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BTI’s Rants and Ramblings: Is the guy who follows Calipari screwed?

Anybody remember Gene Bartow?  He’s only the guy who followed John Wooden. 

Say what you want about Tubby Smith, I have always argued the thing that hurt Tubby’s time at Kentucky more than pace of play, a fairly dull personality, or perceived recruiting failures, was the simple fact that he was forced to follow Rick Pitino in the pressure-cooker that is known as Kentucky.  I mean, Tubby won 76% of his games at Kentucky, a greater percentage than Joe B. Hall.  Tubby went to the Elite 8 or further in nearly half of his seasons.  He won either an SEC regular season or tournament title in 7 of his 10 seasons.  He put several guys into the pros.  But I don’t think anybody was satisfied with Tubby’s decade at Kentucky.  And I think that is because the 8 years Pitino put in were so much better.  Better style of play, more wins, more Final Fours, more NBA talent.  When taken in a vaccum, I think Tubby’s 10 years were very good.  Those 10 years were probably one of the best any program in the country had during that time.  But Rick’s 8 years were without question the best 8 years any program had during that time.

Which brings me to Calipari.  No matter how many more years Cal goes at UK, I strongly doubt the program is going to dip very much.  I don’t see Calipari going out with a whimper at UK the way Tubby did.  So no matter how many total years Cal coaches at this program, those X number of years will be considered some of the best in UK history.  But it makes me worry about the next guy that has to take over.  Kentucky is almost certainly going to hire a high profile guy whenever the time comes, but are we going to stack that person’s results against Calipari?  Because despite the fact that Kentucky fans want the best every single season, I think we can all agree these 5 years have been a bit extraordinary in terms of results.  3 Final Fours in 5 years hasn’t happened very often at this school.  No other school has been to that many in the last 5 years.  If the next guy only goes to 1 Final Four in 5 years, will we look down upon that tenure?

It is rare for schools to go from one great coach to the next.  Kansas did it from Roy Williams to Bill Self.  North Carolina did it from Frank McGuire to Dean Smith.  I guess Kentucky did pretty well going from Rupp to Hall.  Louisville has Crum to Pitino.  But the odds are still small that you go from one amazing coach to another.  You are more likely to get Tubby or Hall level results than you will to get another Calipari.  Those are just the odds.  If anything, I think you just hope you don’t get a Gillispie.

But what do you think?  Will you stack up the next guys results (hopefully starting in 2022) against Calipari, and if so, is that unfair to that next person?  

Article written by Bryan the Intern

26 responses to “BTI’s Rants and Ramblings: Is the guy who follows Calipari screwed?”

  1. Casper


  2. Piedma Schwartz

    Yes, unless he is african american

  3. NYC Cats Fan

    We should bring back Billy Clyde Gillispie for one year to make the next coach seem like a program savior.

  4. ukjonny9

    Yes, and some vocal minority will claim that it is totally fair. They are the ones that make us look bad.

  5. WhyNot

    After joker, gillespie, etc. there was this sense that there was nowhere to go but up. Whenever the day comes for cal to step down there will probably be nowhere for the program to go but down. Instead of holding a bill self type to impossible standards. Why not let a younger bolt of energy start a new chapter, yet still someone of high-caliber: shaka, brad stevens, coach antigua, young pitinio junior (whom ive always thought highly of)

    1. Ummmm

      Richard is just as much of a turd as his father.

  6. rockatao

    “unquestionably the best eight years of any program at that time …” I think you might get some argument from duke on that one… 6 final fours in seven years IIRC

  7. classof68

    Tubby couldn’t or wouldn’t recruit. He had a couple of good recruiting years. He did OK with the second rate players he got, but that’s not good enough. The whole fan base was giving up. Many were saying all good things come to an end. If he had stayed any longer there may have been long term damage to the program similar to what has happened to IU. Toward the end we had had high school recruits choosing prep school over UK, and were just hoping to get top 100 recruits like Dan Werner. Now, I don’t even follow recruiting because we have a coach who does his job.

  8. RonnyFootball

    I remember the guy who followed Adolf Rupp.

  9. asdf

    We just need to hire another drunk to replace Cal. He’ll flame out in a couple of years, and then we can bring in the REAL successor…

  10. Craig

    Tubby oversaw the majority of longest Final Four drought Kentucky has had in the NCAA tournament era, and showed no signs of pulling out of it. The first half of his tenure, he had his detractors – be it because of style of play, not being Rick, or for some people possibly race – but they were a minority. Heck, you look at his first 8 seasons and you see a really good coach. Not Rick good, and “team turmoil” and 3 elite 8 losses make you wonder if he’s having bad luck or if the title was just good luck with Rick’s players, but it’s success at a level that would have him remembered pretty fondly by the large majority of the Kentucky fanbase. I think the animosity toward him is because he appeared to have slipped into accepting mediocrity by the end of things. Recruiting slipped badly in his later years, 05 class being the notable exception, and he went from being a fiery bench coach to sitting with his hand on his chin as we got spanked – again – on the road. Overall a good coach who was overly scrutinized for most of his career (but, it’s Kentucky) but who needed to leave when he left.

