John Calipari and the 16 Scummiest Coaches in College Basketball
All around college sports there's ethically questionable behavior. We've seen players being paid, coaches illegally recruiting and boosters overstepping their boundaries.
Most recently, we've seen John Calipari's behavior cost Memphis a Final Four appearance, while Bruce Pearl cost himself more than a million dollars for lying to the NCAA.
With so much corruption running rampant, we take this opportunity to examine John Calipari and the 16 scummiest coaches in college basketball history.
16. Mike Jarvis
Mike Jarvis was let go in December of 2003, leaving a legacy both on and off the court. The Uncle Phil look-a-like was accused of paying center Abe Keita a monthly stipend.
Jarvis ultimately landed on his feet, taking over at Florida Atlantic in 2008.
15. Jim Calhoun
I’ve never been a fan of Jim Calhoun, and there was never a real reason to it. As a Boston College fan, I had seen Calhoun’s UConn Huskies consistently embarrass my beloved Eagles with an arrogance and attitude that was never appreciated.
My resentment of Connecticut’s coach made it all the more sweet when it was announced that the coach had violated NCAA rules in his recruitment of Nate Miles.
Miles was given accommodation, transportation, food and representation during his recruitment. Miles was represented by former UConn student Josh Nochimson, who Calhoun had significant contact with, including 16 calls—including a four-minute conversation the week Miles visited Storrs.
It should be interesting to see whether the NCAA levies any sanctions against the Hall of Fame coach.
14. Tim Floyd
In 2007, Tim Floyd was accused of providing inappropriate benefits by giving money to Rodney Guillory, a Los Angeles event promoter and one of the handlers for O.J. Mayo, resulting in an NCAA investigation.
13. Jim O’Brien
The former Boston College and Ohio State coach makes this list for illegal financial compensation he offered to players back in 2004. Aleksandar Radojevic's mother received $6,000 from O’Brien, and when this information was brought to light, O’Brien was immediately fired.
O’Brien sued the school, claiming the school had improperly fired him, and was awarded a $2.4 million settlement. This despite the fact that the university was given three years' probation and ordered to pay back every dollar they received from the NCAA tournament while Radojevic was on the team.
Not exactly justice.
12. Jan van Breda Kolff
Former St. Bonaventure coach Jan van Breda Kolff had his college coaching career abruptly end when controversy broke late in the 2002-03 season.
The Bonnies had admitted junior college transfer Jamil Terrell with only a welding certificate and were forced to forfeit every game that Terrell had played in.
Van Breda Kolff denied any knowledge of the scandal, but reportedly pressure from his assistants is what kept school President Robert Wickenheiser from ruling Terrell ineligible.
11. Bruce Pearl
Back in September, a story broke that Tennessee head coach Bruce Pearl had lied to an NCAA investigator. Pearl had made inappropriate contact with recruits, but denied these allegations when asked.
Although Pearl was not fired, he was fined $1.5 million and suspended from coaching the first eight SEC games this season.
This is not the first example of impropriety involving the flamboyant Pearl, who was photographed on a boat drinking with far younger college co-eds.
10. Todd Bozeman
While coaching at California, Bozeman was fired after it surfaced that he admitted paying $30,000 to the parents of Golden Bears recruit Jelani Gardner. As a result, Cal forfeited their entire 1994-95 season, and Bozeman was hit with an eight-year show-cause order.
Ironically, immediately after the NCAA sanctions, it came out that Bozeman has been ordered to stay away from a student who had accused him of making lewd phone calls.
Class act all the way.
9. Pokey Chatman
Despite a career 105-19 record, LSU women’s head coach Pokey Chatman resigned in 2007 after reports surfaced that the university became aware of an inappropriate sexual relationship between Chatman and a former player.
Her punishment? Chatman was recently named the general manager and head coach of the WNBA’s Chicago Sky.
8. Larry Eustachy
After Tim Floyd left Iowa State to become the head coach of the Chicago Bulls, the Cyclones brought in Larry Eustachy. In his second year as coach, Eustachy led ISU to a school-best record and an Elite Eight appearance. Unfortunately he will most likely be known for his off-court tactics.
On April 28, 2003, The Des Moines Register published a photo of Eustachy kissing a number of young co-eds while holding a beer at a party near the University of Missouri's campus. Eustachy originally stated he would appeal the school suspension, but opted to resign instead.
