10 Reasons Why John Calipari is Not the Best Coach in College Basketball
10 Reasons John Calipari isn't the Best Coach in College Basketball
Kentucky Wildcats head coach John Calipari is considered a lot of things. If you're a fan of the man's work, his National Title, or think his hair is the coolest thing this side of the Mississippi, than you will stick up for the 53 year-old recruiting guru. On the other hand, if you prefer your coaches with a little less style you might not like the perceived used car salesman feel Calipari can have.
Regardless of how you feel about him, Calipari is a super-successful coach who seems to get the job done no matter what people think about his swagger. Calipari is a 2 time Naismith Coach of the Year recipient, has 4 NCAA Final Four appearances(depending if we're still counting the Marcus Camby team), a stint in the pros, an overall collegiate record of 505-151(Camby vacated total), and a National Title.
Those are impressive accomplishments for anybody during any era. However, Calipari certainly rubs people the wrong way as his reputation in and out of coaching circles is less than stellar. A prime example is the CBS Sports poll that asked the question, "Who is perceived by college coaches to be the biggest cheater in the sport?". Calipari ran away with it, registering 36 percent of the vote.
Could have been jealousy or just confusion of how another coach is so hugely successful every year while they themselves are not. Unfortunately for Calipari, perception is reality for college hoops fans.
That's why we are going to take a look at "Why John Calipari isn't the Best Coach in the Country" today. Without further ado, or recruiting infractions, here we go...
Yearning for the NBA
John Calipari is hungry for success. That's not a bad trait to have at all for a coach. You would want the leader of young men to be ambitious, self-driven, and have lofty goals. Calipari is all those things and more. It's the same ambition that keeps him near the top of the best coaches in college basketball that knocks him off being the best.
Stability is huge in college basketball and Calipari and the Kentucky Wildcats know this. Following the 2012 title win, Kentucky renegotiated its deal with Calipari guaranteeing him $5.2M annually for his coaching services. That means he's a Kentucky lifer right?
Calipari yearns for being the best at everything he does. So if you're a basketball coach who wants to be the best, you have to do it at the highest level, the NBA.
Already having an unsuccesful stint in the NBA(72-112 overall record), Calipari must yearn to go back and prove himself. This isn't an indictment of the man but he's secretly an NBA guy. He's already coached 28 NBA players....28. The Charlotte Bobcats haven't had 28 NBA type players since it joined the league.
So when you think "Great College Coaches". you don't think of guys who are willing to jump to the NBA given the right circumstance.
He's overly Polarizing
Calipari is polarizing. This isn't totally his fault. Fellow coaches are not a fan of the man, jealous "homer" media members will slander him given every chance, and Calipari himself doesn't do many things to stop their efforts.
Being the head basketball coach of a university is more than just winning on the recruiting trail as well as on the hardwood. The coach is asked to be an extension of the university and make the perception of the school as shiny as a freshly scrubbed toilet.
While other longtime head coaches like Mike Krzyzewski make their universities glaring examples of excellence, Calipari only does one thing for the school, win. Do not graduate, do not become an elder statesmen, do(maybe) not collect $200 dollars, and go straight to the pros.
Calipari not only doesn't graduate kids, they don't learn much while they are there. Let's get something straight first, Calipari doesn't graduate kids because they enter the NBA Draft early. His success as a recruiter bringing in "1 & Done" type players are something to be somewhat celebrated. Whether or not you agree with the "1 & Done" rule has nothing to do with how Calipari takes advantage of it. It's the fact his kids don't learn while at school that's troubling.
A basketball coach is supposed to be more than just a coach, they are to be a teacher. Sadly there's not much book, or any of that kind outside of basketball, learning under Calipari. His "student-athletes" are recruited to play basketball and learn how to be a pro. That's Calipari's recruiting pitch, and while it works nicely, he's not exactly known to push his kids that hard in the classroom.
Here is a Calipari quote he gave USA Today awhile back, “I cannot morally tell a young man that he should stay in school–in the interests of the school, the program or me –when it’s in his best interests and his family’s best interests to go reach his dreams. I couldn't tell (Bill) Gates, ‘Do you know what you did to the integrity of your school by coming out and starting Microsoft?’”
While that's a catchy quote and he's not entirely wrong, Calipari isn't exactly showing the education system some respect. Instead of just speaking the truth, which he would get killed for, that he uses kids for the benefit of his career while they indirectly get a benefit for theirs. That's the simple unspoken truth. Everyone knows this and it's why Calipari doesn't carry much favor in the academic world.
Molding young men to be pros is fine but it's mathematically impossible to think that all of them are going to the NBA. Coaches are teachers, Cal doesn't teach anything except basketball.
There is 1 thing Calipari does as well as recruit and that's vacating wins. UMass had its Final Four run vacated and the 2007-8 Memphis Tigers whole season never happened. These aren't directly tied to Calipari as Marcus Camby took money without him knowing and Derek Rose was cheating on his entrance exam, and at the time, the NCAA told Calipari that having Rose on the team wouldn't result in any punishments down the line. They lied, he lied, everybody lied-lied.
