Tuesday, March 31, 2009


It's a program whose alumni and fanbase have eaten alive competent coaches like Tubby Smith (now with Minnesota) and Billy Gillispie (now unemployed).

Am I really supposed to believe the same won't happen to John Calipari?

The Memphis coach has reportedly decided to leave the school to become the next coach at Kentucky, replacing the fired Gillispie. He apparently wasn't a nice-enough guy, though something tells me that if he had won 60 games over two years instead of 47, we wouldn't be having this discussion. Frankly, "not a nice-enough guy" is a pretty poor excuse for firing a coach who hasn't had much of a chance to coach his own recruits. But it's not my buyout money, so I don't care what Kentucky thinks they have to do.

But what happens when they have to buy out Calipari for not being nice enough, or not winning enough, or not recruiting enough blue-chippers?

Reality is that I respect Calipari a great deal. I think he's a good coach, and I think he's generally a pretty decent fellow as far as college coaches go. He reminded me of a snake-oil salesman at Massachusetts, but he seems much more genuine to me now. That's a trait that Kentucky fans will find endearing, because it doesn't sound like they felt that way about Gillispie.

The criticism of Calipari (besides his ridiculous salary) is that he has never won in a big conference. However, that's not terribly important. If he can get the kind of recruits at Kentucky that he got at Massachusetts and Memphis, there's no reason to think he won't be highly successful.

It's also worth noting that he hasn't just won in big conferences. He's thoroughly dominated.

If he doesn't get eaten live by the fans, Calipari will put Kentucky back into national championship contention. From there, let's hope those fans understand that college basketball isn't what it used to be, and sometimes it really has to be good enough to make the Elite Eight.

1 comment:

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