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Both coaches acknowledged the relationship got off to a rough start.

“I mean, the northeast, you’re so tight, you’re right on top of each other, that it is a competitive environment,” Calipari said. “Our radio shows and television shows are in each other’s states, in our cities. That’s how it is there.”

The 68-year-old Calhoun lightheartedly reprised the complaints he raised more than a decade ago about Calipari _ a Pittsburgh native trying to muscle his way through New England _ but made it clear the enmity has died down as the years have passed.

“From a generational standpoint, to the fact that John really was trying to claim New England,” Calhoun said of the lack of a true friendship with his counterpart.

Then, he affected his best Boston accent: “He could never say he pahked the caah in Hahvahd Yahd, he didn’t know what clam chowder really was. I took (umbrage) to it, but I take (umbrage) to a lot of things.”

As magical as this season has been _ Kemba Walker’s emergence as an NBA-bound star, the five-wins-in-five-nights title at the Big East tournament, then four more wins and the unexpected Final Four trip _ it also has been a drain on Calhoun.

This season at UConn was played under the shadow of an NCAA investigation into the recruitment of a player named Nate Miles, who wound up getting expelled from school before ever playing a game.

The probe _ ugly, but the first in Calhoun’s 25 years at UConn _ resulted in sanctions that include Calhoun’s suspension for the first three games of next season. If, that is, the coach decides to return. He has had a slew of health problems over the past eight years and now enjoys spending time with his grandchildren as much as the players he coaches.

“I’m comfortable with my university, how they handled it, how the NCAA handled it,” Calhoun said. “I didn’t say I agreed with everything. But I was in charge of the program, the program made mistakes, and I think everybody had their chance to speak over a two-year period. When it was adjudicated, it was adjudicated, and it’s over as far as I’m concerned.”

Meanwhile, the saga of Cal vs. Cal lingers on, albeit in a far less angry light now than 15 years ago.

Earlier in the week, Calhoun was referring to his three Final Four coaching counterparts and called them, “my three sons _ my two sons plus my problem child,” in a reference to the classic 1960s TV show that starred Fred MacMurray.

Calipari picked up on that one Friday: “I did tell him that I knew Fred MacMurray,” he said, “and Mr. Calhoun, you are no Fred MacMurray.”