When there's smoke there is fire. Regardless of his "lack" of involvement in both incidents, and under new "Coaching be Held Accountable" rule, Calipari should have a better grip on some institutional control.
Hire Calipari and think you're getting the best coach in college basketball and you might actually get a coach who will win you a lot of games that will be vacated a few years down the road.
Other Coaches(The Field)
We can argue the man all you want. But who's to say if Calipari's hands are clean that he's the best coach in the country anyway. I'm sure coaches around the country with as many, or more, National Titles as Calipari might feel different.
Guys like Mike Krzyzewski, Roy Williams, and Billy Donovan who have multiple titles are still going to coach for sometime. Jim Boeheim, Tom Izzo, Rick Pitino, and Bill Self all have a National Title of their own. Who's to say that those guys aren't better than Calipari.
If you're in Vegas and someone offers you 1 player/team or the field, you take the field. I'm with Vegas as I would go with the field.
This is another example of an "incident" more than his ability as a coach. But while coaching the New Jersey Nets, Calipari referred to sports reporter Dan Garcia as somethings that would be best left said to be racist.
Instead of quoting his questionable comment to Garcia here is the quote of his apology, "I would like to apologize to Dan Garcia for my ill-advised attempt at humor and insensitivity for the remark," Calipari said. "In retrospect, I can understand how the remark could have been misinterpreted. I have apologized to him personally and in writing. In no way was my intent to be derogatory in a racial context, and I am sorry for any pain my remarks have caused."
Judgement is something that a head coach needs. Clearly Calipari needs some work on his.
His most recent famous player is Anthony Davis. You know the human-pogo stick and the man with 1 eyebrow. I don't know about you but when I think of great leaders and great coaches I think of a man or woman who could teach his followers how to have a proper appearance(I'm grasping for negatives here..)
A head coach should know that a man who embraces a single eyebrow is a man who is all about himself. With all my logic being said, the Davis led Wildcats won the National Title his only year on the team.
But what if Davis had 2 eyebrows? Kentucky could have easily won 2 National Titles in 1 year.
It's Calipari's lack of eyebrow control that keeps him from being the country's best coach.
Calipari's only National Title came at Kentucky where he had all the resources a coach needs to win the big one. It's a given the Umass and the Memphis Tigers are "lesser" programs with less resources available for a coach and Calipari never won the title at either destination.
Plenty of current coaches have won National Titles with programs that aren't known as traditional powerhouses. In fact, some of them made their programs into the powerhouses they currently are. Only at Umass did Calipari take a bad program and turn it around. He also left it in shambles and without actually being that successful (thank you Marcus Camby....AGAIN).
While Kentucky faithful will say I'm knitpicking, ask yourself, what's more important to the program: The Kentucky Wildcats brand or Calipari? After you answer the brand, while a school like the Duke Blue Devils answer Mike Krzyzewski, will you realize the importance of resources and how it can help one's career.
Recruiter NOT Coach
Being a "coach" and being a great "recruiter" has somehow been separated when talking about college coaches. It's obvious that you need to be great at both to be the best at your job isn't lost on the sane-minded. It's another one of these perception angles that keep hurting Calipari's chances at being the best coach in the country.
Whenever people talk about the job Calipari is doing at whatever school he's at, the first thing anyone brings up is his great recruiting skill. Very rarely do we hear praise for his Xs and Os like we do with so many other top-level coaches.
I can't sit here and tell you I've broken down game film of Calipari coaching any of his squads but I can tell you nobody else has either. But whenever you're watching a sports show talk about him, notice how nobody talks about his on-court coaching abilities.
You simply can't be considered the best coach in the country if you're not considered one of the best hardwood generals in the as well. Now whether he is or not is up for debate. This is just another example of perception is reality(a running theme).
Almost everything I've previously noted against Calipari being considered the best coach in the country comes down to perception. I actually don't believe most of what I wrote myself but THAT IS THE NATIONAL PERCEPTION of what people think about him.
I think if you were to ask any program in the country if they could lock up any coach in the country for 10 years the answer would be 99/100 John Calipari. If you ask the same questions to fans, alum, or players, the answer would be the same to the same ratio. It's like Calipari is everyone's dirty little secret. Everyone wants him but nobody wants to admit to liking him.
Obviously, Calipari is arguably the best coach in college basketball. If it's not him he's right near the top and you can't name 3 better.
For reasons only known to each individual, it's the perception of the man we created that we hate, which in turn keeps him out of the top spot of best coach in the country.
But Cal, when you get bored at Kentucky, I'd love for you to come coach my favorite team.
Joe covers the Big East for Rant Sports and IS NOT a John Calipari hater. Follow Joe on Twitter @JosephNardone