Would Calipari Be Interested In Kentucky, Alabama, Or Georgia?
Couldn’t help but notice an email from a UK fan to Lexington writer Mark Story (you can link to it from today’s SEC East notes) in which the fan says UK should dump Billy Gillispie and make a run at John Calipari—before Alabama does.
There’s no question that Calipari should be at the top of all three schools’ wish lists (of course, only two of those schools actually have openings right now).
But if you think Calipari would leave Memphis for Georgia, Alabama, or Kentucky, you’re kidding yourself.
Calipari has won 57 games in a row in that joke they call Conference-USA. But he’s still rewarded every year with a No. 1 or No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Now, the Tigers usually live up to their billing — reaching the NCAA title game last year — but that doesn’t change the fact that every year, Calipari gets what amounts to a three-month bye into the Sweet Sixteen.
It’s an easier road from Beale Street to Title Town than it is from just about anywhere else.
Plus, he’s already built a national recruiting base. And he’s already paid millions. And his ego (always a consideration with Calipari) is stroked by being the biggest fish in the Memphis pond.
Sorry, Grizzlies fan. Both of you.
What would the two SEC schools with openings have to offer Calipari?
Well, they could offer him a pay raise. That’s about it.
Because he’d still be a basketball coach in a football league. And that’s sure not the case in Conference-USA.
He’d still be second-fiddle behind Nick Saban at Alabama and Mark Richt at Georgia. And both of those guys are having successful runs. That’s more pressure. Think Calipari ever worries that Memphis fans will become spoiled by their football team’s success? Please.
And, as stated earlier, why move to a league where you’re actually forced to coach tight, hard-fought games night in and night out. There are no lay ups in the SEC (ask Kentucky and Florida about Georgia…or Oklahoma about Arkansas).
Who needs that headache?
Now, for those UK fans who want to blow up Gillispie and woo Calipari, you’d have a better shot than Georgia or Alabama, that’s for sure.
Basketball is king in the Bluegrass state, followed by horse racing and then football. Calipari could be the biggest man in the state (aside from that Pitino fella up the road in Louisville).
Also, Kentucky could pay Calipari $4 million a year if they wished because Rich Brooks wouldn’t scream (as a Saban would) if his pay was dwarfed by a basketball coach.
Recruiting shouldn’t be a problem in Lexington, either. Not with the name “Kentucky” on the front of the jersey.
But there are still two reasons why I can’t see this happening:
1) Conference-USA versus SEC. Can’t say it enough. If Calipari gets chapped because he has to play Bruce Pearl once a year at Memphis, do you really think he’d want to see him twice a season? Or Billy Donovan twice per season?
Nope, I think Rice, Marshall and SMU are a tad easier.
2) The fanbase at Kentucky would want Calipari skinned after every loss. Every substitution is questioned in Lexington. The length of practices. The new jerseys. You name it and UK fans will debate it.
Think Calipari gets that in Memphis? In a word, no.
While Memphis basketball is the top sports draw in the city, it’s not the end-all, be-all pulse of the town.
In Lexington (and in much of the state), UK basketball is a religion. Life, death, taxes, UK basketball.
I like Lexington, but it’s a college town. Memphis is a city. More to do. Easier to get your mind off of a loss.
Shoot poorly from the freethrow line all season and then lose a national title game because of it and Memphians will still pat you on the back and say, “hey, good year.” There are other things to life. And Memphis has never won the Big One.
Play out that same free-throw scenario in Lexington, where Kentucky basketball is life, where Cat fans HAVE won the Big One (many times) and you’ll be talk-radio’d to death.
Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe Coach Cal will be coaching somewhere in the SEC next season.
But I’d bet a million bucks it won’t happen.
And it would take at least three times that much to actually get him to the table to discuss one of these gigs.
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