With the recent induction of Louisville head coach Rick Pitino into the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame. Fresh off of winning the national title last season, he becomes the fourth active coach to be inducted. While Pitino reigned supreme in 2013, Kentucky head coach John Calipari is looking to get his Wildcats back atop the college basketball throne. Both Calipari and Pitino have been portrayed by their fan bases as bitter rivals, going as far as to say they hate each other even off the sidelines. While they both dispute the claim, they have plenty of history between them. Besides the 2012 Final Four, Pitino and Calipari met in the national semifinals of the 1996 NCAA Tournament when Pitino’s Kentucky Wildcats knocked off Calipari’s UMass squad on their way to the title. Now that Pitino has been inducted into the Hall of Fame, does Calipari get a call too?
John Calipari is the master motivator. He is arguably the best recruiter in college basketball history. Believe it or not, that may hurt him in the long run. Many point to Calipari’s successes at UMass, Memphis and Kentucky and say it was because of his recruiting and less about his x’s and o’s. It’s not hard to win with guys like Marcus Camby, Dajuan Wagner, Derrick Rose, John Wall and Anthony Davis sitting on your bench. The scandals at UMass and Memphis, which lead to wins and banners being taken away, still haunt Calipari as he patrols the sidelines in Lexington. Many fear he is too shady and has too much of a bad past to be in the position he occupies now. When will it all blow up in Kentucky’s face? The many haters of Calipari will rejoice in the streets if his 2011 and 2012 banners come burning down from the Rupp Arena rafters due to another investigation from the NCAA.
Calipari has averaged a national-best 32.5 wins per season in the last eight years. In that span, he has been to three Final Fours and won the 2012 National Championship. The scary part is his ability to reload and recruit the best of the best to come to Lexington. Many detractors find it so easy to have all of these freshmen loaded with NBA talent on his teams. The realization is Calipari motivates his players to be better than they already are. Most are coddled and cared for during their high school careers. He brings the tough love when they come to college. To be able to manage all those egos, teach them to play defense and play selfless basketball is a remarkable feat for anyone. Calipari just does it every single year.
Due to his checkered past, Calipari may not hear the phone ring immediately from the Naismith Hall of Fame. I could see them waiting till he hangs them up for good for bestowing the honor upon him. Despite the fact that the NCAA has never charged him with any wrong doing, he takes the brunt of the scandal. While opposing fans may heckle about SAT scores, Calipari will just keep on winning. He already has one title under his belt, and should have more waiting in the wings. Adding more titles and winning more games will only solidify his place in history. Love him or hate him, the man can flat out coach and is worthy of the accolades.
Brian Lewis is an SEC Basketball Writer for RantSports.com. You can add him to your network on Google for more of his work.