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John Calipari vs. Other Major Coaches

Mark Cornelison/ AP

Mark Cornelison/ AP

There’s no denying it; these past two years have been incredibly frustrating. In back-to-back seasons, Kentucky has gone from a preseason favorite to win the title to a lower-tier tournament team in early March. In looking for an outlet for this confusion, many fans have turned toward the man at the helm of the program – John Calipari. While few rational fans have called for a coaching change, numerous people  have questioned Calipari’s recruiting philosophy and his ability to lead the team. How warranted is this criticism?

Let’s take a look at Coach Cal’s resume in his time at Kentucky compared to some of college basketball’s other premiere coaches. What follows could restore your potentially waning faith:

John Calipari 

Tenure: 5 years
Record: 145-34 (81%)
Conference Titles (reg. season): 2
Tournament Appearances: 3
Final Fours: 2
National Titles: 1

Rick Pitino (Louisville)

Tenure: 13 years
Record: 334-116 (74.2%)
Conference Titles (reg. season): 3
Tournament Appearances: 10
Final Fours: 3
National Titles: 1

Roy Williams (North Carolina)

Tenure: 11 years
Record: 305- 86 (78%)
Conference Titles (reg. season): 6
Tournament Appearances: 9
Final Fours: 3
National Titles: 2

Jim Boeheim (Syracuse)

Tenure: 38 years
Record: 946-318 (74.8%)
Conference Titles (reg. season): 11
Tournament Appearances: 30
Final Fours: 4
National Titles: 1

Tom Izzo (Michigan State)

Tenure: 19 years
Record: 461-185 (71.4%)
Conference Titles (reg. season): 7
Tournament Appearances: 16
Final Fours: 6
National Titles: 1

Bill Self (Kansas)

Tenure: 11 years
Record: 322-66 (83%)
Conference Titles (reg. season): 10
Tournament Appearances: 10
Final Fours: 2
National Titles: 1

Coach K (Duke)

Tenure: 34 years
Record: 907-244 (78.8%)
Conference Titles (reg. season): 12
Tournament Appearances: 29
Final Fours: 11
National Titles: 4

Billy Donovan (Florida)

Tenure: 18 years
Record: 443-168 (72.5%)
Conference Titles (reg. season): 6
Tournament Appearances: 13
Final Fours: 3
National Titles: 2

As you can see, Calipari’s numbers at Kentucky rival many of college basketball’s elite coaches. Despite consecutive disappointing seasons, only Bill Self has a higher winning percentage at his current school than Coach Cal. Calipari’s two final four appearances are similar to most of the premiere coaches – and they’ve been at their respective programs much longer.

While some of his approaches need to be evaluated in the offseason, our coach has done enough in his short time at Kentucky that he should not be on the hot seat any time soon. Perspective is a good thing; let’s use it.

Article written by Caleb Epley

Vanderbilt student, Kentucky fan. Skilled at using big words and telling bad jokes. Twitter: @CalebEpleyKSR

70 responses to “John Calipari vs. Other Major Coaches”

  1. Kyle Smith

    My take away from this article…I can’t believe that Donavan has been at FL for 18 years.

    1. stevieb

      I know! I thought the same thing!!

  2. Cal is the best coach for Kentucky....PERIOD

    Refer to “Name”

  3. Han

    Yahoo Sports’ page has a story about a play by Oakland that saved the game for them. Watching the vid, an offensive player sets up a screen for the guy guarding the inbounder and draws the foul as his teammate runs out of bounds.

    Anyone else remember when BCG tried that play for us against Georgia in the storm-ravaged SEC tourney? We didn’t get the call, though we should have by the rules.

    1. KyKid

      I like lima beans.

  4. schwing

    stop counting national titles as also a final four. in 2012, we didn’t have a national championship, final four, elite eight, and sweet sixteen appearance. we only hung one banner. do you know which one it was?

    1. Thank you

      I was not aware that you could go straight from the first weekend of the NCAA tournament to the national championship game. I’ll keep that in mind in the future.

    2. ukbradstith

      Actually we did have all of those in 2012. The final fours are listed for all those teams because they are so rare. Obviously if you won a title you went to the final four that year.

  5. Tom Blevins

    And let’s not forget, Coach Cal has a 5-1 record against Rick Pitino.

