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.