7. Kelvin Sampson
Kelvin Sampson is to scummy college coaches what Muhammad Ali was to boxing: the greatest. Sampson had already earned Oklahoma a three-year probation for recruiting violations when he took over as the head coach of Indiana.
The current Milwaukee Bucks assistant raised the ire of fellow coaches for his inappropriate behavior surrounding the recruitment of Eric Gordon. Gordon had already verbally committed to Illinois when Sampson swooped in to sign the 6’4" shooting guard.
When the NCAA’s investigation wrapped up, it was revealed Sampson made over 550 illegal calls to 17 different recruits and had broken five major rules.
6. Jim Harrick
How many points are you awarded for a three-point basket? How many halves are in a basketball game? How many goals are on a basketball court?
If you can answer those questions, congratulations! You could have passed Jim Harrick Jr.'s "Coaching Principles and Strategies of Basketball" course at the University of Georgia.
This makes a mockery of academic fraud. Heck, Rashad Wright and Chris Daniels both received A’s in this class despite the fact they never attended.
Considering Harrick had already been fired from UCLA for falsifying an expense report, it’s probably for the best that Harrick was essentially blackballed from the college ranks for eight years.
5. Rick Pitino
On April 24, 2009, Karen Sypher, the wife of equipment manager Tim Sypher, was charged with the extortion of Louisville head coach Rick Pitino.
What was Sypher trying to blackmail Pitino with? Apparently back in 2003 the two had relations under the table of an Italian restaurant.
When Sypher became pregnant, Pitino paid $3,000 for her to have an abortion. At the time she was not married to Tim, and he was also paid an undisclosed sum to marry her.
This incident got even uglier as Sypher accused Pitino of raping her and stated that Pitino only lasted 15 seconds. But to be fair, I think he was just trying to beat the shot clock.
4. John Calipari
Coach Calipari’s list of indiscretions is long and illustrious. In fact, his rap sheet is so damning that it’s amazing the NCAA still allows him to coach. The Final Four berths he earned while coaching UMass were vacated when it was learned Marcus Camby had illegally received payments.
Calipari took a job with the New Jersey Nets before returning to the college ranks to coach Memphis. There, Calipari would have an entire season voided after violations surfaced that Derrick Rose had cheated on his SAT’s and that Rose’s brother had travel expenses paid for by the school.
How is that type of condemning behavior punished? With an eight-year, $31.65 million contract at Kentucky.
Already Calipari has created controversy for the Wildcats, with the NCAA investigating Eric Bledsoe about academic fraud. He’s an embarrassment to the values that the NCAA is supposed to stand for, and should have been placed on probation years ago.
3. Jerry Tarkanian
"Tark the Shark" was the head coach of UNLV from 1974-1992, as well as the Fresno State coach from 1995-2002. In 1976, Tarkanian's long battle with the NCAA began when he was placed on two years' probation for what was termed “questionable practices.”
In 1991, a photograph was published of three UNLV players in a hot tub with Richard Perry—a well-known gambler with ties to the Mafia. Although it was never proven that Tarkanian was involved in the shady gambling underbelly of Las Vegas, allegations dogged him through his career.
He’s one of college basketball’s winningest coaches with 990 wins and four Final Four appearances, but his off-court antics may be his greatest legacy.
2. Clem Haskins
The former University of Minnesota coach was forced to resign in 1999 after one of the worst academic fraud scandals NCAA history. Allegations stemmed from the manager of the school's academic counseling office, Jan Gangelhoff, that she had written more than 400 pieces of coursework over a five-year period.
As it turned out, Haskins had paid Gandelhoff $3,000 to write papers for his players. Haskins had his 242 wins vacated, and the school was placed on four years' probation.
1. Dave Bliss
While coaching at Baylor, Dave Bliss broke more NCAA, legal and ethical rules than one can possibly imagine. Bliss resigned in 2003 after the NCAA investigated the circumstances surrounding the murder of former player Patrick Dennehy.
Bliss was never criminally charged, but the allegations mentioned are absolutely devastating. Dennehy was murdered by another former player—Carlton Dotson—which Bliss allegedly tried to cover up by framing Dennehy as a drug dealer.
So sickening are these allegations that his payment of players seems like a minor footnote.