Nov 7, 2012, 7:27 PM EST
Earlier today, ESPN published a terrific feature on John Calipari and the Kentucky program breaking down precisely how Coach Cal has managed to build Kentucky into the nation’s preeminent college basketball program.
And it’s simple, really: marketing.
Coach Cal is a very good basketball coach, but when it comes to x’s-and-o’s, he’s not one of the nation’s elite. All things being equal, I’d say there are probably ten coaches — maybe more — who I’d take to coach my team in a one game playoff before Cal. He’s an excellent recruiter and always has been, but he’s never been able to recruit at this level before; with the possible exception of those UCLA teams in the 1970′s, no one has.
What’s gotten him to this level is his ability to promote his program and the way that he does things at Kentucky. And there’s no better example than the one that King provided in the lead of his story:
Two days before his team’s first official practice of the season, the most polarizing — and, lately, most successful — figure in college basketball has the sudden urge to chase down Charlie Sheen.
John Calipari had spotted the Hollywood actor a few minutes earlier during a Cincinnati Reds playoff game, when both celebs were in the same suite.
With a Bloody Mary in his left hand and a Marlboro Red clamped between his fingers, Sheen places his right arm around Calipari, who’s dressed in a suit. Both men smile as a bystander snaps a picture with the coach’s cell phone. Hours later, in his office back in Lexington, Calipari is still giddy about the encounter — but not for the reasons you’d expect.
Calipari calls up the photo and then hands his phone to associate athletics director DeWayne Peevy, who manages his social media accounts.
“We’ve got to get this picture out on Twitter,” Calipari says. “It’ll generate some talk, don’t you think? How many followers does Charlie Sheen have?”
Peevy informs Calipari that more than 8 million people track Sheen on the popular site. The coach reclines in his black leather chair and grins.
“Tweet it,” he says.
That’s all it takes.
Cal has made himself more than simply a basketball coach. He’s a celebrity. He rubs elbows with the biggest names in basketball and the biggest names in hip-hop. He thrives on the attention, and there is no program in the country where he’ll receive more attention than at Kentucky. Why do you think he gave ESPN unlimited access to his program, not only for this story, but for the ‘All-Access: Kentucky’ TV show that aired. He knew what kind of attention that would bring his program, and he knew that ESPN would eat it up because of the number of eye balls that would be on TV screens when the shows aired.
It’s made him one of the most polarizing coaches in the country. Some people hate him. Others deify him. Me? I love the way he runs his program, but I also realize that everything that comes out of his mouth — especially when their are tape recorders rolling — is spoken for a reason. Everything has spin. Every interview he grants, he grants for a reason. He goes into every press conference with a game-plan.
But the most important thing to note with Coach Cal is that regardless of how you feel about him, he does use his influence in a way that benefits more people than just the prospects who will likely be making millions of NBA dollars regardless of where they go to school.
Take, for example, the Hoops for Haiti telethon he hosted back in 2010 that raised more than $1 million for earthquake victims. Or the $75,000 he raised for Kentucky’s Children Hospital by simply tweeting out a code to give when ordering a Papa John’s pizza. Or the telethon that he’s hosting on Wednesday night to help victims of Hurricane Sandy.
If you want to call John Calipari a glorified used car salesman, I probably wouldn’t disagree with you. If you wanted to say that the real purpose of the charitable ventures was to build up public support if he’s ever caught “cheating”, I’d call you a cynic, but probably not that far off.
But at the end of the day, regardless of the reasons behind it, Cal is raising a ton of money for people that are in need of the donations.
And that’s a point that simply cannot be glossed over.
Dec 21, 2013, 12:30 PM EST
After weeks of speculation, Florida officially announced that transfer center Damontre Harris is officially no longer with the team, according to Kevin Brockway of the The Gainsville Sun. Florida announces C Damontre Harris officially no longer with team.— Kevin Brockway (@gatorhoops) December 21, 2013 Harris transferred to the Gators from South Carolina after averaging 6.8 points, 5.5…
Dec 21, 2013, 12:00 PM EST
Arizona State will get an immediate boost to its rotation as Michigan State transfer Brandan Kearney is eligible to play for the Sun Devils on Saturday against Texas Tech after sitting out a year due to NCAA transfer rules. Kearney averaged 2.3 points in 16.9 minutes last season as a sophomore at Michigan State, but…
Dec 21, 2013, 11:20 AM EST
Junior point guard Mike Powell has opted to transfer out of Rhode Island, according to a release from the University. The Chicago native lost his starting job to Texas Tech transfer Biggie Minnis after starting seven of the first nine games this season as Powell was struggling to produce. Powell averaged 2.6 points in 15…
Dec 21, 2013, 10:30 AM EST
If you like dunks, surely you remember high school phenom Seventh Woods’ mixtape from his freshman season last year. Well, the springy sophomore is at it again, this time with an absurd dunk over a defender at the Chik-Fil-A Classic. While the dunk by Woods is obviously fantastic, it might be the reaction of the…
