“When Memphis fans heard that their stellar basketball coach, John Calipari, would probably leave the Tigers for the University of Kentucky, many people couldn’t believe it. We’re all stunned, Dave Woloshin, Memphis’ play-by-play announcer said yesterday on ESPN.””
When Memphis fans heard that their stellar basketball coach, John Calipari, would probably leave the Tigers for the University of Kentucky, many people couldn’t believe it.
We’re all stunned, Dave Woloshin, Memphis’ play-by-play announcer said yesterday on ESPN.
In the past few decades, the majority of big-time college coaches have become self-reliant free agents rather than the faces of their schools.
Remember last week when Calipari said that he loved Memphis, the place where he wanted to be?
Don’t pay attention.
Anyone who wasn’t under a rock two years ago remembers when then-Miami Dolphins coach Nick Saban owned the sports-talk airwaves when he took the head-coaching job at the University of Alabama after spending two years with the Miami Dolphins. Only weeks before he announced the move, Saban repeatedly denied talks with the Crimson Tide, at one point blatantly saying, I’m not going to be the Alabama coach. Less than a month later, Saban was trying on an Alabama hat for the press conference.
Grow up, Memphis fans, and realize that big-time collegiate coaches are concerned with two things- legacy and money.
Calipari seems to have everything he could want in his situation with Memphis: a great team, enthusiastic fans, a hefty contract and the nation’s best recruiting class.
Apparently, all that is not enough.
Understand that Calipari really wants to align himself with the greatest coaches of all time. As a man who studied under Larry Brown at Kansas and the Philadelphia 76ers, he has learned from the best. His courtside demeanor radiates passion for winning, and one can only guess that he contains the same relentless drive for his personal and professional goals.
Although he invented the dribble-drive offense and has reached success at all levels, including an NCAA championship appearance with the Tigers, Calipari has yet to reach basketball immortality.
Reviving one of the country’s most storied sports programs would be the catalyst Coach Cal would need to be considered one of the greatest alongside Coach K and Roy Williams.
Oh, and there’s one other guy in the equation: Slick Rick Pitino.
Back in 1988, Pitino actually helped Calipari get his first head-coaching gig at Massachusetts. Four years later, UMass and Pitino’s Kentucky team met in the Sweet Sixteen. A game-changing technical call was called on Calipari, who to this day believes it was called due to constant goading by Pitino.
Through the years, the rift between the two coaches grew wider as Pitino accused Calipari of attempting to sway the referee’s decisions before the teams even met. When Pitino’s Louisville moved from Conference USA to the Big East in 2005, they bought out its $1 million contract with Calipari’s Memphis team because Pitino wanted nothing to do with the Tigers.
With Calipari at the helm of the Kentucky comeback, the longstanding interstate rivalry between the Wildcats and Pitino’s Louisville will have another intriguing layer.
Kentucky’s rebound could happen quicker than expected, especially if Calipari’s prized recruits follow him into the bluegrass. Several of them have given signs that they would follow the star coach wherever he goes.
Calipari’s has already landed DeMarcus Cousins, the No. 2 prospect in the country, and he is reportedly close to securing the nation’s top senior, John Wall.
My point: Reviving such a classic rivalry between teams and coaches would secure Calipari’s place in college basketball history and make the game all the more fun to watch. Who could blame him for that?