on saturday, susie and i watched kentucky whip the unc tarheels in an away game. on the sidelines, coaching kentucky, was john calipari, who began his coaching career at umass. john looked pudgier than i remembered him, but otherwise unchanged. for the last twenty-one years that i taught at umass, susie and i lived in a beautiful house that we had built in pelham, a tiny town just west of amherst. we lived on a country lane, buffam road, and if you walked about a mile further out on buffam, you passed the modest ranch house where calipari lived.
umass is nothing much as a basketball school, but for a few glory years in there when calipari was coaching marcus camby, the team flourished, and even went to the final four one year. until then, umass amherst, the flagship campus of the state university system, had benefited from the state legislature's benign neglect. only one member of the entire legislature had actually gone to the state university, and inasmuch as our campus was eighty miles west of boston surrounded by asparagus fields, the legislature took no notice of us. this caused some problems when there was a state budget crisis and the state university was the first agency cut, but all in all, it was just as well that they never noticed we had the best marxist economics department in the country.
then calipari and camby came to town, and suddenly state senators and reps were calling the chancellor for complimentary game tickets. after a bit, camby and calipari both went to the nba and things calmed down.
i did not go down the road very often past the calipari house -- i was swimming for my morning exercise in those days -- but susie walked that way nearly every day, and got to know all the people along her route.
The outcome of the game on saturday was more or less foreordained, since kentucky is ranked number one and unc is a distant twenty-first. it was a trifle unfair. i mean, one of their players is seven feet tall.