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Good luck, everyone — NCAA title won’t ‘change’ Calipari

Apr 3, 2012, 3:32 AM EDT

spt-120402-Caltrophy AP

John Calipari maintains Kentucky’s 67-59 win against Kansas on Monday night isn’t that big of a deal for him.

For the program and the hoops-mad state of Kentucky? Oh my, yes.

But for Calipari, a coach on his fourth trip to the Final Four and who had the 2008 title in sight before one 3-pointer, his standard line all week was that a victory wouldn’t change him. It wouldn’t change how he approached coaching, recruiting or life. It’s just another win.

“I feel the same as I did before the game. I don’t feel any different. I’m not going to change who I am,” he said.

That’s actually a fairly standard line among coaches. Roy Williams said the same thing in 2005 when North Carolina gave him his first national title after four previous trips to the Final Four with Kansas. It was something Dean Smith ingrained in Williams and makes sense. One victory shouldn’t define you as a coach. Not in a season a season that can include 40 games.

But it does. And it’ll undoubtedly alter the perception around Calipari.

Not the negative stuff. That’ll never disappear. But any idiotic notions about Calipari’s coaching credentials should finally vanish like a clean look against Anthony Davis.

The Wildcats (38-2) were superior to Kansas in every aspect Monday night, from their defensive scheme to the offensive discipline and unselfishness. There was one hiccup when Kentucky coasted a bit and gave Kansas an opening, but a few adjustments ended that.

The notion that Calipari just recruited the best players, then let them play was always foolish. No coach whose teams post superior numbers year after year is lousy at his job. And to do so with a continually changing group of players, well, that’s not easy no matter how talented those players are.

He’s won using different styles of play, by adjusting to each group’s strengths and by motivating them as well as anyone in the game. Count Kansas coach Bill Self among the people who marvel at Calipari.

“They’ve done a fabulous job coaching their team. They share. They like each other, the appearance is.  And they certainly defend,” he said. “I don’t think their staff gets the credit sometimes that they deserve on how well they coach because they’re so talented”

Same goes for his players.

“It means a lot just because he gives us so much credit anytime we win and he’ll take all the fault if anything goes wrong. Just to win for him is something special,” sophomore Terrence Jones said.

Expect more of the same from Calipari. When his first season in Lexington ended with a 35-3 season and a spot in the Elite Eight, five guys went to the NBA. It delighted Calipari, who wanted more of the same. That’s an awfully canny move now.

“The reason was, I knew now other kids would look and say, ‘You got to go there.’ What I’m hoping is there’s six first-rounders on this team,” he said. “We were the first program to have five, let’s have six.  That’s why I’ve got to go recruiting on Friday.”

When Calipari wins on the recruiting trail, he wins on the court, too. That’s his game. Now that he’s got a title to use when he recruits, who’s gonna slow him down?

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.

  1. florida727 - Apr 3, 2012 at 7:42 AM

    “Now that he’s got a title to use when he recruits, who’s gonna slow him down?”

    Short answer: nobody.

    I’ve said all along his coaching is under-rated, not because he’s a great “game coach”, or recruiter, or whatever, but because who else can take that many egomaniacal 18-year olds who have all been scoring 25+ per game since, like, age 4, always being told they’re “the man”, and get them to play DEFENSE and share the ball? Calipari got them to believe it’s okay to throw a simple chest pass to a wing, cut away from the ball, set a pick for someone else who’s going to do the scoring… “and the NBA scouts will still want ME?” That’s why he’s a great coach.

    • evanhartford - Apr 3, 2012 at 8:35 AM

      Shorter Answer: NBA

      You forget that Calipari’s loyalty is to Calipari. That’s what differentiates him from the all-time great coaches. He’s a locust. He uses programs (and kids) for his own financial gain. He’ll leave Kentucky for an NBA team, probably after this season.