Dec 21, 2013, 9:40 AM EST
GAME OF THE DAY: No. 5 Michigan State at Texas (4 p.m., CBS) A banged-up Spartans team travels to Austin for its first true road game of the season on Saturday as Rick Barnes and Texas hope to continue to surpass preseason expectations. Texas has a big chance at home to capitalize on an already…
Dec 21, 2013, 12:54 AM EST
GAME OF THE NIGHT: Minnesota 92, Nebraska-Omaha 79 — Friday nights in college hoops tend to be quiet, but Minnesota and Omaha put on a show at The Barn tonight with the Gophers holding on for the win. Deandre Mathieu led all scorers with 27 points for Minnesota. IMPORTANT OUTCOMES 1) SMU went on the…
Dec 21, 2013, 12:27 AM EST
In Ivy League basketball circles, which soon expanded to national basketball circles at the conclusion of the 2013 NCAA Tournament, all of the talk during the summer months revolved around Harvard. Rightfully so, to an extent. The Crimson returned virtually their entire team, along with welcoming back Kyle Casey and Brandyn Curry. They were the…
Dec 20, 2013, 11:37 PM EST
On the surface, Minnesota leading Nebraska-Omaha — who is in just their second year of playing a schedule comprised of almost exclusively Division I competition — 83-77 with just minutes remaining in regulation may seem like a lackluster effort by the Golden Gophers. That’s far from the case. Minnesota played well. Their potent offense ran…
Dec 20, 2013, 9:15 PM EST
Syracuse blew out High Point on Friday evening, 75-54. If you can believe it, however, High Point actually led Syracuse early in the second half, 40-39. The Orange would then go on a 28-3 run. Midway through the run, C.J. Fair did this. Follow @KLDoyle11
Dec 20, 2013, 7:30 PM EST
Expectations were high heading into the 2013-14 season for the University of Denver. The Pioneers returned their top player in Chris Udofia, and were coming off a season where they finished 22-10, but 16-2 in the WAC — they have since transitioned to the Summit League after the dust settled from conference realignment. In their…
Dec 20, 2013, 6:30 PM EST
University of Rhode Island sophomore forward Mike Aaman was recently assaulted at an off-campus house in Narragansett, RI, and will be out of the Rams’ lineup indefinitely, the Providence Journal’s Kevin McNamara reported. Aaman, who has been sidelined for the past six games following severe stomach cramps — resulting in an emergency appendectomy — he experienced during…
Dec 20, 2013, 5:15 PM EST
Not only was Jerran Young’s dunk against Eastern Illinois a monstrous throw-down, but it came off of a set out-of-bounds play from the baseline. This was pre-meditated, and head coach Billy Donlon certainly was keeping this in his holster for an opportune time. Unrelated to the dunk, Wright State needed this win against Eastern Illinois…
Dec 20, 2013, 3:49 PM EST
Louisville will be down a player in the front court when they take on FIU Saturday afternoon, as the school announced that freshman forward Akoy Agau has been suspended indefinitely. The school did not specify a reason for the disciplinary measure in the statement released on Friday afternoon. Agau hasn’t seen a large amount of…
Dec 20, 2013, 3:00 PM EST
GAME OF THE NIGHT: Pacific vs. Princeton (10:30 p.m., in Las Vegas) Ron Verlin’s Tigers were picked to finish in the bottom half of the WCC in their first season as a member of the conference, and through nine games Pacific has the look of a team capable of exceeding those expectations. Their lone defeat…
Dec 20, 2013, 1:56 PM EST
Hours after his team took care of UCLA on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden, Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski appeared on the “Dan Patrick Show” on Friday morning to discuss his team’s performance to date among multiple topics. One of the topics had nothing to do with the action on the floor, as Bruce…
Dec 20, 2013, 1:09 PM EST
When it was announced prior to North Carolina’s game against Texas on Wednesday night that senior guard Leslie McDonald was eligible to play, many wondered when there would be a decision regarding the status of junior guard P.J. Hairston. However unlike McDonald, North Carolina had yet to apply for reinstatement on Hairston’s behalf, instead continuing…
Dec 20, 2013, 12:17 PM EST
The second annual Governor’s Holiday Hoops Classic will be played at the Richmond Coliseum on Saturday afternoon, with the doubleheader matching four of Virginia’s 14 Division I men’s basketball programs. In the opener Hampton takes on James Madison, with the Dukes looking to round into shape after winning the CAA tournament and making its first…
Dec 20, 2013, 11:30 AM EST
After averaging a respectable 8.8 points and 5.1 rebounds per game as a freshman, Dayton sophomore wing Dyshawn Pierre’s picked up where he left off for the Flyers. Currently averaging 10.7 points and 6.0 rebounds per contest and shooting 50.0% from the field, Pierre’s one of the reasons why Archie Miller’s team is off to…
Dec 20, 2013, 10:45 AM EST
Vin Parise from CBT caught up with Manhattan head coach Steve Masiello. The Jaspers are 8-2 and one of the hottest mid-majors in the country right now. CBT: Steve, let’s start out with the most recent win in your 5 game winning streak – your road victory at South Carolina. Masiello: It was proud night…
Dec 20, 2013, 10:00 AM EST
GAME OF THE WEEKEND: No. 7 Oklahoma State vs. No. 20 Colorado, 11:30 p.m. Sat. (all times eastern) A pair of former Big 12 rivals square off out in Las Vegas as Marcus Smart will lead his Cowboys into battle with Tad Boyle’s impressive Colorado squad. The Buffaloes have already split with the other two…
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