Calipari Can't Win a Title? IGNORANCE!

Derek KingContributor IJuly 24, 2010

SYRACUSE, NY - MARCH 27:  Head coach John Calipari of the Kentucky Wildcats reacts as he coaches against the West Virginia Mountaineers during the east regional final of the 2010 NCAA men's basketball tournament at the Carrier Dome on March 27, 2010 in Syracuse, New York.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

It has often been said, for whatever reason, that John Calipari can not win a title at the University of Kentucky. Moreover people do not think that "One and Done's" can win a title. I am not really sure why people choose to say either of these things, although I have a few guesses. Possibly jealously? The Yankee effect? Maybe a hate for awesome, Italian mobster coaches? (But people like Rick Pitino, so I guess that one is out) So why do people make this incredibly bold claim without a drop of evidence? I would not be able to figure that out with years of research, so I'll just disprove them.

MYTH: Despite being in the situations and having good teams, John Calipari has never won a title. Therefore, he can not win a National Title. 

TRUTH: This just in--winning a national title is hard. In normal circumstances, a coach enters a program that, is...well, down in the dumps. Usually, the reason you have a new coach is because the old one sucked and was not winning games. The only time this is not the case is a retirement. Every time Calipari entered a system, the team he has come to has been having terrible years. At UMASS, he turned a 10 win team into a high-20's win team and took them to a Final Four. At Memphis, he took a team who would have been happy with an NIT appearance and took them to the Final Game (in seven years). 

Here's the key though: at both places, he inherited a losing team. It took him (as it would any good coach) 4-5 years to completely turn them around. Since he spent eight years at both Memphis and UMASS, that leaves him a window of about 3-4 years to win a title. Anybody that thinks a coach (any coach) should win a National Title under those conditions is just plain stupid, especially teams with such "storied histories" like UMASS and Memphis. 

Then he comes to UK and inherits a team that had one of its worst years in its storied history. He loses one of the best shooters (and players) in the nation to the NBA draft. And he just wins 35 games, wins the SEC Championship and makes an Elite Eight.

So we gave him Eight years to win a title at UMASS. We gave him Eight years to turn around a program and win a title at Memphis. Then we give him one year at UK to take them from the Final Four, institute an ENTIRELY NEW system...and win a Title. 

Let's see how other elite coaches have fared.

It took Coach K ELEVEN YEARS at Duke to win a title. 

Roy Williams NEVER WON A TITLE in FIFTEEN YEARS at Kansas.

Jim Boeheim took TWENTY-SEVEN YEARS to win a Title at Syracuse.

It took Jim Calhoun THIRTEEN YEARS to win a Title at Connecticut. He spent fourteen years at Northwestern (very comparable to both Memphis and UMASS when Cal entered those systems)...he never got passed the Second Round and it took him NINE YEARS to just make the tournament. 

Rick Pitino did win a Title at UK after just seven years. Although UK was down at the time, this was still the class of the NCAA and they were only down because of sanctions. They still brought in recruits.

Lesson? These things take time! The best coaches in the world do not turn programs around and win this quickly. In fact, if Calipari HAD won a title, I would think it would be extremely extraordinary. The fact that he turned these programs around so quickly shows that he is truly an elite coach. 


MYTH: "One and Done's" can not win a National Title. 

TRUTH: Based on what? People who say this have little to no basis for such a statement. First of all, "One and Done's" are relatively new. Before 2008, the Top 10 players in the class always went to the NBA. Now, they go to UK or UNC or Duke or wherever. Imagine if LeBron James or Kobe Bryant had gone to college--can you honestly say you do not think that team could win a title? 

Now lets look at how the "one and done" team did this year: Kentucky lost in the Elite 8 to West Virginia. (This before absolutely hammering their first three opponents, I might add.) So immediately, the critics came out: "The One and Done's are immature! Freshman will never win a title" People who quote UK's loss to West Virginia as evidence that freshman are too immature simply do not use logic or facts. 

Let's take a look at how the freshman performed in that West Virginia loss and compare them to the upperclassmen: 

John Wall+Demarcus Cousins+Eric Bledsoe=16-38 FG (42%), 41 pts, 25 Reb, 8 ast 

P. Patterson+Darius Miller+Liggins+Dodson= 7-29 FG (24%), 23 pts, 25 Reb, 1 ast

(Notice: I used only three freshman and four upperclassmen. No one else had any statistics worthy of being added.)

Maybe if Kentucky had a few more "inexperience" and a few less upperclassmen they could have won that game and then who knows how far?


MYTH: John Calipari is a great recruiter, but he can't coach.

TRUTH: I am not going to wade deep into this, because there is too much opinion involved and not enough fact. But I will say this:

John Calipari was winning 30+ games at Memphis year in and year out. While doing so, he was recruiting good, solid classes, but he most definitely was not Top 5 or even Top 10 every year. The highest rated class he ever had was 4th (D. Rose class). His average rank in recruiting class was around 15-20. Yet despite being 15-20 in recruiting, he was usually Top 3 in wins. Here's my formula for that:

Recruiting + X = Wins. 

There is an X factor there. If he was recruiting the best classes and getting the most wins, there is no X factor. Recruiting = Wins. But he wasn't getting the best classes. He was getting solid classes, but the most amount of wins and a second place finish.

Sounds like he can coach a little better than people think.