Calipari returns to Memphis as Kentucky looks to reach Final Four


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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Memphis couldn't have gotten any luckier with its stop on the road to the Final Four.

With North Carolina and Kentucky winning their Sweet Sixteen games last night at FedExForum, the two biggest fan bases are staying in Memphis to spend even more money this weekend at the city's hotels, restaurants and attractions.

Kentucky's appearance is bittersweet for many Memphis fans — they may have to watch their former coach celebrate a trip to the Final Four in their arena.

Kentucky coach John Calipari knows every inch of FedExForum. The longest stint of his Hall of Fame coaching career is still the nine years he spent at the University of Memphis — the last five of those at the Forum.

But one thing is missing here: The Tigers' 2008 Final Four banner that the NCAA made Memphis take down when that season was vacated for the Derrick Rose scandal.

Sunday afternoon, Calipari can clinch his seventh trip to a Final Four in the Forum.

"You know, last night we had wings, and my man from Ching's Wings, Lafayette, came over to see us with — I mean that stuff is great, but the reality of it is after we did that reception and we had a couple hundred friends come and see us, it's been all about this basketball team."

A big storyline this week has been Calipari's return to Memphis, a city divided about its feelings toward him because of his less than graceful exit from Memphis for Lexington eight years ago.

Kentucky fans are now enjoying the great success under Calipari that Memphis did and think Tigers fans should be cheering for him tomorrow.

"I mean just support, you know, I mean he took them to the Final Four one time, I mean just have his back."

"I think he did a lot of things for the community while he was here so you know, charities and stuff like that."

"Just because Coach Cal is a good character, good person, he's a good coach, and we hate that he left Memphis, but we're glad we got him at UK."

"Well he took Memphis to the Final Four and the final game and almost — and should've — won it, and so they ought to be happy for that experience."

Calipari is 40 minutes away from his seventh Final Four but will have to get past North Carolina, a program with the most Final Four appearances at 19.

This matchup of the two winningest schools in NCAA tournament history will take place with Memphis as the backdrop.

You can see that game on News Channel 3 Sunday at 6 p.m.

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