    1. Emptying the vacuum

      You took the words right out of my mouth. Tubby had some good (and fun) years and demonstrated (at least to me) some good coaching capabilities. Indeed we did seem to suffer occasional strokes of bad luck in some big games which generally happens to everyone and is part of the game (but we also enjoyed a few e.g. 1998 NC and Duke regional final) But near the end it seemed simply 20 wins and making the NCAA was celebrated as success and achievement. I do not necessarily adhere to winning is everything at whatever cost but I do believe we have a certain legacy and tradition we need to at least attempt to strive for. Overall I believe Tubby was a good coach (and person) who may have gotten burned out in the fish bowl of being UK BB coach. That said, there remains (again at least to me) one bad mark on his tenure and that was sacrificing 3 years of our program so that his son could play big time college BB at the premier program in the country. It is simply undeniable that any highly regarded point guard prospect would not have seriously believed they had a reasonable possibility of beating out the coach’s son for the position.

  11. Pair of Dimes

    The coaching paradigm at Kentucky is “great, decent, drunk.” Rupp was great. Hall was decent, and Sutton was drunk. Pitino was great, Smith was decent, and Gilispie was drunk. So, logically, whomever follows Cal can only be decent.

  12. catscatscats

    Great post. I believe that we as the fans will be hard to be satisfied when Calipari leaves. However I believe that there are several coaches that could fill his shoes at least enough to make us happy and win a championship. Several names that come to mind, Shaka Smart, Sean Miller (I hope UK doesn’t hire him, by 2022 he’ll be in the NBA), Brad Stevens, Orlando Antigua (if successful at USF), and there will be more names pop up over the next several years. We just need to enjoy the moment, this level of success is hard to come by and rarely happens. Don’t worry be happy now…

  13. unreconstructed

    “perceived recruiting failures” made me damn near spit coffee on my keyboard. How about “Obvious recruiting failures?”

  14. just saying

    Its going to be coach O

    UK’s history is
    Hall of Famer (Rupp)
    Former Assistant (Hall)
    Drunk (Sutton)

    Hall of Famer (Pitino)
    Former Assistant (Tubby)
    Drunk (Gillipsie)

    Hall of Famer (Calipari)

    1. eddie vedder

      No freaking way. How do you even know what kind of head coach he’ll be?

  15. i got my degree

    Steve Masiello will be our next coach.

  16. FearTheBrow

    First, yes, the next coach is in for an extremely hard time following Cal. But I thought this statement was interesting – “Kentucky is almost certainly going to hire a high profile guy whenever the time comes”. Really? It depends on who the AD is. Remember if it is the current AD he sometimes goes out on limbs with long shots like Joker Phillips or Gillispie with head coach hiring, so who knows? That’s two colossal flops in quite recent memory.

  17. wildcats4me2

    I prefer to spend my time rejoicing that Couch Cal has elected to stay at Kentucky rather than questioning about something that hasn’t happened, like who is going to replace him. I agree with catscatscats , don’t worry about it, be happy with what we have.


    Brad Stevens will be Cal’s replacement. NBA pedigree with very successful run at Butler. He should be primed for big time college basketball when Cal gives it up.

  19. atlantacat

    What an absolutely useless post, made just to take up space. Cal just signed a new contract and you’re worried about his replacement?

    Running out of subject matter, are we?

  20. tsmithpage

    If we follow the pattern, it’ll be a former UK assistant. I’m betting it’ll be another Orlando, this time Antigua, who replaces Cal. He’ll do fairly well but not as well as Cal, and will eventually be replaced by an unmitigated disaster before we usher in the next golden age.

  21. Hamburgdon

    I am old enough to remember when Joe B followed Adolph Rupp, many said he could not do it the truth is Joe B did a great job keeping the basketball program in the top tier. NCAA championship, runner up and a NIT title. It takes a special person to follow a legend and in coach Rupp’s case U of K did it with coach Hall.

  22. Randy #1Vol Fan Jenkins

    When Cal leaves, the NCAA crushes the CATS and you all will lose out to hire Bruce Pearl who will again sign with Big Orange Nation! VOLS!!

  23. ConfrontedWithStupidity

    Gene Bartow? The man who built UAB basketball? Has an arena named after him? Yeah, a few people remember him. Ask Cal.