John Calipari and Kentucky: A Marriage Made in Basketball Heaven

Mordecai BrownerAnalyst IApril 2, 2009

I, John Calipari...

John Calipari is a good basketball coach, not a great one.  The Kentucky basketball program right now is a good one, not a great one.  They're perfect for each other.

On the surface, Calipari is an outstanding catch for the Wildcats.  It's hard to beat a .762 winning percentage, NBA ties, and the ability to yank blue-chip recruits from all over the country.

Dig deeper and gaps develop.  Not a single thing this man has done in college basketball has been free of blemish.  Not one.  Marcus Camby accepting 40k and hookers over a 16-month period from a lawyer in Connecticut isn't the entire story, either. 

There's also Donta Bright and Lou Roe, whose academics were so questionable other major schools passed on them while Calipari flaunted UMass' options for students with learning disabilities.

...from this day forward, for better or worse, or until stuff starts hitting fans...

Then he bolted to the NBA shortly after the Camby situation started unravelling.

At Memphis, he's developed a nice stable of recruiting side stories, from World Wide Wes to DeJuan Wagner's dad to Reggie Rose to Lord knows what else will emerge.

More importantly (well, at least to Kentucky), on the court Calipari has actually underperformed against expectations in the NCAA tournament.  Memphis was upset in '03, '06, and '09. 

They equalled their seed in '04 and '07, and only (arguably) did better than their seed in '08.  His '93 and '94 UMass teams were also upset.  In fact, not one Calipari-coached team has demonstrably done better than expected in the NCAA Tournament. Not one.

And he's never won a game in a top six conference.

...for richer or poorer, mostly richer since you're paying me an exorbitant amount of money...

Play in a weak conference, rack up the wins with Yankees-level talent for your second-tier conference, and disappoint in March.  Wake up one day and you'll making championship vows as the highest-paid coach in college basketball.

The only school right for him is Kentucky, a school whose fans live in 1968 and think it's the center of the college basketball universe, the only place to offer everything a college basketball coach could want.  "The coach is bigger than the Governor," they say with all the hubris entitled to a team mentally living in a Ruppian utopia.

They're prefect for Calipari because they're the basketball equivalent of Notre Dame and Alabama football. 

Drunk on history and self-righteousness, they often ignore reality, decorum, and any pesky roadblocks in the return for glory, discarding the common rules other programs live by.  "This isn't just another coaching job," indeed! love and to cherish, because that means drinking from the same giant cauldron of hallucinogenic blue liquid...

Truth is, Kentucky is just another coaching job.  It's probably one of the top fifteen in the country, but there's nothing special about it aside from maybe kissing some more butt in the media and booster circles (which is a negative to prospective coaches).

However, try explaining this to a Kentucky fan, and they'll think you're from Mars, which makes the Calipari hire a perfect fit.  Like Kentucky, Calipari sees himself in an echelon above his peers. 

Kid no one can touch?  He'll get him.  He's Italian and he looks good on TV.  Hookers for 20-year olds?  He didn't know about it.  NBA players?  He could handle them, right?

...'til death, or premature contract termination at your massive expense because I've failed to live up to the ungodly expectations set before me, do us part...

The list of coaches who have disliked Calipari is quite an impressive gallery: Calhoun, Chaney, Pitino, Pearl, Martelli, et cetera.  Only through Calipari can they be linked. 

Likewise, Kentucky finds enemies from all over the basketball sphere merely because of the unwarranted swagger they bring to basketball season.

Given their pasts, the marriage of Calipari and Kentucky is an NCAA scandal and a feast of postseason underachieving waiting to happen.  It's like the marriage of Sampson and Indiana on Lexington-style crack cocaine. 

Overrated coach, you may now take this overrated program...


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