    1. Hello

      THAT is his one redeeming quality these past two years. I will give him credit for that. And it is a very important factoid.

  6. stevieb

    Here are my takeaways.
    1. I am old because Billy has been at Florida that long
    2. Jim Boeheim is really overrated. He’s been there for 38 years and only 4 final fours! That’s pretty bad.
    3. Anyone that thinks Cal should go is a idiot. Did you not know what the lat 10 years were like before he came to UK? Who would step in that better?? I have been excited more than ever to be a UK fan. The ride these last 5 years has been awesome! Bumpy but awesome!
    4. Notice that all the other coaches have had off years too.
    5. One thing that is not on here were his least years at Memphis. If you count that, he has been to the final four over half of the last eight years. The guy can flat out coach!

    1. Syrin

      Tubby’s numbers are remarkably similar to Cal’s…

    2. bluegrazzcat


    3. blue&white

      Pretty sure tubby came into a better situation then cal. Dont forget that part.

    4. Chaz

      Here are my rebuttals.

      1. I am old not because Billy has been at Florida that long, but because I have lived this long.
      2. Had Jim Boeheim coached in Lexington that long part of the fan base would have called a moving company and placed For Sale signs in his yard at least three times.
      3. You are right, there are too many idiots in Kentucky who say they’re fans.
      4. We’re too busy critiquing Cal to notice what other coaches are doing.
      5. The NCAA doesn’t care what you think. Ask Adolph Rupp, Jerry Tarkanian, Dana Kirk, Eddie Sutton, Fran Curci, John Calipari, Jim Calhoun, Steve Fisher and a host of others what a great organization they are. But you are right, he won those games at Memphis with a player the NCAA said was good to go for college.

      I like your post, by the way.

    5. Brian

      “blue&white” with the rebuttal burn!!! well played, sir.

    6. stevieb

      No doubt blue and white. Tubby had a championship team handed to him with a bow on top. Cal was given Josh Harrelson locked in a restroom and empty beer cans scattered through is office.

  7. Syrin

    What this article doesn’t address is the trend. NIT and first round loss last year. Okay, well we lost Nerlens. Still shouldn’t have lost to Robert Morris, but okay. But this year’s team? Top rated (and massively over rated) recruiting class in the country with returning athletic bigs, and the team has got WORSE as we enter March. Denny Crum used to be the master of getting his teams to peak in March. The last two years that’s when we are playing our worst.

    1. stevieb

      I agree that it is frustrating that UK is trending in the wrong direction right now. You lost me on the Denny Crum comment though. He had some good years, but he had a lot of really bad ones too. As a matter of fact, UK owned UL through most of his time there. Crum was a great coach for about 8 years. Not much other than that.

    2. Hello

      Calipari. Best recruiter in the history of the game. F minus coaching job the last two years. Both of those statements are true. And someone (well, Caleb) did nitpick the stats. Thanks Syrin for pointing out some stats were left out.

    3. ukbradstith

      Syrin literally didn’t point out one single stat.

    4. Hello

      Okay, if you want to be technical. No, but he DID point out some undeniable basic truths. I just love it when folks get technical. Facts, stats, truths.,,,they are all first cousins. But if it makes you feel better, you really got me that time.

  8. hell cat

    I’m sure someone will rip me a new one for this, but Cal has had much more talent to work with than most of these other teams. No, I don’t want him gone. That’s just what’s frustrating for me the last year or two. Most years, any of these other teams would build their team around our 4th or 5th best recruit.

    1. howie

      Talent? Imo this team is not that talented. Maybe they looked talented on the aau circuit, I know most will disagree, but I just dont see it. No fundamentals whatsoever. I like the twins, but I dont think it would hurt for them both to drop 10-15 pounds. Kinda like Crawford did his senior year.same with alex. That being said i think if they most of the freshman stick around they are going to end up being very, very good ball players.

    2. Syrin

      Howie, I agree, the talent isn’t there, and the numbers support that

    3. Hello

      Agreed with you on the last thread, Syrin. Disagree here. The talent is there. It’s the coaching that stinks. If the talent is not there, then these boys will NOT play in the NBA. If it is there, they will play pro ball and it was the poor coaching all along. Wanna bet 5 or 6 of them will not play in the NBA before it’s all said and done? Poythress is the only one predicted to early on that will NOT!!!! Those are the facts. Wait and see if I’m not right.

