Columnists around the country weighed in on Kentucky's hiring of John Calipari. Here are some excerpts:
At UMass, a nothing school on the college basketball landscape, John Calipari won like he was at Kentucky. At Memphis, a bigger basketball school than UMass but still nothing much to look at when he got there in 2000, Calipari won again like he was at Kentucky.
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So what happens now that John Calipari is coaching Kentucky?
I'll tell you what happens. Kentucky will win like it's the Boston Celtics.
College basketball as you know it? It's over. That sport doesn't exist anymore because that sport had a semblance of parity. Every year, there is a team that, on paper, is the dominant program in college basketball. And every year it's a different team.
Until now. Until John Calipari merges with Kentucky.
Once Calipari gets Kentucky rolling — and it won't take him long — Kentucky will be that team. That dominant team. Every year?
Yes. Every year.
Things can go wrong, of course. Players can get hurt or ineligible. A scandal can come along out of nowhere, like the one rocking UConn at the moment.
But if none of those things happen ... it's over. College basketball will belong to Kentucky. Turn back the clock 50 or 60 years, because it'll be like that all over again.
Calipari is that good because he attracts that kind of talent. You can question how he attracts that talent, and you can question the character of some of the talent he attracts, and those are legitimate issues for someone to tackle. But those are issues for another day.
Today, the issue is the merger of John Calipari and Kentucky basketball. He's going to get that school rolling again, because that's what he does.
To Mitch Barnhart:
I know in your research you came across many people who love John Calipari — they love the success, the coaching acumen, the energy, the charisma, the community generosity, the battler's spirit, the dreamer's ambition. I've heard those things myself from many people I respect in college basketball.
But I've heard a lot of other things, too. So before you two ride off to restore the glory of Big Blue Nation, a few questions for the AD:
Why didn't you hire Calipari two years ago, or even entertain him as a serious candidate?
Would the apparent change in your perception of Calipari as a UK coaching candidate have anything to do with the fact that your own six-figure job is very much on the line after the Billy Gillispie fiasco?
Memphis is hardly the only place that works package deals. Or has players who get into trouble. Or goes the prep school route. These days, that's accepted as the price of doing business in the big leagues, isn't it?
Well, Calipari manages to stuff that stat sheet on all those fronts.
But with him, you also get 30-plus victories a season for the past four seasons.
That's why you're hiring John Calipari, Mitch. We all get it.
Happy April Fool's Day.
Hopefully, the joke won't end up on you.
Kentucky's hiring of John Calipari from Memphis is the paradigm shift that will force SEC basketball programs to improve.
At Memphis, Calipari had a knack for recruiting the nation's best players. Unlike many SEC coaches, he didn't care whether those players planned to stay for one year or four. Chris Douglas-Roberts and Joey Dorsey made for a fine nucleus, but Memphis never would have reached the NCAA finals last year without one-and-done point guard Derrick Rose. This season, Memphis wouldn't have earned a No. 2 seed and reached the Sweet 16 without one-and-done guard Tyreke Evans. Calipari won't stop recruiting those players just because he's at Kentucky, and why should he?
Calipari will improve the entire SEC because while Conference USA schools didn't have the resources to compete with him, SEC schools do. Florida Coach Billy Donovan will not sit idly by while an Eastern Division rival amasses a stockpile of the nation's best players. Neither will Tennessee Coach Bruce Pearl. And each will have the full support of a wealthy athletic department behind him, which should make for a spectacular arms race.
It is about a six-hour drive from Memphis to Lexington. John Calipari will never find that out because he most certainly will make the trip by private jet. The time frame is significant, though, because that's about how long it will take him to turn Kentucky basketball into a championship contender.
He is that good. Kentucky is that ready. This is why:
1. Calipari is an extraordinary coach. In the past 14 years, six teams have reached the Final Four from non-BCS conferences. He coached two of those teams.
2. He is the college game's best salesman. Calipari sells recruits on joining his teams. He sells the rich guys on supporting the program. He sells the media on whatever his message of the moment might be.
3. He will restock the pond. Presuming Kentucky big man Patrick Patterson and guard Jodie Meeks stick around, they could be joined by a couple of elite recruits. The Wildcats could advance from out of the tournament to Final Four contender as soon as Calipari crosses the border from Tennessee.
4. He will be motivated by the pressure. The extra scrutiny that comes from being the Kentucky coach ultimately will be a pain, but Calipari thrives on attention.
5. He can't afford to fail. He's built his legend as someone who can win big where others have not. Calipari cannot afford to perform poorly where so many others have won championships.
Surely, Kentuckians have noticed that the nation is teetering on the brink of economic calamity, and that one out of every 10 people in their state is unemployed. They have to know that companies are closing, people are losing their houses, and that even the president says things are likely to get worse before they get better.
Yet they stand and cheer when a taxpayer-supported university spends $32 million for a coach while at the same time the budget for professors and everyone else at the state's universities is being cut and the state is digging into its "rainy day" money to stop further bleeding?
Someday, historians are going to look back at this period and try to figure it out. They won't be able to because there's no rational reason for the irrational exuberance of fans who simply don't know any better.