Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Former University of Louisville basketball player Brandon Bender and Chicago businessman Ken Caldwell plan to appear live on 740 the Game in Orlando Wednesday night at 6:30 p.m. ET.
Bender and Caldwell were featured in a series of articles by ESPN's Pat Forde and Pete Thamel of the New York Times.
Now, Bender says they are ready to address the articles and "tell everything."
I sat down with Bender this afternoon for a Q&A.
Brandon, what is your purpose for going on 740 the Game tomorrow night?
To prove to the NCAA and everyone else that they wasted their time by investigating UCF. It was all because two reporters made up a story and released it. Now, I'm going to tell my side of things.
I'm going to tell the whole story about Louisville and everything else. I'm telling everything.
Obviously, there were some pretty strong allegations and references made in those articles. How do you respond to what was written?
I think it was damn foolish because they went with assumptions and no proof. Then, they said I was shopping Enes Kanter to SEC schools. I don't even know Enes Kanter. I saw him one time in my life.
I also think it was lame to bring up Ken Caldwell's past...things that happened 20 years ago.
Brandon, just to clear this up, what is your relationship with Mr. Caldwell?
Well, when Forde asked me if I knew Ken, I said no. But, no really meant none of your business. Yes, Ken is a mentor of mine.
You say he's a mentor, how do you mean that? You mean as a basketball player? In life? What?
I've known Ken since I was a teenager and played in the Roundball Classic in 2001. Ken is a great man and he has never engaged in any wrong doings with kids or coaches.
It really bothers me that the NCAA would investigate UCF or any other school because of a bogus article.
And as for Pete Thamel, I don't know that guy. Isn't he the guy that helped get Bobby Gonzalez fired. Bobby happens to be an outstanding coach and a great man. It seems like Thamel tries to get everyone fired. And Forde, I've known since high school. I had a lot of respect for him but when you start doing coaches favors to write articles, that is very bad. Do you know how many head and assistant coaches called me after those articles came out and laughed? At least 30 all together.
Brandon, hold on a second. Tell me what you mean by doing coaches favors to write articles?
Well, it is obvious that he did a coach a favor because why would he write an article saying Ken is a con man? He has never met Ken. How the hell can he say anything about him?
All of this is them trying to get UCF in trouble. Donnie (Jones) is a top five coach in America. Bottom line...he did nothing wrong. It isn't in his personality to do wrong.
Which coach do you feel that Forde was doing a favor for?
So, you're saying that Forde did Rick Pitino a favor with those articles?
Is the sky blue? Look at the writing on the wall. Pat Forde asked me why I was at a Kentucky game last year. I told him Brian Clifton coached me in AAU and I am a fan of Kentucky. What is wrong with me going to a basketball game as a fan?
Let me play devil's advocate here and say that it's no secret that you went to Louisville and things didn't work out. Many folks now feel that you despise the U of L program and Coach Pitino. How would you respond to those folks who are likely to suggest that you're just trying to cause their program problems?
Louisville is Louisville and good luck to them. I don't care what the fans think of me. It isn't like they are Kentucky fans. UK fans are the best in the world. U of L will never come close. They're too busy getting their asses kicked in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Grudge my ass. It is what it is, not a grudge. I am a fan of Kentucky, UCF, Kansas, UCLA, UConn, Memphis, Georgetown, Mississippi State, Tennessee, Ohio State, Auburn and UNLV. That is who I like and I have a right to like whoever I want to like. I could care less what Louisville fans think.
Who are they really though? They get let down year after year. Rick was a good coach 10 years ago but he needs to surrender to Calipari because Kentucky owns the state.
Do you have any relationship with Rick Pitino?
What relationship I don't mess with him. I don't have a relationship with him. He goes off hearsay.
Tell me what you mean by he goes off hearsay?
An old assistant coach, I can't say his name because I actually like this guy, told Pitino I was a runner which is bogus. A runner is a guy who pays kids. I've never given a kid a dollar for a Gatorade.
Let me ask you this. Isn't it funny that Louisville fans talk shit about people they have never met or don't know. That is called small-minded. Go find a hobby. Ninety-five percent of them have never even met me. That is that lame Louisville message board junk that I keep hearing about...that I don't care about.
