Remembering playing in the Maui Classic

Greetings from Hawaii.

I’m here in Maui staying at a timeshare with my son Danny’s family and attending to the Maui Classic. I’m good friends with Kentucky coach John Calipari, and have been following Kentucky at the tournament.

John had me as a guest at their practice and let me ride the team bus to the arena for the game. He’s a super guy who I’ve known for years and a great coach.

They have a lot of good young talent, but they aren’t as good as last year when they had five kids get drafted into the NBA. They beat Oklahoma and Washington in Maui and John’s hoping they develop into a great team by the end of the year.

The Maui tournament has been around for years and is always one of the best preseason tournaments.

We played here in 1988 and opened with DePaul. They had a banquet before the tournament started, and the DePaul coach came up to me and said they should rename the tournament to the Las Vegas Invitational because we had so many fans there.

We always had a large crowd of fans wearing red wherever we played. Those Vegas fans were great. They’d travel anywhere to support us.

We beat DePaul and Memphis State in the tournament, but lost to Oklahoma by two points in a great game. Anderson Hunt could have made the winning shot with a few seconds left, but he slipped and turned the ball over. The floor was always wet over there because the gym was so hot. They used to not turn the air conditioning on.

We also played a tournament in Hawaii during the Christmas holiday in 1985 when we had Armen Gilliam.

Lois, my wife, was mad at me for scheduling a game on Christmas — she never wanted me to play or practice on Christmas. She was right; we got beat by NC State.

The tournament was UNLV, NC State, Stanford and Chaminade, the Hawaii school that hosted. Neither Stanford or NC State wanted to open with Chaminade because they would also beat the big schools back then. So, I told Jimmy (NC State’s former coach, Valvano) that we’d play Chaminade.

But Chaminade backed out of playing us, saying they wanted to play strong academic institutions. Jimmy’s team had to play them, and we opened by beating Stanford.

I haven’t been to a UNLV game yet this season, but I saw the Wisconsin game on television. I thought that was a great win. They beat a really good team.

Everyone saw Chace Stanback, the kid who transferred from UCLA, shoot the ball so well. I was even more impressed with his leadership and wanting to take the big shot. The kid was just super.

The amazing thing is that UCLA was so bad last year. It was the worst UCLA team I have seen. I can’t believe they let him go. He would have been their best player.

I can’t wait to get out to a UNLV game and see the kids play. They really have a good team this year.

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