Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist Prove John Calipari Won't Leave Kentucky
Calipari quickly denied any rumors, saying he had the best coaching job in college basketball at Kentucky, but let's be real: This wouldn't be the first time a head coach said one thing and did another behind closed doors.
The allure of Carmelo Anthony and the Big Apple may be tempting, especially given the Calipari's incongruous exit as coach of the New Jersey Nets in the late 1990s. Calipari could join Larry Brown as the only coaches to win both NCAA and NBA championships if he guided the Knicks to the promised land.
Still, in the end, one thing should keep him grounded at Kentucky long-term. At this rate, Calipari has a real shot to go down as one of the all-time greatest coaches in the history of the NCAA.
The thought of Calipari's mug next to John Wooden and Mike Krzyzewski's on the Mount Rushmore of NCAA coaches may sound blasphemous, I know. However, take a closer look at Calipari's three seasons at Kentucky, and you'll see he's building an unstoppable Big Blue machine, starting on the recruiting front.
Not to slam his game-day coaching decisions by any means, but Calipari's greatest strengths as a coach lie in his abilities to recruit top talent. From Marcus Camby at the University of Massachusetts (the No. 2 pick in 1996) to Derrick Rose at the University of Memphis (the No. 1 overall pick in 2008), from John Wall (No. 1 pick in 2010) to Anthony Davis (presumed No. 1 pick in 2012), Calipari's only gotten better in recent years at hauling in loaded draft class after loaded draft class.
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Each of his four draft classes at Kentucky, including his current Class of 2012, have been ranked No. 1 by ESPN.com. This past year's class included Davis, the No. 1 power forward according to ESPN, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, the No. 1 small forward, and Marquis Teague, the No. 1 point guard.
All three are expected to announce their intention today to leave Kentucky for the NBA draft after one season; all three are projected first-round picks, along with sophomores Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb.
Not only does Calipari accumulate top talent, he's demonstrated the ability to mold his team around his star players' strengths on a year-to-year basis. When landing that many top players, a coach always runs the risk of poisoning his team's chemistry by getting a guy who's most concerned with his own stats, but Calipari's proved over and over again that he can massage a bunch of potentially caustic egos into an actual team.
And now, finally, he's got a championship that validates his whole recruiting strategy. The progression from the Elite Eight in 2010 to the Final Four last year was great and all, but until Coach Cal brought home Kentucky's eighth title, he couldn't prove the one-and-done method ultimately worked.
Now, he's got a title under his belt and he's got all the proof he needs. Now, he's the coach of the presumed No. 1 overall pick (Davis) and No. 2 overall pick (Kidd-Gilchrist), and the coach who just landed ESPNU's No. 1 overall prospect in the Class of 2012, Nerlens Noel. Oh, and by the way, he hasn't lost a single home game in his three-year tenure at Kentucky.
Will John Calipari go down as a top-five coach in NCAA history if he stays at Kentucky permanently?
At this point, there's realistically nothing stopping Calipari from racking up top-five recruiting classes for the rest of his tenure at Kentucky, short of a massive NCAA violation.
Even if the NBA and NCAA changed the one-and-done policy to require student-athletes to stay in college for two or three years, that'd just mean Calipari would get the Anthony Davis' and Derrick Rose's of the world for two or three years. That's not resulting in multiple championships? (Not one, not two, not three, not four...)
Plain and simple, assuming Calipari's running a clean program at Kentucky, he's got no reason to leave, especially with the chance to become an all-time legendary NCAA coach.
This may sound like it's been written by a massive Kentucky homer trying to talk himself into why Coach Cal can't leave, but truth is, I'm a Georgetown fan at heart. And the Nerlens Noel saga opened my eyes to the dynasty-in-the-making that Calipari's building (built?) in Kentucky.
Noel claims that "it was pretty close" between Kentucky and Georgetown for him, but in the end, he opted with the Wildcats. A day later, he'd gained 20,000 Twitter followers, while Shabazz Muhammad, the No. 2 prospect in the Class of 2012 who opted to attend UCLA over Kentucky, lost 4,000 followers that night.
"That’s the power of Big Blue Nation," Noel said to Jason Jordan of ESPN.com. "I knew they would have my back. That’s a major reason that I picked Kentucky. You can’t find better fans anywhere else on the planet."
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Calipari, who's amassed nearly 1.2 million followers on his @UKCoachCalipari Twitter account, has mobilized Big Blue Nation once more, in the streets of Kentucky, New Orleans and on social media.
You know who's noticed? Future recruits.
And thus, the Big Blue machine churns on.
Why would Calipari leave all this now, after just winning his first championship? Why would Calipari balk at the chance of becoming a legend? For a man who allegedly thirsts for new challenges at every corner, it's clear that Calipari's work at Kentucky doesn't just end with one championship.
If only LeBron James could get that memo in time for this year's NBA playoffs.
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