      That’s why he’ll never be as good as the Coach Ks, Boeheims, Calhoun’s, Rupps, Woodens and Smiths of the world. The only “dynasty” he’s building is inside his wallet. I feel sorry for Kentucky fans. They may have their shining moment, but it won’t be more than a flash in the pan. See you in 20 years Wildcats.

      • ice90 - Apr 3, 2012 at 10:05 AM

        You were making a decent point until you put Jim Boeheim and Jim Calhoun into the equation. Calhoun has a horrible graduation rate and UConn is likely to be banned from the post-season next year. I believe Syracuse has a worse graduation rate than Kentucky as well. I’m not a big Calipari fan but at least he doesn’t pretend to be anything that he is not.

      • evanhartford - Apr 3, 2012 at 2:26 PM


        I wasn’t talking about graduation rates. That’s irrelevant. If we’re talking about greatest coaches of all time WITH greatest graduation rates, look no further than Harvard/Yale/Princeton. Big time programs have to deal with players leaving early for the NBA. They might leave in “good academic standing” but regardless they didn’t graduate.

        Calhoun and Boeheim have built dynasties (nearly from scratch) at their given schools. They’ve turned away MILLIONS of dollars from other schools and professional stints and stayed loyal to their schools. They are in a different league than Calipari.

  2. hoopsvader - Apr 3, 2012 at 8:04 AM

    As long as UK has that no salary cap they can pay for the best recruits. Hey, if you can cheat and get away with it go for it.

  3. dinkmaster - Apr 3, 2012 at 9:07 AM

    It won’t change him. Once a cheat, always a cheat. The only coach to ever have two final four appearances taken away. The last two schools he coached had their best seasons erased from the record books while under his watch. Of course, he was never implicated. Just coincidence. Evanhartford knows him well. Crapapari is a self serving jerk and although he is a great recruiter and can be a great coach, he will hoodwink your ass in a heartbeat. He’ll say the right things at the right time to have you eating out of his hand and you won’t even know it till he’s left your ass in the dust. I’m glad for the Kentucky players, but Cal is classless garbage.

  4. tpdsdomer - Apr 3, 2012 at 12:13 PM

    Beautifully stated, dinkmaster! How quickly the media chooses to forget what this guy’s history is. As an Indiana University fan, I watched in horror when they hired mega-cheater Sampson and watched him and his cheating ways destroy what was a great and proud basketball program in Bloomington. Does anybody reading this story think for one second that the same thing won’t eventually happen in Lexington with Coach Cal?! The guy is a cheater and a fraud. PERIOD!!!

  5. carolinakid - Apr 3, 2012 at 12:38 PM

    Maybe in the next two years or so this one will be erased like the other seasons from his previous programs that he ran into the ground on his way out the door.

    Can you say * ?

  6. bringingthepain - Apr 3, 2012 at 1:50 PM

    You beat me to it kid. In a couple years, they will come and pull down the banner and erase the season, just like every other school he’s cheated, I mean coached at. Unbelievable the NCAA hasn’t booted him. Carma is what I’m hoping for.

  7. tpdsdomer - Apr 3, 2012 at 2:48 PM

    If all I knew about Coach Cal was what I’ve heard today on national sports talk radio shows I’d have to believe that this guy is some kind of cross between Billy Graham and Mother Teresa. It’s like nothing that’s ever happened before with this guy and his cheating ever really happened.

    Serves me right for listening to sports talk radio…

  8. txnative61 - Apr 4, 2012 at 7:03 AM

    If Calipari is greedy, totally self serving, and trashes every program on his way to a better job, as portrayed, he certainly didn’t invent this coaching characteristic. His message to recruits is just that. It’s OK to be ambitious and want a high paying NBA career. The rules say you have to let some college and the NCAA profit from your skills first with little pay, and learn to delay gratification of your ultimate desires while maturing and honing those skills. As a coach he offers the best opportunity to showcase and develop those skills without the guilt and recriminations of other programs when players choose to profit themselves, rather than donate the money to others. He may move to the NBA, or he may have found a niche perfectly suited to him and enjoys tutoring star athletes.

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