    4. Bleed Blue

      Yea some of these players will play in the n.b.a ONE DAY, but they have to improve ALOT to do so. Their is a difference between having talent and being good. These players need a couple more years to develop, and learn. Fans have been complaining about OAD, but its looking like some of these freshman will be back, and the fans label them a bust because they are not setting the world on fire as freshman. If the core of this team stayed together for a couple more years do fans really think they won’t become a better team? Cal knows what he is doing.his former players swear by him. Thats good enough for me.

    5. stevieb

      Hello- the freshmen were only as good as billed on Paper. Only Randall lived up to the hype. There is no way you can tell me that the twins were the best guards in all oh high school. They really should have been ranked in the 20’s somewhere. not top 10. Cal needs at least one good shooter for the dribble drive to work and he hasn’t had it the last two years. We’ve been in every game we played. No blowouts. Not having a solid shooter to spread the defense has killed us. Not to mention, Randall used to be automatic in the lane and now he can’t hit. I don’t think you can blame Cal for this. Sometimes shit just happens.

    6. Hello

      >>>Sometimes shit just happens.

      And sometimes it happens because of a thousand coaching mistakes….., such as playing the wrong players, playing the wrong defense, having no offense (i.e. passing up wide open shots and driving and passing the ball into the teeth of a packed in zone), tearing down confidence in shooting instead of building it up, screaming at kids constantly, and on and on and on. In other words, POOR COACHING!

  9. howie

    How in the world are tubbys numbers simular?

  10. howie

    Duke down 5 with under two minutes to go. They are about to lock up their #1 seed.

    1. howie

      Wake forest 1-8 their last 9. K cant coach worth a Damn. First Lehigh now this…I bet the dukies are calling for his head. (Sarcasm)

    2. Brian

      Sources close to Duke say Coach K is already in talks with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

  11. Hammer

    I have two reasonable questions that have absolutely zero to either recruiting prowess or x and o in game decision making: (1) why does Calipari insist on “performing” those sideline theatrics every game and it only serves to embarrass UK and show cal for the clown he is and (2) Why does he insist on screaming in every player’s face continually? Can’t he see that they, for the most part, ignore him? He even admitted they don’t follow his drawn up plays out of time outs. His sideline antics are laughable and for lack of a better description, “pure stupidity”. Before you respond to this post, just watch the SC game again and then defend it. Sheesh…

    1. stevieb

      as disappointed as we are, he has to be loosing his mind.

    2. Bill Brasky

      Response: 1) Theatrics by college (not NBA) coaches get you calls, especially when it comes from marquee coaches. In the NBA, players are the stars and their theatrics get them calls. In college, coaches are the stars and their theatrics get the calls. Admittedly, Cal is over the top sometimes, especially in the SC game. That said, right or wrong, it often works. 2) I don’t know, but that’s Cal’s approach and has been for years. It worked well for him at UMass, Memphis, and UK, so we shouldn’t be surprised that he’s doing what he’s always done and what’s always worked. He says he’s trying to relax going forward this year since what he’s been doing isn’t working. Everyone makes mistakes. All you can do is recognize them and change them going forward. That appears to be what he’s doing.

  12. goukgo

    I see the logic in what you are saying, but the majority of those loses have come in the last two years. that is setting a dangerous trend. what if he has the same results next year? is there any reason to believe that he won’t? I don’t necessarily think Cal should leave, but he has to make some changes. He will continue to lose fan and possibly booster support if he keeps using UK as a fast track to the nba and has no positive results for the university.

    1. stevieb

      Its a new team. Every year is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you are going to get.

  13. stevieb

    For more perspective..

    PRESEASON: UK, Kansas, Duke, Michigan St are in the top 5.

    Now UK has 8 losses. Duke, Michigan St, and Kansas all have 7 losses.

    So in what seems like the year from hell and the most underachieving season of the Cal UK years, we are 1 loss worse than the other preseason top teams.

    It ain’t the end of the world people…

    1. JoshC

      Kansas, Duke and Michigan State have all beat much better teams than UK has and, in Kansas’ case, has not lost to nearly as bad of teams as UK has.

    2. Hello

      Thanks, JoshC. You are right. Some folks like to cherry pick stats and truths.