Louisville needs to hire Kenny Payne as head coach or maybe Josh Pastner. That would help bring them back to life because right now they're on life support.
Let's get back to the situation at UCF. What is your association with that program and why did Forde's article mention you in relation to UCF?
Because I'm tied to Ken and he has kids there. Also, I'm a big fan of UCF. I'm a certified NCAA AAU coach so guess what? I'm friends with about 80 other AAU coaches. They know I played briefly at Louisville and if you think they're not going to listen to me, you're crazy. I just tell them the truth if they ask me about it.
I love UCF. They do things the right way. I don't care if it is a player like Andre Drummond or DeJuan Coleman, if they see that beautiful campus and meet Donnie, it is going to be hard as hell to say no to that.
Shawn Finney recruited me when he was at Kentucky. Had he stayed instead of leaving for a head coaching job, I would've been a Wildcat for sure. I look at guys like Finney and Kenny Payne as true head coaches. I look up to those guys, as well as Josh Pastner and Donnie Jones.
You say you would have been a Wildcat?
Yes, had Finney stayed, I would have. Louisville fans want to be Kentucky fans so bad. I wish I would have went to Kentucky coming out of high school. Louisville was the biggest mistake I ever made in my life.
If someone asks you to tell them the truth about Louisville, how do respond?
It wasn't good for me and if you're a kid and you decide to go there, that is on you. It may be best for you but wasn't best for me.
So, you're not out here saying bad things about Louisville and essentially trashing the program?
No way, no how.
This has been alleged so let me ask you straight out...can you tell me right now that you did not persuade Kevin Ware to spurn Louisville and choose UCF?
Absolutely. I do not know Kevin Ware at all.
What about DaMarcus Smith?
What about DaMarcus? He is a future NFL quarterback and I hate the fact that people don't believe in him.
Some folks have alleged that you pushed DaMarcus away from the Louisville football program.
That is false. How could I push him? That is all local talk and I mean in the city of Louisville talk. That is what you call Louisville barber shop talk.
I never pushed him away. DaMarcus at the time made a choice. I support him either way. The kid is going to in the NFL some day. He is very talented and when he signed with the Knights, I was like 'OK, cool'. DaMarcus, to me, is way better than Bridgewater.
Have you ever taken money in exchange for taking a kid to a workout, delivering a kid to a college program or for any other reason involving recruits?
Never. Not a dollar. There is no money to take. Why would anyone break rules? It's not worth it at all. I do this because kids ask me for advice from time-to-time and I'm allowed to give them my opinion. There is nothing wrong with that. But money...no...never.
If there is no money involved, tell me what you get out of this? Why do you spend so much of your time helping kids?
Yes, I coach AAU and I help kids get scholarships. I get a thrill out of it. I have helped kids who have never even been heard of before get to college. Ask the kid who played at Kentucky who coaches a Division II school...Adam Williams. I called him this past year asking to get a kid at his school.
I love to see kids go to school and have an opportunity. It isn't about the money with me. I aspire to be a college coach someday soon so I'm just learning, sitting back and waiting for my opportunity.
I have one question that many folks want to know about Brandon Bender.
What kind of work do you do? How do you support yourself?
I support myself because I coach AAU and I bought into a business while playing pro basketball. I saved my money correctly and did the right thing. But...why does that matter to people? Just curious.
I think people who don't know you would try to put two-and-two together. They might see you as a guy who doesn't work a regular job but still has money to get by. That likely leads to questions/assumptions about being a so-called runner.
Understood. I invested my money and I'm living off those investments.
Brandon, thank you for answering my questions. Is there anything else you would like to add?
Forde and Thamel have no facts, so to Ken and I, those articles don't matter. They spoke about Ken's past but really, who cares about that stuff? The past is the past. That was 20 years ago and it doesn't define the person who he is. He is a great person.
What can folks expect Brandon Bender and Ken Caldwell to say on the radio tomorrow night?
They can expect to hear the truth about whatever they decide to ask.
Thanks Brandon, I appreciate your time.
Here is the information you will need to hear the interview tomorrow night:
Tomorrow Listen live @ http://alumknightlive.com/ 630pm est
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