LEXINGTON, Ky. — The rivalry between John Calipari and Bruce Pearl began when Calipari coached Memphis and Pearl coached Tennessee, but it took a respectful turn after Kentucky and Auburn faced each other last January.
Pearl and Calipari had entertaining press conferences after Kentucky’s 92-72 win at Rupp Arena — a win that made Calipari 9-4 over Pearl.
“I’d like to think that the things he doesn’t like about me are some of the things I don’t like about him, but I had great respect for him,” Pearl said last January of Calipari.
Calipari was then asked what makes him and Pearl so “unlikable.”
“Why would he think I don’t like him? You guys, it doesn’t matter what I say,” Calipari said with a smile.
Calipari didn’t hold his press conference Tuesday afternoon to preview the Auburn matchup, but Kenny Payne was asked to weigh in on what will be the latest Calipari-Pearl bout.
“I think Cal wants to beat everybody he plays against,” Payne said. “I think Cal respects Bruce Pearl. He’s a really good coach. He has a well-coached team. Their team has come together through adversity, and it’s a tribute to him the way they’re playing. Coach Cal respects that, but with that being said, is there a difference between coaching against Rick Barnes and Bruce Pearl? Probably in the back of his mind, but at the end of the day he wants to beat all of them.”
Calipari and Pearl will face off for the 14th time Saturday in a game where the usual roles will be reversed. Auburn is ranked 10th and Kentucky is unranked. Auburn is 22-3 while Kentucky has lost three consecutive games. Auburn is atop the SEC while Kentucky is at risk of falling below .500 in league play.
The rivalry, whatever it is, will take a back seat at 9 p.m. ET Saturday at Auburn arena. This Kentucky-Auburn matchup is more important than most.
Watch: Kenny Payne previews Kentucky-Auburn
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