10 Reasons Why John Calipari is the Best Coach in College Basketball
10 Reasons Why John Calipari IS the Best Coach in College Basketball
There is a college basketball coach who gets so much scrutiny it's hard to tell what's true and what's jealousy. He's the same coach that, no matter where he coaches, he wins a lot of games. It's Kentucky Wildcats head coach John Calipari and he's fresh off a National Title.
As recently as yesterday some awkwardly handsome gentleman put forth 10 reasons Calipari is NOT the best coach in college basketball. Reasons that are all left to the idea of perception. He's used car salesman feel, vacated wins(mostly through no fault of his), and the like were all out on display. And while perception is viewed as reality, it isn't always factual.
Calipari has been a winner in every college program he's ever took over. From the UMass Minutemen, Memphis Tigers, all the way to Kentucky. Those are undeniable facts and can't be argue with hearsay or a third-person source.
Calipari came from mildly humble beginnings in Moon Township, PA. and a guard for the Clarion University Golden Eagles. He also used every oppertunitty he was afforded and made the absolute most out of it. The fact he took a down and out UMass program all the way to the Final Four has seemed to be lost over time and in it's place is the memory of NBA failure.
It's far easier to pick on someone after they've become successful. It's the "build them up to tear them down" thing we do in sports media. But you can't argue with Calipari's accomplishments not matter what you think of the man behind the charm.
That's why we are going to look at "10 Reasons why John Calipari IS the best College Basketball Coach". Off we go...
Nobody in the country is as solid a recruiter as Calipari. In fact, solid isn't even the most appropriate word. Every off-season Calipari hits the recruiting trails and comes home with the best talent in the country. Other programs would be lucky to scoop up 1 top 100 prospect in the land but Calipari regularly comes home with the very least 3.
He convinced Marcus Camby to come to UMass, a trail of High School sensations to come to Memphis, and uses the Kentucky Wildcats tradition to his benefit. Calipari could convince a rich person to live in a cardboard box if it was his goal.
There isn't another coach in the country who can do what he does on the recruiting trail. Not a single coach.
Brings Instant Hope
Calipari and his recruiting ability lends itself to winning a lot of games. What he brings to a program is instant hope. While UMass might not have known what they had when they hired him, they sure found out after he left.
At UMass, Calipari led UMass to five consecutive Atlantic 10 titles and NCAA Tournament appearances. Not only was that unheard of for the program but it's the equivalent of taking Boiste St. football and making it a nationally known product.
And believe it or not he did it in the the beginning without a lot of talent. Which leads us to...
He is a way better on the floor coach than people give him credit for. The knock on Calipari is, while he's a great recruiter, he isn't overly effective with his Xs and Os. Well that perception of Calipari is wrong.
A prime example of his coaching abilities is his time with the UMass program. Here is a quote from Pat Forde(Was a ESPN CBB analysts back in the day),
"Calipari's greatest strength as a coach is his ability to create teams that play together. His 1992 Massachusetts team remains one of the most overachieving units The Minutes has ever seen, featuring a shooting guard with range so limited he made one 3-pointer all season (Jim McCoy), a 6-foot-3 power forward (Will Herndon), and a left-handed center who stood all of 6-7 (Harper Williams). Somehow, that collection of marginal talent went 30-5 and advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16."
Bad coaches can't win as many games and go to the Sweet 16 with that kind of lineup but Calipari did. Don't let his ability as the best recruiter in the country diminish your views of him being a great hardwood general.
Ambition was looked at one of his faults in the "10 Reasons Calipari is NOT the best College Coach" but it's certainly a strength worth having. In that article the argument was made that Calipari will undoubtedly try and make a return to the NBA because of his drive, the fact of the matter is, Calipari doesn't rest on his current success.
Being 53 years-old and coming fresh off a Nation Title nobody would blame Calipari for taking a breather. Well, Calipari would hate himself. Not sitting back and enjoying his spoils, Calipari went on the recruiting trail and landed, again, the best recruiting class in the country.
It's his ambition that puts him ahead of the rest. Nobody works harder in the off-season, to make sure during the season, success on the court will be had.
He's a Winner
He's a winner. It's plain and simple. Calipari has amassed an overall record of 505 victories over 21 years as a collegiate coach. I'm not a math major but that's just over 24 wins a season. Take in to consideration he took over a flailing UMass program and a forgotten about Memphis squad, makes that number all much more amazing.
You can't argue his success. If you try, you'll come off bitter or jealous. The fact that all but 3 teams he coached made it to the NCAA Tournament is dumbfounding(First 3 UMass squads failed to make it to March, 2 made it to the NIT's however).
Find me a coach who can win you nearly 25 games a year and I'll find you a winner and a guy who's name will be talked about as the best coach in the country.
Student-Athletes to Pros
Calipari also has a gift that some people consider a curse, he turns student-athletes into pros. Nobody in the country takes advantage of the "One and Done" rule like he does. He doesn't abuse the rule but takes advantage of it.
His colleagues do a great job of building programs with seniors and juniors, Cal takes the best incoming group of freshmen in the country and overwhelms opponents with talent. He also helps that talent achieve their goals, getting drafted to an NBA squad.