    3. ukbradstith

      Actually Stevieb is right. He points that out for perspective, and never says those teams aren’t better or haven’t had better teams. No one would have thought those four teams would have combined for 29 losses, 34 counting Louisville. That will be 40 or so losses combined for the preseason top 5. Wow.

    4. Hello

      Never said Stevieb was not right. But the Cats have one pretty good victory,..the Dirty Birds. The other teams JoshC mentions have beaten multiple good teams. So, JoshC is also right. I like to be technical. Don’t you, ukbradstith?

    5. Bill Brasky

      He wasn’t cherry picking because his comment had nothing to do with “good” wins or “bad” losses. As stated, just perspective. Point being, no fan base wants 7-8 losses, but of the teams listed, only UK “fans” are calling for our coach’s head and throwing our players under the bus when faced with adversity. All those coaches have had two-year periods similar to what we are having now, but their fan bases weren’t talking about firing their coach, especially 2 years after winning a NC.

  14. goukgo

    I noticed duke lost to wake forest. I wonder how many spots duke will RISE after this loss?

  15. Barry Soetoro

    Sick of everyone saying this is a “disappointing” season! Season is NOT over yet! If they win the NC or get to a Final Four the “disappointment” will be forgiven!

    1. stevieb


    2. KyKid

      Couldn’t agree more. People were saying the same stuff late in the season a couple of years ago when we made the Final Four and were a basket away from a title game. Let it play out people!

    3. Hello

      Yeah. And “if” a frog had wings it would not bust it’s arse on the gravel. Cats are going nowhere this year, and it has nothing to do with the talent. Poor coaching. Cal has lost this team, just like he did last years team. I will root for them and hope, and they may even pull an upset or two in the NCAA tourney. But Cal will NOT change enough for them to proceed past the Sweet 16 at the very best. Much more likely to lose the first game, like last year. Again, that is NOT because of the talent. It will be because of poor coaching. Cal still does not have a clue. I say he’s here for one or two more years. Then ALL the fans will mutiny, like they FINALLY did with Tubby. Jmho.

    4. C.A.T.S

      Hello: just shut up. You are clueless! My god how spoiled are some of these kentucky fans.y’all gotta be some bandwagon jumpers. Cal has done more in 5years at uk then most do in a career. If you dont like the direction of the program, or the coach find a different one. Its that simple.

    5. Hello

      Well,..C.A.T.S, I don’t really want to find another team. I’ve been a fan for 5 decades now. Do I really have to quit being a Kentucky fan? You a card carrying member of the Wildcat Thought Police?? Won’t you please give me one more chance if I promise to drink the Cal Kool-Aid?? What if I swear to be a Cal Apologist and not have a problem with losing 20 games in less than two seasons with 6 or 7 future NBA players o the team? Could I remain then??? I will say one thing. You sure are tough on enforcing the rules. You won’t allow anyone to disagree with you or to break your laws. But if you don’t mind, I don’t think I will obey your rules. Now, what are you gonna do? How do you like dem apples??

    6. Bill Brasky

      Hello, I’m sure it wasn’t your one comment. It’s that you have filled this entire thread with negative comments. People get tired of reading “Debbie Downer’s” opinion on everything. Whether you think it’s true or not, no one likes nonstop negativity. You have the right to say whatever you want, but reading it over and over just becomes tiresome.

  16. KyKid

    Sorry, but that’s just stupid. Compare any metric you want and Cal shines. So this year isn’t going as planned (keep in mind it’s not over yet). We are only 2 years removed from one of the better teams of the last 25 years with a title. I know last year didn’t end well, but I do believe it would have ended quite a bit differently if Nerlens doesn’t go down. You people are crazy, and not always in a good way.

    1. stevieb

      If Nerlans stayed healthy, we would have been sweet 16

    2. ukbradstith

      I love Noel, probably the best kid to ever lace them up for the blue and white, and I loved him as a player. The team last year had problems Noel couldn’t fix. I think we would have squeaked into the tourney, but let’s not guarantee a sweet sixteen. That’s kind of a stretch.

  17. just saying

    I cant wait for Erin Calipari to Tweet something else, so you can write an article about it

  18. Coach

    I’m a UK fan. I cry a lot. Whah. Get over yourselves. The program is fine.

  19. Roscoe

    I think “hello” is one of those crazy insane fans that has all the answers. that coach that you think stinks has won 500+ more games then you have sir, but dont let the facts get in the way im sure you are an expert at the game of basketball, and if you could just get that one break, you will be well on your way to being the next john wooden!

