Is It A Requirement To Be A Jerk To Coach In The SEC?

Roger GowensCorrespondent IMarch 31, 2009

KANSAS CITY, MO - MARCH 21:  Head Coach John Calipari of the Memphis Tigers yells and points a finger from the sideline during their second round game against the Maryland Terrapins in the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament at the Sprint Center on March 21, 2009 in Kansas City, Missouri. The Tigers defeated the Terrapins 89-70.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

With the announcement that John Calipari has agreed to become the next coach at basketball-mad Kentucky, one of the first thoughts that crossed my mind was that the jerk population of the SEC's coaches just grew by one.

The first thought was; "oh, to be Calipari's agent, or even his pool guy for that matter." Followed by; "could this all be an elaborate April Fools joke?"

The rest of the SEC basketball coaches better hope so, 'cause jerk that he is, Calapari, Calamary to his critics, has won at every stop. 

The rest of the league can hope Calipari pulls a Dana Altman, but there is no reason to think that he won't win big at UK.

Calipari won't go undefeated in the SEC every year as he did in Conference USA, but if he can coax Jodie Meeks and Patrick Patterson into coming back to UK, he will win big immediately, in my opinion.

Outgoing coach Billy Gillispie, outgoing in the sense that he's out and can't be going far enough away to suit the Wildcat fans, was a big time jerk. That was the only thing big time about Gillispie.

If Calipari wins as big as expected, his prickly personality won't matter so long as he scratches the Big Blue Nation's itch for winning championships.

Adolph Rupp was not exactly known for being Mr. Rogers. Joe B. Hall once joked about what his players said the "B" stood for.

As long as John Calipari schmoozes the right boosters, fans being fans, he can do about anything and most will look the other way as long as he wins.

With Calipari, Bruce Pearl, and Ole Miss' alleged cab-driver punching Andy Kennedy the only certifiable, card carrying jerks, the SEC basketball coaches have a way to go before catching up with their football coaching brethren.

In the SEC football coaching ranks, being a jerk is almost a requirement. Eight of the 12 men who make their living as head football coaches in the league are loathed by millions of fans.

Only Mark Richt, Rich Brooks, Bobby Johnson, and Gene Chizik are the exceptions, and only Richt has won over 60% of his games. Hardly a coincidence.

Brooks wins three or four SEC games in a good year, Johnson looks like Steve Martin and would kill to win three to four league games.

As for Chizik, the rest of the SEC is too busy laughing at his 5-19 record at Iowa State to hate the guy, at least until he beats their team. That might take awhile as Auburn takes a mulligan on the spread offense without a proven winner at QB.

John Calipari certainly has the credentials in the jerk department if John Chaney can be believed. How many coaches have had their opposition counterpart physically threaten them in a press conference?

Former Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson, who wasn't exactly beloved by opposing fans, and many Hog fans to boot, couldn't be counted as an admirer of Calipari.

Calipari dropped UA off the Memphis schedule and said he was looking for more "national" rivalries.

This was only four to five years after Arkansas' national championship, and Cal added insult to injury when one of his assistants shoved a Razorback player who dove for a loose ball near the Memphis bench.

Now, ironically, Richardson has expressed interest in following Calipari at Memphis.

That is extremely unlikely to happen, of course, but it would make for good theater, especially if Memphis is on Kentucky's schedule in 2010.