the fieldhouse and Calipari’s time in Lawrence, during which he first worked for Ted Owens, then Larry Brown.
“You have the game, and all of a sudden they (Jayhawks) make a play, another play, you miss a play, and all of a sudden literally you are feeling this sound come at you,” Calipari said. “It’s like where people love coming to play in Rupp because they can say, ‘I played in Rupp.’ Going to Allen Fieldhouse ... these guys will experience something they will never experience in their life in that building.
“There’s no pro arena like that. There’s no other arena we’re going to walk into that’s going to be that bad,” Calipari noted. “We walk into great arenas. (But) I’m just telling you I was in there. I think the building was built in the ’50s. When I was there in the ’80s, you could eat off the floor. Literally they had people who just mopped. (They said), ‘I’ve got to make sure there’s not one little thing on this floor.’ It’s like a shrine. It’s great.”
Calipari was looking forward to soaking in the atmosphere during a 7 p.m. Friday practice in Allen.
“I love the tradition of it. I’ve got to take a picture of … Bob Marcum, former AD, is one of my dear friends. His portrait is on that wall (in KU’s Booth Hall of Athletics). I’ll take a picture of that and send it out when we get there tonight. Their Hall of Fame stuff ... our people need to go out and see it and see how they have set it up, because it’s really neat,” Calipari said.
Calipari told Kentucky media members that his fondest memory of KU was “meeting my wife. You knew I was going to say that. I had nothing, no aspirations for anything other than to learn basketball. I felt so blessed I had an opportunity to start on that campus. The guy who invented the game was their first coach. Phog Allen coached Adolph Rupp ... Wilt, Jo Jo, you can go on and on and all the others.”
Calipari likes to talk about being in basketball heaven at KU despite having “no money” at that time.
“I got a Plymouth Arrow. Do they still make Plymouth Arrows? I don’t think so,” he said of the car brand. “ ... Could you imagine being 23, 22 and your first opportunity to be around the game is in a program like Kansas? Every day I woke up I was like, ‘I can’t believe this.’ I had the same feeling when I got this job. John Robic (UK assistant who also worked at KU) and I looked out and saw ‘Kentucky’ across that wall out there. It was glittering. I’m like, ‘Can you imagine that we’re here at Kentucky?’ Kansas is the exact same kind of program.”
Calipari says, oddly enough, he doesn’t recall seeing a game in Allen since he left town.
“I’ve only been back a couple times. My wife (Ellen) is coming with us. She usually doesn’t travel unless it’s the NCAA Tournament,” Calipari said. “Her parents are going to meet her. She grew up 21⁄2 hours from there, so she’ll probably go back with her parents.
“Let me just tell you about the campus,” he added, ready to relate one final story. “Unless it’s changed, every stone on every building is from the same quarry. Think about that. It’s a unique place. It’s special. That state takes great pride in their school, and they take great pride in that basketball program and what’s going on there.
“We want to talk about the home record Bill (Self, 200-9 in Allen) has ... how about he has won more league championships (11) than has losses at home? I mean what are you talking about?” Calipari exclaimed.
“It’s Kentucky and Kansas. It’s going to be a hyped game. We’re finally starting to do some stuff (three wins in row and five of six). We’re finally starting to become a team that I’m like, ‘OK it looks like somebody I coach.’ But this will be one game, ‘All right, you got hit in the mouth, how are you doing? You going to foul yourself out? Don’t foul yourself out. You’ve got to play.’ I mean, this will be a war,” Calipari stated.
F — Alex Poythress (6-8, Sr.)
F — Derek Willis (6-9, Jr.)
G — Tyler Ulis (5-9, Soph.)
G — Isaiah Briscoe (6-3, Fr.)
G — Jamal Murray (6-5, Fr.)
F — Perry Ellis (6-8, Sr.)
F — Landen Lucas (6-10, Fr.)
G — Frank Mason III (5-11, Jr.)
G — Wayne Selden Jr. (6-5, Jr.)
G — Devonté Graham (6-2, Soph.)
Tipoff: 6 p.m. today, Allen Fieldhouse.
TV: ESPN (WOW! channels 33, 233).
00 — Marcus Lee, 6-9, 224, Jr., F, Antioch, Calif.
1 — Skal Labissiere, 6-11, 225, Fr., F, Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
3 — Tyler Ulis, 5-9, 160, Soph., G, Lima, Ohio.
4 — Charles Matthews, 6-6, 189, Fr., G, Chicago.
10 — Jonny David, 6-2, 175, Fr., G, Pittsburgh.
11 — Mychal Mulder, 6-4, 185, Jr., G, Windsor, Ontario.
13 — Isaiah Briscoe, 6-3, 202, Fr., G, Newark, N.J.
14 — Tai Wynyard, 6-10, 255, Fr., F, Auckland, New Zealand.
15 — Isaac Humphries, 7-0, 260, Fr., F, Sydney, Australia.
22 — Alex Poythress, 6-8, 230, Sr., F, Clarksville, Tenn.
23 — Jamal Murray, 6-5, 207, Fr., G, Kitchener, Ontario.
24 — E.J. Floreal, 6-4, 203, Jr., G, Palo Alto, Calif.
25 — Dominique Hawkins, 6-0, 190, Jr., G, Richmond, Kent.
32 — Dillon Pulliam, 6-3, 180, Soph., G, Cynthiana, Kent.
35 — Derek Willis, 6-9, 220, Jr., F, Mt. Washington, Kent.
Head coach: John Calipari. Assistants: Kenny Payne, Tony Barbee, John Robic.
0 — Frank Mason III, 5-11, 185, Jr., G, Petersburg, Virginia.
1 — Wayne Selden, Jr., 6-5, 230, Jr., G, Roxbury, Massachusetts.
2 — Lagerald Vick, 6-5, 175, Fr., G, Memphis.
4 — Devonté Graham, 6-2, 175, Soph., G, Raleigh, North Carolina.
5 — Evan Manning, 6-3, 170, Sr., G, Lawrence.
10 — Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, 6-8, 195, Soph., G, Cherkasy, Ukraine.
11 — Tyler Self, 6-2, 165, Jr., G, Lawrence.
13 — Cheick Diallo, 6-9, 220, Fr., F, Kayes, Mali, Africa.
14 — Brannen Greene, 6-7, 215, Jr., G, Juliette, Georgia.
15 — Carlton Bragg, Jr., 6-9, 220, Fr., F, Cleveland.
21 — Clay Young, 6-5, 205, Soph., F, Lansing.
22 — Dwight Coleby, 6-9, 240, Jr., F, Nassau, Bahamas.
31 — Jamari Traylor, 6-8, 220, Sr., F, Chicago.
33 — Landen Lucas, 6-10, 240, Jr., F, Portland, Oregon.
34 — Perry Ellis, 6-8, 225, Sr., F, Wichita.
42 — Hunter Mickelson, 6-10, 245, Sr., F, Jonesboro, Arkansas.
Head coach: Bill Self. Assistants: Kurtis Townsend, Norm Roberts, Jerrance Howard.