In Defense of John Calipari
Say what you want about John Calipari, "The Program Destroyer" of UMass and Memphis.
Say what you want about John Calipari, "The non-proponent of academics."
Say what you want about John Calipari, "The 'one-and-done' guy that is bad for college basketball."
And then think about this, and only this: John Calipari, "The outstanding coach, and the outstanding teacher of young people."
It's not a popular opinion. It's not one that many share. But every time I see John Calipari, I think to myself: "This guy knows how to get the best out of players. And they like playing for him."
I'm a coaching nerd. I've coached baseball at various levels for seven years -- and at the college level for the last three. And the first thing you ask yourself as a coach of 18-22 year-olds is, "How do I get the best out of these guys? How do I connect? How do I get them to respond?"
And at that? John Calipari may be the best. He's taken a group of highly-touted recruits, every one who was undoubtedly the best player wherever they came from, gotten them to put ego aside, and gotten them to play together to the tune of a 37-0 record.
Basketball is an ego sport. It's a momentum sport. It's a fast sport that brings out the "Me, me, me" in athletes. The fact that Cal has gotten these players, who are so used to dominating everywhere they go individually, to play together period is an accomplishment in its own right.
And yes, Cal, like several coaches who get top-end talent, has a "one-and-done guy" reputation. Look at it from the other end. The fact that Cal can teach a guy the game in just one year and prepare him for the NBA? That's amazing.
In fact, it's easy for players who know they are leaving to just blow off their coach and say "Whatever, I'll be in the league in a year and I won't need you." But Cal's players listen, absorb, learn and enjoy playing for him. THAT, my friends, is downright unreal. He's gotten their attention. He's gotten their respect.
Look at it from a recruiting standpoint. That's another staggering thing that makes Calipari better than most. Because he does lose such a high percentage of his team yearly, he's not recruiting four-year players, he has to almost totally rebuild his roster every year.
The fact that Kentucky is in the hunt nearly every year with almost a whole new team, and whole new nucleus, is remarkable.
So before you are so quick to judge John Calipari the man, think about John Calipari the coach.
Because the on-court Cal, is one of the best around.