    1. Brian

      “hello” is the troll formerly known as “Next”.

    2. Hello

      No, I’m not. And I’m not a Cal Apologist either. I’m a Kentucky fan that’s concerned with 20 losses these last two years, when we were pre-season top three teams both years. I’m concerned with how Cal has taken a bunch of five star talent and has reduced them to an embarrassing display of Kentucky basketball these last two years. Maybe you don’t have a problem with that. Maybe you think all the college recruiters were wrong in their assessment of 6 or 8 of these future NBA players, and that none of them are any good at playing basketball. How about you gentlemen? Are you Cal Apologists?? I think maybe so. Go on and admit it. You love the Kool-Aid. Huh? Yeah. I thought so.

    3. Bill Brasky

      Hello, we just appreciate having Cal. We remember how bad things were before he got here. We know he’s by far the best coach we can get right now and he’s the guy who’s perfect for the UK job. We also know the bad years are few and far between with Cal, so even if things don’t end up well this year, we are confident Cal will have us back on top soon. That’s what’s great about having him. What you wrote applies to basically every team in college basketball this year not named Wichita St. We “Cal apologists” are sorry Cal and the team aren’t living up to your standards. Speaking for the rest of us: In Cal We Trust.

  20. Bubba

    Prepae yourselves, for we play how we have been we will get run out the Saturdays…

  21. Bleed Blue

    Keep calm…the twins are leaving.

  22. UrAllThumb

    Id take most of the coaches on this list over Coach Cal. Hes a good fit for the limelight of UK and a heck of a recruiter but take the talent we’ve had and give it to Izzo, Williams, Donovan, Self…or Pitino and they would get better results. Look at the results posted in this article that they’re getting as is…and they’re not landing top recruiting classes. Izzo at MSU rarely lands a top 25 player and his teams are consistently competitive. As someone above noted its a lack of strategy on Cals part and for 2 straight years now what we’re seeing is a consistently demoralized team on the floor come March if they’re not living up to Calss talent based expectations. When the talent fails we lack the team strength and system to perservere and that falls on the coach

    1. Hello

      I concur!

    2. ukbradstith

      First off, those coaches aren’t exactly hurting for talent. Second, those coaches can’t recruit at the level of Cal (self is close, duke and unc has had their years) so that’s why I wouldn’t take anyone else. Cal had less talent than any do those guys at umass and Memphis and he still did just fine. There are many aspects to coaching, and I’m not even sure the x and O part is the most important at a place like UK. In the end, results are the only thing that matter, and cal has better results than most, if not all, of those guys.

  23. ukbradstith

    Didn’t realize self had only been to 2 final fours in 11 years. That’s really not that great at a place like Kansas. Shows just how rare final fours are.

    1. twocoach

      Number of active consecutive seasons with 23+ wins:

      Kentucky: needs one more win to get to 1
      Oklahoma: needs one more win to get to 1
      UConn: 1
      SMU: 1
      Cincinnati: 1
      Villanova: 1
      Iowa: needs three more wins to get to 2
      Virginia: 2
      Michigan: needs one more win to get to 3
      Iowa State: needs one more win to get to 3
      Michigan State: needs one more win to get to 3
      New Mexico: 3
      St Louis: 3
      Florida: 4
      Louisville: 4
      Creighton: 4
      Carolina: 4
      Arizona: 4
      Wichita State: 5
      Wisconsin: 5
      San Diego State: 6
      Syracuse: 6
      Duke: 7
      Memphis: needs one more win to get to 9
      Kansas: 25

  24. na8vecat

    OK here is the deal …Cal uses the dribble drive , does that mean he condones dribbling into the paint & into 3-4 defenders when their zone collapses ? I dont think so . But this is a big PROBLEM , the twins , Young & even Randle do this and when they dribble into the 3-4 defenders in the paint , they lose the ball !! TEAM there has to be someone open when that zone collapses!

    Is Cal telling them that Fact ?? I sure as hell hope so . Our outside shooting has to improve and we have to defend the ball or we will take an early exit in the big dance .Does anyone agree with me ??

  25. bluegrassstu

    With the SEC being such a weak conference basketball wise, Coach Cal should have the best winning percentage.