John Calipari and 5 the Most Overrated Coaches in College Basketball
Now that the Super Bowl is over, you can finally devote your full attention to basketball.
The NCAA basketball season is in full swing, meaning team records tell a fuller story and the Associated Press tells you who's on top.
But it's time to examine these so-called top teams.
Here's a look at five coaches getting more credit than they deserve.
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In 2009, the University of Kentucky offered John Calipari $4 million a year to coach the Wildcats.
That figure did not include his paid membership to a country club or the $3 million-dollar retention bonus he would be owed if he were still coaching there in 2016.
By comparison, Connecticut’s Jim Calhoun, who's amassed three national titles by shaping a Yankee Conference discard into a national powerhouse, earns $2.3 million a year.
What had Coach Cal done to command such money?
In two prior coaching positions, Calipari had taken both the University of Massachusetts to the Final Four and Memphis to the Finals.
But before the ink was dry on the Kentucky contract, the NCAA vacated both of those appearances due to rules infractions.
That didn't stop Calipari from bringing in a star-studded freshmen class of future NBAers in his first season.
And Kentucky spent that season at, or close to, No. 1, which invited speculation that Kentucky might win it all in 2010.
But the team faltered in the Eastern Regionals, losing to West Virginia.
Despite another treasure trove of recruits last year, Calipari's squad fell short of the title game, losing in the Final Four.
And last summer, Kentucky upped his contract to $36.5 million in the next eight years, making him the highest paid NCAA basketball coach in 2011 according to Forbes.com.
Calipari has no national championship and just one (official) Final Four appearance on his résumé.
Though Kentucky certainly is a basketball powerhouse, it's tough to argue that Calipari is worth as much as Jim Calhoun or Coach K or Jim Boeheim. Or any of the guys who have brought their school a national championship.
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Bruce Weber came to lead the Fighting Illini in 2003 after 18 years as a Purdue assistant and five years as head coach at Southern Illinois.
To his credit, Weber was so impressive in his first two years with the University of Illinois that he made the people in the university’s Athletic Department look like geniuses.
In his first year, Weber took the school to the Sweet 16 before losing to top-ranked Duke.
As an encore, he took Illinois to the Final Four in the 2004 season. Despite bowing to North Carolina in the championship game, his team still finished an incredible 37-2.
Following that season, Weber won a number of coaching awards, including the Naismith and the Iba.
However, the following three seasons became proof that Weber's early success was overhyped. Illinois dipped to 26-7, then to 23-11 and then to 16-19.
More disturbing, Weber never seemed to be able to convert that early success on the court into success on the recruiting trail.
And for whatever reason, the University granted him a contract extension in 2009.
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Regardless of achievements, basketball coaches who follow John Wooden at UCLA will always be overshadowed by his accomplishments.
But harsh comparative judgment is not why Ben Howland makes this list.
Sure, he made three Final Four appearances from 2006-2008, and yes, he has a strong win-loss record, but come on.
He has the greatest recruiting advantage of any school in a pathetic Pac-12.
That he can’t absolutely dominate the Oregons and Washington States of the conference is rather disappointing.
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In 2009, Scottie Reynolds sank a last-second hoop against Pittsburgh to propel Villanova into the Final Four, and the sky seemed the limit for the Wildcats and their energetic coach Jay Wright.
That year culminated a five-year run in which Villanova made the Sweet 16 four times, going as deep as the the Elite Eight and Final Four on separate occasions.
Recruiting analysts drooled over the high school talent Villanova brought in year after year. Rumors had Jay Wright turning down NBA jobs.
The 2010 season started off where ’09 left off, only to witness Villanova collapse down the stretch with an embarrassing second-round loss in the tourney.
Last year, ‘Nova collapsed again and exited the tournament quietly in the first round, despite all the high school All-Americans on its roster.
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Putting a Harvard-anything on a list of five most overrated may strike some as sacrilegious.
And yes, this season Tommy Amaker has brought Harvard its first top 25 rating, and will, in all likelihood, lead the Crimson to its first NCAA tournament appearance since 1946 this March.
But despite having the nation’s top recruiting class in 2000, Amaker could only get Seton Hall to one NCAA tournament in four years while coaching the Pirates.
And in six post-scandal years at Michigan, Amaker’s teams never even made the tournament once.
As Bill Pennington of the New York Times explains,
Because the improved financial aid packages are available to all students, there is no limit to the number awarded on a given team, unlike athletic scholarships, which are regulated with specific maximums set by the N.C.A.A.
In essence, Amaker has been given unlimited athletic scholarships to compete against schools that aren’t allowed to give any. So why has it taken him four years to get to the tournament?