John Calipari keeps the "for sale" signs angry Memphis fans once staked in his yard in his garage. He has them as reminders that, even when times are good, there were plenty of years when fans wanted him gone.
Calipari has built Kentucky into a championship program again, not the merely solid one that lagged in prestige and Final Four counts in the final years of the Tubby Smith era and then under Billy Gillispie. Calipari has the Wildcats (35-2) within one win of their first Final Four since winning the national championship in 1998.
"We know that we're part of history," forward Patrick Patterson said. "We're part of a team that's getting Kentucky back to the true place that the Kentucky program was in the past and should be from now on."
Patterson is a rare contributing holdover from Gillispie's rocky tenure. Calipari hit the recruiting trail hard and landed DeMarcus Cousins as his first high-profile recruit last April. John Wall soon found his way to Lexington. In just one season, Calipari built a roster of players who know nothing but big Southeast Conference wins and NCAA tournament romps.
The Wildcats are on the brink of reclaiming their position as the king of college basketball. West Virginia (30-6) wants to stop the coronation tonight in Syracuse, N.Y.
In what has been a topsy-turvy NCAA tournament, the East Regional has proved the exception.
Top-seeded Kentucky and No. 2 West Virginia have escaped the wild upsets that have knocked out two other No. 1 seeds and a few other Final Four favorites.
Mountaineers star Da'Sean Butler had his right hand and wrist wrapped in ice after yesterday's practice as a precaution. He clutched the hand in pain after a hard fall in West Virginia's 69-56 win over Washington on Thursday.
Butler, the team's leading scorer, said that he shot well in practice and that the injury would not affect his play.
"I'm taking care of certain things before it gets to a certain level where I can't do anything with it," he said.