The Calipari Legacy

You hate broccoli or you love it. There is no middle ground or grey area. The same theory is applicable to coaches. Some people loathe the name Calipari while others celebrate it. Many were celebrating last night after Kentucky’s win over the Kansas Jayhawks.  Living in Memphis gave me first hand accounts of Calipari and his genius, nevermind the fact that I have played 18 holes of Putt-Putt behind he and his son only days after his hip surgery. Or the time he and his children were gallivanting around the 12th green at Galloway Golf Course while I accidentally rolled a few tee shots in their direction. During his tenure in Memphis he galvanized a city and created a culture unlike any other this city had seen. Then he left.

Name calling, disavowed allegiances were sworn, and hatred festered for a slick-haired Italian crook. Well, I for one did not participate in this mob-like mentality. He left for a better job. Get over it. Yes, I was disappointed that MY team no longer had his goon squad of recruiters or his charismatic demeanor that soothed and calmed every worry. He went to another Blue school, who desperately needed to win again. So what did he do? He won. He won a lot. Calipari still hasn’t lost in Rupp Arena. Memphis fans hate him because he’s winning elsewhere – his character never came into question when he was the orchestrator of the Tigers success.

Here’s what people need to realize: he’s damn good at what he does. He’s like the kid in school who always “borrows” something from your lunch but never pays you back, and you know what, you are okay with it because he never just “takes,” he always asks. Calipari has done such a phenomenal job of intoxicating fans with his charm that they casually slough off any evidence of maleficences. HE just tricked me into using a very eloquent word instead of a more harsh and blunt description. Touche Calipari.

As Charles Barkley said so poignantly last night, “It ain’t like John Wooden had scrubs to coach! All these idiots in the media need to realize Calipari can coach.” I couldn’t have said it better Sir Charles. Cal won with a team most expected to win. This has not been the case in the past. He has always had talent around him, but what separates him from a Bruce Pearl and other coaches is that he maximizes talent. He has an innate ability to show these kids their full potential and he demands they play at that level all the time. The most frightening part about this whole story is John Calipari isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. His snowball rolling down the hill of college basketball is going to continue to engulf 5 star athletes on its path to the bottom, and this seems to be a very long, decent, down. Is his proverbial bottom NCAA infractions and sanctions? No. Is it the NBA? No. It is retirement. He loves coaching young folk and helping provide an avenue to brighten their future.

Calipari’s legacy will not be attached to the schools he coaches. His brand is loyalty to the players, which helps prepare and expedite the process of reaching the NBA. UMass, Memphis, and Kentucky are just the cash cows feeding the Calipari name. He validated himself last night to those who still questioned his ability. You can’t dislike the guy. He enjoys winning just as much as the next coach, but even in his crowning moment as a coach he deflected attention from his accolades back to the kids. If Calipari were disingenuous, he would have soaked up that moment for all the glory it held. But he didn’t. How can you dislike the guy? The heart of your venomous hatred is in your jealously that he is not at YOUR school. If he were, you would have already been cooed by his words, adamantly defending his practices and greasy hair, and eagerly anticipating a championship.


Posted on by Colin Stovall in Basketball, Featured, Sports

9 Responses to The Calipari Legacy

  1. Will

    Kudos Colin! This will go down as one of the great Wise Guise posts. Mark it down. Go Cats!
    Hashtag, Hashtag, Hashtag

  2. Caleb Alexander

    Good post, your a phenomenal writer. I have to disagree though. Too often in sports nowadays, dedication and commitment to a team are irrelevant. Money, big cities and big markets are all that players/coaches care about now. Would Magic have opted out of the Lakers to go play in New York for more money? Or would Joe Montana have left San Francisco to make more money in Dallas? There’s just no such thing as commitment anymore.

    • Colin Stovall

      But that is the point Calipari is trying to show. There is no incentive for kids to stay in school if they can make millions after one year. Allegiance is a lot different in the pro level vs. college athletics. I get that college is about the school and such, but how much loyalty would you have if you knew you could make millions doing what you love instead of getting ipods and free gear? They played the national championship game in a football stadium not because the venue was cool, it was so they could make more money. Cal gets it. Bobby Knight doesnt. You can’t change the state in which the system is in now. The only alternative is embrace it or get fired for mediocrity.

  3. UTBrewster

    I don’t expect loyalty in professional sports- ever- from anyone- players or coaches. Shit- even fans. Bc professional sports are & always have been about money. And that’s fine. Players are traded, staff leave, people move to different states, teams pack up & move too- so the level of loyalty I expect to see in the NBA/NFL is zero at best.

    However – college is different. It’s not a professional sport in it for the money. Players don’t get paid to play at a school (let’s assume here for argument’s sake that the rules are not being broken)- instead they’re playing for an education. They’re playing for THEIR school. They’re playing for the love of the game. For pride. For fans. For fun. Collegiate sports are all about loyalty- that’s supposed to be the name of the game. You support the school you went to- not just while you’re there- but for LIFE. For the Rest of your life! You raise your kids as fans. You wear your colors with pride every year! You sing your anthem and you bleed for your school. You don’t change schools just because you move to another state. Or just because a coach leaves. You don’t follow coaches – or players- you follow your SCHOOL from near and afar.

    So it’s when a COLLEGIATE coach leaves for MONEY that causes such hatred. In the NBA I would never blame Calipari for leaving for more money. Because that’s the name of the game. But in college it is not- and it SHOULD NOT BE! No decision should be made based on money. It should be about the game, the players, the competiveness, the drive to do better, the desire to please your fans.


