Nov 7, 2012, 7:27 PM EDT
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.
Sep 23, 2014, 3:57 PM EDT
The Final Four hasn’t been played in the western United States since 1995.
Sep 23, 2014, 2:32 PM EDT
Illinois now has three commitments in the Class of 2015, and there’s still a five-star point guard on the board that they’re pursuing.
Sep 23, 2014, 2:20 PM EDT
The 6-foot-8 forward has two years of eligibility remaining.
Sep 23, 2014, 2:05 PM EDT
This facility is a nice boost for a basketball program that has made one NCAA tournament appearance since 1992.
Sep 23, 2014, 12:55 PM EDT
The two-day camp will be held October 4-5 in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Sep 23, 2014, 11:27 AM EDT
Breanna Stewart is the lone current college player among the finalists, with the team playing one final exhibition before the world championships begin September 27.
Sep 23, 2014, 10:10 AM EDT
The former Virginia Tech big man will work hard in 2014-15 with an eye towards being a primary option in 2015-16.
Sep 22, 2014, 10:40 PM EDT
De’Aaron Fox is one to watch in the 2016 class.
Sep 22, 2014, 9:00 PM EDT
Purdue is offering to sell old game films using a company that hopes to do the same with over 600 colleges.
Sep 22, 2014, 7:47 PM EDT
Florida State added a big man in 2015 to go along with its three talented perimeter threats.
Sep 22, 2014, 6:45 PM EDT
The Wolfpack have some new threads for the upcoming season.
Sep 22, 2014, 5:30 PM EDT
Creighton picked up a point guard in the 2015 class on Monday.
CBT’s Recruiting Roundup: Nebraska invades Chicago, Wake Forest lands big recruit, Wisconsin gets another system fit
Sep 22, 2014, 4:30 PM EDT
News and notes from around the world of college basketball recruiting.
Sep 22, 2014, 3:54 PM EDT
The image places alongside a column on the recent USA Basketball debate caused an uproar in the Bluegrass State.
Sep 22, 2014, 3:44 PM EDT
Kevin Stallings’ young team will play away from Nashville three times before the start of SEC play, with two of those games being played on a neutral court.
Sep 22, 2014, 2:20 PM EDT
The St. Anthony product is a valuable recruit for each of the remaining schools, as they all have the eventual loss of current seniors to account for.
Sep 22, 2014, 12:39 PM EDT
Having landed commitments from three forwards, the Flyers added a piece for their backcourt on Monday.
Sep 22, 2014, 11:58 AM EDT
The Simeon HS forward officially visited Nebraska this weekend, and both of his parents attended the school as well.
Sep 22, 2014, 10:26 AM EDT
Fans have three different designs from which to choose, with the winning option scheduled to be revealed next Monday.
Sep 21, 2014, 11:15 PM EDT
The Tigers, who won 25 games last season, landed their first commitment in the Class of 2015 Sunday night.
- Four-star 2015 shooting guard commits to Illinois 0
- Florida State gets commitment from 7-foot-4 2015 center 1
- CBT’s Recruiting Roundup: Nebraska invades Chicago, Wake Forest lands big recruit, Wisconsin gets another system fit 0
- Four-star forward becomes Nebraska’s third 2015 commitment 0
- Wake Forest lands four-star point guard in Class of 2015 0
- CBT’s Recruiting Roundup: Boston College, Illinois, LSU have big visitors 0
- Kentucky’s John Calipari offers his thoughts on USA Basketball critiques 0
- Jim Boeheim calls Yahoo’s Coach K story ‘completely off-base’ (8)
- Jalen Rose believes Chris Webber should apologize for what happened at Michigan (5)
- Bo Ryan hits golf balls into Wisconsin’s Camp Randall Stadium (PHOTO) (4)
- Watch Kentucky fans sprinting to line up for Big Blue Madness tickets (VIDEO) (2)
- Coach K responds to USA Basketball criticism during press conference (2)