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Associated Press/Photo by Ed Reinke

Kentucky fried Tigers

Sports | Memphis lost far more than a coach when John Calipari accepted an eight-year deal with Kentucky

Issue: "Geo-gizmos," April 25, 2009

Just five days removed from the Memphis Tigers' elimination from the NCAA Tournament, coach John Calipari skipped town. In an instant, the class of Conference USA, a team that had advanced to four consecutive Sweet 16s and boasted the No. 1 recruiting class for next season, was left dangling in uncertainty.

The Tigers lost far more than a coach when Calipari accepted an eight-year deal with the Kentucky Wildcats. They lost players, too. The same day that news of Calipari's move broke, blue-chip recruits Xavier Henry and DeMarcus Cousins announced they would re-open the recruiting process, laying aside previous commitments to Memphis. Speculation has ensued: Might Henry, Cousins, and several other players seemingly headed for Memphis now follow Calipari to Kentucky?

The situation raises questions about the nature of recruiting and hiring. Did Calipari's stock climb at Kentucky due to the talent he might bring with him? And if so, is Memphis entitled to some reimbursement, given that Calipari's recruiting efforts while on the Memphis payroll may now effectively pay dividends for Kentucky?

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No day for a game

A stampede of fans crowding for entry into a World Cup qualifier soccer match in Ivory Coast last month led to a collapsed wall, 19 fatalities, and more than 130 injured people. Despite the tragedy, the game was played without so much as a delay or even a moment of silence.

One Malawi team member told the BBC that his side was aware of the deaths prior to the match, "but we tried to shift our focus to the game. We thought that maybe the referee would ask us to pay one minute's silence, but nothing was said, so we just carried on."

Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo subsequently declared three days of mourning over the incident, which took place at Felix Houphouet-Boigny stadium in Abidjan. And soccer's global governing body FIFA called for a full minute of silence prior to kick-off at World Cup qualifier matches in the days following.

But those belated displays of respect cannot erase the disrespect of a 5-0 Ivory Coast victory on a day when referees might better have put the soccer ball away.

Too much fervor

Michael Kinahan of Scituate, Mass., claims he "meant to give parents a chuckle." But not everyone laughed upon receiving the soccer coach's season-opening communiqué, in which he used dry humor and sarcasm to outline an unconventional vision for his team of 6- and 7-year-old girls.

The letter to parents explained that the unofficial team name would be "Green Death," indicative of the style in which Kinahan would coach his girls to play: "The kids will run, they will fall, get bumps, bruises and even bleed a little. Big deal, it's good for them (but I do hope the other team is the one bleeding)."

The note, which also defended Kinahan's heckling of the refs for "actually helping them develop as people," incensed some parents, who complained to the league's governing body. Under pressure from parents and the league, Kinahan resigned: "While I am sorry some people failed to see the humor, I do not apologize for my actions; I wrote it, I think it's funny and I do have a distaste for the tediousness of overbearing political correctness."

Some parents came to Kinahan's defense, arguing that his gregarious, aggressive style helps young girls develop as players and people. But Scituate Youth Soccer League registrar Chris Park told the Patriot Ledger that one 12-year-old referee refused to return this year due to Kinahan's treatment of her the year before. The line between humor and rudeness may be thin, but humiliating a preteen referee surely crosses it.

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