At the present time, I don’t know who Kentucky basketball and its leader, John Calipari, are hated by (or should I say envied by) the most these days, the NCAA or the other top 10 to 15 college basketball programs across America. Oops, I forgot there for a second that spot belongs to one General Robert Knight, and I doubt anyone will take that away from him as long as he’s above ground. Still, can anyone in their wildest dreams believe the run that UK basketball is on right now, and it appears for many more years into the future?
One thing is for sure: I don’t see John Calipari making the mistake that Rick Pitino did back in 1997. Coach Cal in my eyes appears to be enjoying this ride as much as anyone, and maybe as a few close to the program have told me, enjoying it privately with his inner circle of friends even more. Those NBA vaults don’t tease him like it has others.
As Calipari said so eloquently last week, “I’m making more money than me and my family will ever spend right now.”
For several years, John Calipari was considered the ultimate point guard coach and curator for recruiting and developing the lead guard position with NBA stardom and million dollar paychecks awaiting his players from Memphis and UK. Derrick Rose , Tyreke Evans, John Wall, Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Knight and Marquis Teague have all flourished in his dribble drive system, but along the way a few other traits were established that are just now being recognized in the Calipari system.
You could say the worm has turned slowly during the last few years with Cal’s system, or you could say we have all finally had our eyes opened to accepting that Calipari is a much more well-rounded college basketball coach than what many of his critics have been giving him credit for. He’s much more than a developer of the lead guard position. In case you’re confused and don’t understand my rationale in those remarks, let me make it real plain and simple. John Calipari has now recruited, signed and developed, as well as utilized or incorporated into his system, three of the last No. 1 rated post players coming out of the high school ranks (DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis and Nerlens Noel). Oh yes, don’t forget that other center project named Josh Harrellson that he pulled out of Billy Gillispie’s bathroom stall and turned into a second round NBA draft choice.
As of this writing, John Calipari and his crack assistant recruiters of Orlando Woolridge and Kenny Payne had resurfaced the 2012 Kentucky recruiting class back to its No. 1 spot as in the past three years, and according to most national recruiting sources is still in the hunt for as many as three other prime time recruits and one special JUCO forward/center out of California.
It says here that John Calipari is not only a well-rounded college basketball coach, but he’s very astute in knowing how to run the many facets of a college basketball program. He’s not only a master at running a program, but he knows how to masterfully coordinate the pressures of a high profile program like UK and actually relishes it to some degree, in my opinion.
But make no mistake, my friends, there are folks associated with the NCAA inner circles as well as the National Association of Basketball Coaches that are lying awake deep into the night every night, trying to come up with some scenario and/or rule that will shorten or bring this run to a halt that Coach Cal is on at UK.
In the late 40’s and early 50’s Adolph Rupp was dominating college basketball with an era of inside players like Bill Spivey, Cliff Hagan, Frank Ramsey and Johnny Cox, and what happened all of a sudden? The free throw lane was widened and a three-second count placed on each player who entered it. In the early years of the John Wooden era, the college basketball rule makers couldn’t make their mind up on whether to allow dunking a basketball or not due to the dominance of just a few players, and finally arrived at a decision to permit it only because it was such an exciting play and the TV cameras had just caught the eye of college basketball, which in reality kept the art of dunking in the game.
Fast forward to 2012 and we are on the brink of another quirk to success in what is referred to as the one-and-done era that John Calipari has mastered.
I’m betting it won’t last too long if the NCAA and Cal’s brothers in the college coaching fraternity have anything to do with it, but hasn’t it been a sweet ride so far?