From the Department of Being Careful What You Wish For: Kentucky basketball fans have spent years longing for their hoops program to again be like it was in the mid-1990s.
Now one of the predominant themes of UK basketball in the Rick Pitino era is back in a big way.
Unfortunately, it's not (yet) a Final Four trip.
Nope, UK's current version of That '90s Show features the comeback of unceasing speculation that the UK head hoops coach is going to the NBA.
Meet the new boss, same as the old boss?
Just last Friday, John Calipari took to Twitter to proclaim his intention to be the Kentucky coach next season.
Yet on Monday, UK fans awoke to find that both The Chicago Tribune and New York's Newsday were reporting that the ubiquitous basketball power broker William Wesley — Worldwide Wes — was working back channels to facilitate a LeBron James/Calipari package deal to NBA franchises in financial position to bid on the Cleveland Cavaliers star.
Most of the rest of Monday was filled with various denials, but you had to wonder about a smoke/fire scenario given that the information turned up in two reputable newspapers in two different cities.
You couldn't blame Kentucky followers for feeling they were riding on Déjà Vu Boulevard. Back in the 1990s, Pitino-to-the-NBA speculation became as much a spring rite in the commonwealth as the blooming of the dogwoods.
We have before us a genuine spectacle. In the history of American sports, there has never been anything quite like the impending free agency of James.
The two-time reigning NBA MVP is only 25. In theory, he should still have his prime playing years ahead of him. So we will have open bidding for arguably the most hyped American athlete of all-time (non-Tiger Woods division).
To paraphrase Terrell Owens, get your popcorn, it's gonna be a show.
Not that it is going to be an especially enjoyable one for many in the commonwealth. Until The Chosen One chooses, it now seems clear that speculation linking his friend Calipari to coaching NBA teams that are wooing James is not going to stop.
So what are the odds that Calipari actually ends up with King James in some NBA locale next season?
Based on nothing other than my own surmising, I'd say slim.
The reason is not because Cal left himself so little wiggle room last week with his public intention to coach at Kentucky in 2010-11.
If you recall the coach's introductory news conference last spring when he accepted the UK job, one of the first questioners was a Memphis TV reporter asking him why, only three days earlier, Cal had told her on camera he would not be leaving Memphis.
Big-time coaches live in a world of Sabanic (as in Nick) values. When it comes to commenting on potential jobs, most tend to say whatever is expedient in the moment.
The reason I'm fairly certain that Calipari will not be coaching James next season is this:
It would not work.
A scenario in which it is perceived that a star player hand-picked a team's head coach has about as much chance to succeed as Glenn Beck has to be named Man of the Year by MoveOn.org.
Any coach in the "hand-picked" scenario would have a very hard time earning respect from the other players on a roster.
Such a coach would have difficulty asserting any authority over the star upon whom the coach's employment is perceived to depend.
James claims his number one priority going forward is finding a situation that allows him to compete for championships.
If so, personally hand-picking a head coach as a condition of signing with a team — or even being perceived to have done so — is about the best way imaginable to undermine that aspiration.
As bad ideas go, it's a basketball version of New Coke.
If The King and his brain trust — including agent Leon Rose and Worldwide Wes — are as sharp as you hear, they have to see that.
From the other side, it's hard to imagine that a clever operator like Calipari doesn't see that, too.
Which is why, once the sound and fury of LeBron-apalooza ends this summer, the University of Kentucky is NOT going to be looking for its fourth basketball coach in the past five years.