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Mack says Calipari graciously accepted context of video

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (KT) -- When Chris Mack learned that a two-month-old controversial video involving him and former UofL football player Eric Wood had gone viral, one of the first things he did was to call Kentucky coach John Calipari to explain.

The 33-second leaked video tweeted by Kentucky Sports Radio's Drew Franklin Saturday night, showed Mack and Wood celebrating the Cardinals' 62-59 victory over the Wildcats on Dec. 26. with an over-the-top rant by Wood.

Wood said former UK associate head coach Kenny Payne, who is now an assistant with the New York Knicks, was responsible for the Cats' previous wins over UofL. Mack is standing behind Wood celebrating and egging him on.

"Kenny Payne is gone," Wood said. "You know what Kentucky (record vs. UofL) is minus Kenny Payne? 0-1. 0 and forever. (Calipari) will never, never beat UofL again. UofL vs. UK minus Kenny Payne, 0 and forever."

"Hey, hey," Wood shouted. "Kenny Payne won those games."

"Yeah, Mack yelled. "Yeah."

Mack said he called Calipari Sunday morning to explain the context of the video, which had garnered 278,800 views on Twitter by mid-afternoon Monday, and that the UK coach "was gracious as always. I think he understood."

In his regular media teleconference Monday afternoon, Mack addressed the uproar over the video, explaining that it was simply a joke among friends and that it wasn't meant to disparage Calipari or his program. It was sent to Payne in jest.

"I didn't want him to think it was some shot that was directed out to the worldwide web and that I was trying to send a message to him," Mack said. "I just wanted to be able to clear the air and tell him the great respect I have for him, his program and the great job he's done. And that's how I feel. I wanted him to know it was a joke at Kenny Payne that obviously went sideways.

"As I tell my players, when you do things that happen in the spotlight, you've got to own it and I own things. So I live and learn by it and will move forward. If I offended anybody I feel bad for doing that, but that wasn't what the intention was by any means. But that's neither here nor there. I don't want it to be a distraction for our team any more than it's been."

The timing for posting of the video was strange, or probably in the minds of UofL fans, suspect. It was leaked within hours of the Cards' lopsided loss at North Carolina and many tweets subsequently noted the embarrassing rout, along with the fact that Mack is still only 1-2 against Calipari and hasn't been to a Final Four.

Mack said the video was filmed immediately after the UK game during a party at his house involving friends and neighbors, some of whom knew Payne. Troy Hanke, an executive board member of the Mack Family Foundation and CFO at B.F. South Inc., tweeted that he filmed the video and sent it to Payne.

"I don't know Kenny that well, but Eric and his buddies are good friends, golfing buddies who go way back, hang out together," Mack said. "And they thought it would be funny to give him grief about the game. So that was the context. It was a private video. Obviously, it's not private now. But it was a joke among buddies. How it got out, I have no idea."

In an interview with WDRB columnist Rick Bozich Sunday afternoon, Payne -- a former UofL player under Denny Crum from 1985-89 -- agreed that it was just a joke and added that UK basketball was great before he joined the program and will remain great. Payne left UK for the Knicks in August. Wood, a former Pro Bowler, is now an anyalyst with the ACC Network on its football telecasts.

"Eric doesn't deserve any grief for this," Payne told Bozich. "Eric is a friend of mine and he was just having fun, just teasing me. It was obviously done as a joke. You'd have to be blind not to realize that.

"Kentucky basketball is the most prestigious and successful college basketball program in the country. I was blessed to be a part of it for a decade. More than that, I was blessed to work with Coach Cal. . .in no way would I think Kentucky's success was because of me. I was the one blessed to work with the coaches and the players there."

A larger issue for Mack is that despite protocols and requirements that his program and players are under due to the pandemic, he and Wood were filmed without wearing masks.

"I recognize that the position I'm in at Louisville I've got to do right by my players," Mack said. "I have great respect for (COVID). We've had to do everything under the sun. Now I'll say this, when people come over to my house, which hasn't been very often since last March, I'm probably a violator. Not a good look, so for that I've got to do better."

Asked if he felt he deserved any discipline, Mack said that wasn't his decision and he would live with anything UofL athletic director Vince Tyra decides. Tyra said he he has seen the video and knows that the context was among friends.

"As I said, I made an error," Mack said. "It's not like I invited everybody over for a big party at the house. I'm a big boy and whatever comes my way comes my way."

Russ Brown, a former sportswriter for The Courier-Journal and USA Today, covers University of Louisville sports and college football and basketball for Kentucky Today. He can be contacted at 0926.russ.brown@gmail.com.

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