“Who’s that big guy with the big head?” he cracked during a news conference Saturday. “I peed on his statue down there, just so you know.”
Calipari smiled and was joking about Barkley, a longtime buddy who called the two “friends for life” when he appeared on the coach’s podcast in 2016.
The fifth-seeded Tigers at 29-9 are on the verge of becoming, like Barkley’s statue, larger than life as they seek to knock off the 30-6 Wildcats, a No. 2 seed, and earn their first men’s Final Four berth.
“It’s bigger than basketball for us. Really, we’re doing it for Auburn, because Auburn doesn’t have that historic, winning tradition,” forward Horace Spencer said. “It really feels good to see all the happy faces, all the smiles we’re bringing to Auburn, you feel me? It feels good to make this history.”
Barkley took the high road when the pregame show started. “I can’t believe we’re this close to the Final Four,” he said, surrounded by assorted Tigers paraphernalia. “We’re playing a great program in Kentucky. Notice that we’ve played three of the greatest programs in college basketball history — Kansas, North Carolina and today Kentucky for the right to get to the Final Four. You can’t ask for anything better.”
Still, he and Calipari have a bit of history of trading off-color barbs. Back in January, Barkley invaded Calipari’s news conference after Kentucky’s 82-80 victory and got a little salty with the coach, joking, “F--- John Calipari.”
The former “Round Mound of Rebound” got the last word, along with a laugh as the two then shook hands.
“It’s skinny, too,” Barkley said of his statue.