Calipari has taken 28 of his players and helped them get to the NBA. While college is supposed to be about education, Calipari knows these kids come play for him for one reason, to become a professional basketball player.
It's his ability to separate what the public thinks it wants to know about student-athletes, to what the student-athletes actually wants, that separates him from everyone else.
While the NCAA wants you to know "99 percent of student-athletes go pro i something other than sports", Calipari wants his guys to know, if that's their goal to go to the NBA, he will make sure they're amply equipped to handle it.
Other Coaches Want to be Him(Jealousy)
Calipari makes other coaches jealous. You might find yourself asking how does that make him the top coach in the country. The answer is simple, they are jealous of him because he is the best.
Read, write, or listen to whatever all the skeptics say about Calipari. As far as most people factually know the man is as clean as they come. Whispers seem to be coming from jealous rivals and bitter media members. But nothing against Calipari himself has been proven to knock his reputation down a level.
Despite his UMass led Marcus Camby Final Four team not counting and his 07-08 Tigers squad never existing, none of that is directly tied to Calipari himself. Still people want to tie all of that to him and use it as a means to damage his reputation.
The reason people are doing that is they can't comprehend how one man can be so successful. Coaches and the like have a right to be jealous, nobody does what Calipari does, and making them jealous while doing it only moves him up the coach ranking ladder(fictitious I know).
Hasn't Forgotten about the Big Men
Calipari also has done a terrific job coaching big men. It might sound odd, but considering the big men position is supposed to be dead, Calipari has a history of churning out some quality power forwards and centers.
Marcus Camby, Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, are just a few guys that Calipari has coached. Those are all NBA level-players who came from a Calipari coached squad and is, or will be, enjoying success in the NBA. Calipari isn't done with the big man quite yet either after recruiting Nerlens Noels to the Wildcats.
While most known for getting lottery-pick like point guards to his program, the fact that Calipari hasn't forgotten about the big man is something a lot of his colleagues wish they have thought of. While the game is forever evolving to a guard/small forward game in the pros, Calipari has done a tremendous job of not copying a trend and making his own in college.
Potential and Projection
He's only 53. It might sound old to you kids out there but in the big boy coaching fraternity it is not. Almost all of the coaches on his level, with possibly the exception of Billy Donovan, are at the very least a whole decade older.
This matters simply because the best days of Calipari are actually ahead of him and his potential of a coach might have not been reached yet. It's like a number 1 overall draft pick staying in college for 4 years with people knowing what they are getting but still expecting him to grow exponentially as a player.
If Calipari wanted to and stayed healthy, he could easily coach another 15 years at the least. With his 24 wins per season ration that would leave him with 865 wins when his career is done. That's assuming he doesn't exceed his 24 wins a season or prefers not to coach into his 70's. At the rate he's been at more recently of over 30 wins a year at Kentucky, Calipari could easily accomplish 1000 victories in his collegiate coaching career.
Not many coaches are on that career arc as Calipari. In fact nobody is outside of Mike Krzyzewski who's currently at 927 wins but because of his health and age(65) isn't as likely to be around for another 10 years. Don't think for one second that if Coach K is retired and Calipari isn't chasing down the all-time wins record that Cal won't stick around for a few extra years to break it and have his name written down in the record book.
Potential and projection is a funny think baseball writers like to use to formulate a way to evaluate MLB prospects. We just did it with Calipari and if baseball writers do it, it must be true.
Calipari might actually be a Kentucky lifer if they are willing to have him until he retires. The stability with being a lifer at one program will grant him even greater benefits on the recruiting trail(it's scary but possible) and will help build Calipari's image to one of respect.
The resources that a Kentucky program have is invaluable and none of that is lost on Calipari. The biggest rivals of Cal are all lifers at their program and might be the only legitimate argument left against having him known as the best coach in the country. It goes all the way back to that obnoxious perception angle.
If Calipari was to stick around Kentucky for a few more years the perception of the man will start to change. When the perception of him starts moving away from "used car salesman" to the foundation of Kentucky hoops, Calipari's star will only burn brighter.
Everything you think you know hinges on how you feel about the man. If you like him, you'll like him no matter what you've read or heard about the man. You'll take his accomplishments for what they are and not for how whispering people say he got them. If you don't like him, for whatever the reason(justified or not), nothing Calipari does will ever change the perception you have of him.
I'm glad my editor afforded me the opportunity to write both sides of the "10 Reasons Calipari is/is not" slideshow. I'm an unbiased/objective person who doesn't have anything at stake with Calipari. But it was fairly easy for me to make a claim that he was the best coach in college as it was that he was not.
It's more of a preference or opinion who one thinks is the best college coach in the country. There is about 5 guys in the land that the argument could be made and none of them are wrong. But given his age, projection, recruiting abilities, and the fact he's at Kentucky, nobody over the next 10 years will be as successful as Calipari and there's no debate in that.
Joe covers the Big East for Rant Sports. Follow him on the Twitter machine if you dare @JosephNardone