  4. Will

    Won, sorry, one…Cal didn’t leave for money. Kentucky could have paid him the same or less, and I bet he still leaves Memphis.
    But that doesn’t discount his loyalty to Memphis by any means. If there’s one coach in college basketball that gets it, it’s Cal. Donating $1 million to Streets Ministries even after leaving. Visiting a handicap Memphis fan in West Memphis whenever he comes thru town still. Tons of stories showcasing his loyalty to Memphis remains. He didn’t want to hurt Memphis fans, but this is a job and a business. It’s the name of the game, even in college sports, just as Colin put it. Theres money to made, and people will make it. Cal didn’t take the UK job for money, but because the most storied, winniest program in history wanted him and he wanted them. He wanted it back in 2007 when He-who-shall-not-be-named got it. This is his dream job and he was finally able to get it. Roy Williams left Kansas for UNC, and he was hated for it. People get hurt when such devotion and trust is put on the line for coaches. That’s sports.

    Two, he practices what he preaches. He’s loyal and his players remain loyal as well. It’s a won, oops, one and done system that only works with Cal. That’s the way the college system is set up, and for good or bad, Cal has not only embraced it, but mastered it. He hates the rule, but it’s there, so why not embrace and use it to win. “embrace it or get fired for mediocrity.”

    There’s no doubt in my mind these players wear blue the rest of their lives. Cal proves his loyalty to the school, fans, and players. UK fans are the greatest fans and will love every one and doner that comes through. It’s the perfect recipe to enstill loyalty in players. Kentucky is the only fan base crazy and title-hungry enough to do it too There’s never a big game anymore, where former Cats don’t attend. It starts with the fanbase, and once again, Cal gets it. Not to hate on the Memphis fan base but they aren’t UK. I like how Colin put it, you either like broccoli or you hate it. You like Cal or you hate him. He’s fine with that. And so are we.
    Now go ahead and tell us how you can’t wait for this title to be vacated and all that, it’s fine. It’s like the Indiana fan behind me last night that yelled “watford

  5. Will

    To finish my last post…accidentally hit publish on my phone.

    …The Indiana fan behind me yelling “watford” after the game. Really?! We just won the national title. That’s supposed to bring us down from cloud 9? Nothing can do that right now.

    Go Cats!

  6. UTBewster

    I have no feelin toward Cal personally. I’m a UT fan not UM or UK. Just playing devils advocate. I do think its sad in general though that the idea of loyalty has seemed to fade off in lieu of money or fame or even where the most success is most likely. The rare instances where loyalty trumps everything else are the most influential & memorable ones in my book- regardless of titles.

  7. AJ

    I would have to shockingly agree with Will and Colin on the point Cal left for a better job! Kentucky is by far much better than any other basketball school in the country with maybe the exception of DUKE. And even Duke is feeling the one and dones with Austin Rivers leaving after his freshman year.

    Cal does ALOT of things perfect. Recruiting (Obvious). Standing up for his players with the exception of Sean Banks (he verbally killed that guy). He always gives his players the credit and falls on his sword with there is problems. He does a great job of protecting his player and he also recruits players who are very serious about basketball. When was the last significant player to get into trouble on Cal’s watch. Shawn Williams?

    I also agree with him on the the one and done players. The NBA needs to do a better job of creating incentives for these players to stay either by longer contracts or more money. Also, if you are a player in college that is staying instead of going to the NBA, most take out an insurance policy which the NCAA should setup a system that covers this for these few players instead of putting the cost back on them. I love the quote he had in the tournament when asked about his one and done players. He said “I didn’t see anyone getting upset with Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg for leaving early from college to make millions, so I don’t see why people are so mad about the few college players that do it.” Love that Quote!!

    That being said…I hate Cal in some ways. I dont think he is a good in game coach. Luckily basketball is a one of the few sports where you dont have to be a good in game coach. With talent like his, you can win alot of games. Also, Memphis people shouldnt be mad at Cal; they should be furious at the NCAA. The NCAA flags players who have questionable ACT, SAT scores, or transcripts. Colin should know all about this with UT football. So if the NCAA clears a player to play, it shouldn’t all fall back on the school and coaches. Some of the responsibility should fall back on the NCAA. OH WAIT I MADE A MISTAKE…it doesn’t fall back on the coaches. That’s what’s wrong with the NCAA!! They don’t punish coaches for wrong doings as long as you leave right before the final hour. What a joke, Cal is 1-2 in Final Fours with last night being his first National Championship. The NCAA should make coaches sit out a year after they leave the school or allow them to continue coaching at the school for the duration of the sanctions. The NCAA is out of control with nobody to govern them. Just a matter of time before they strip UK of the title. OH wait…they are top 2 most historical team EVER in NCAA, so nothing will happen to them. So rolls the NCAA.

    Go CATS!!

    *SEC owns the national championship for all 3 major sports. UK-bball, Alabama-football, S.Carolina-baseball. SUCK IT!

  8. Paul Preketes

    Interesting post and nicely done. I am a MSU Spartan fan and follow college sports. I am not a Calipari fan. However, he does win. He does recruit talent. I have no problem with recruiting kids that are one and done. Nothing illegal, but in my opinion unethical. I think the NBA should follow the NFL and not allow play until three years out of college. Kids are too young at 19 to play with the men of the world. That being said, I have always felt that Calipari had something rotten going on. Was UMass and Memphis out of his control, out of his knowledge? Maybe. If he stays with Kentucky, has success, and there are no more incidents with his players, then so be it and his legacy will be intact. If there are more incidents, he should be banned forever.

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