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How Bad Will Kentucky’s “Calipari Hangover” Be?


Probably less than your Saturday morning after that blue bad boy above.

Did you know that Brad Stevens was just hired by the Boston Celtics?  Some heard it first from Twitter, others from sports news sites like ESPN.  I happened to be outside and heard it first from the echoing wailings that wafted down from Indianapolis as Butler fans moaned all at the same time in perfect, harmonious dissonance.  Safe to say, that program won’t be what it was before.  Their new coach might do a pretty good job, but the level of success that Butler enjoyed under Stevens was so high, that anything else might be a letdown.

Let’s face it, some programs ARE their coaches.  In fact, Sports Illustrated recently took a look at three high-level college ball programs, and wondered what would happen when their long-term coaches were finally out the door.

Syracuse, Duke, and North Carolina will all be in something of a bind when their iconic coaches leave.  Duke may have the hardest time of all in replacing Coach K, but Roy Williams and Jim Boeheim won’t be the easiest acts to follow, either.  But it got me thinking: What happens to Kentucky when Cal decides it’s time to hang it up?

The Kentucky program is one that has shown it can be successful under different coaches.  Unlike many others (UCLA, Duke), UK has championships with multiple coaches.  Rupp. Hall, Pitino, Tubby, and Cal have all won a title here, so there’s no reason to think that the first guy P.C. (Post-Cal) won’t be able to do it, too.

But it won’t be easy.

Even Josh Pastner knows.  “Whoever ends up following this guy is crazy,” he told his friends of Calipari’s eventual successor.  Not knowing then, of course, that he’d be that guy when Cal left for Lexington.  And eventually, somebody’s going to have to take that spot here like Pastner took it there–with great care and a lot of effort.

The first big consideration is realizing that Cal’s system of yearly-turnaround won’t treat a new coach very well at all.  Tubby famously won a championship his first year with “Pitino’s players.”  Safe to say, the next guy probably won’t have a ton of All-Americans to buttress his first year, and that could make for a slow start that might frustrate Kentucky fans.  Calipari functions like a microwave: everything’s done in a matter of minutes.  But if the next guy takes a little longer, that may be expounded by the fact that he’ll probably have to build more than at other programs around the country.

Secondly, even if the Next Guy is able to match the on-court success, will it be possible that the recruiting will continue at the same pace?  And if so, what will we do with our offseasons?  Imagine, hypothetically, that Tom Izzo was in Lexington.  He’s a great coach, and would have great success, but the April-October months would be a little less exciting than we’ve gotten used to.  And that’s a bummer.

Ultimately, I’d put Kentucky’s risk for a hangover in the “medium” range.  There’s no doubt that Cal will be a hard guy to follow, and the precedent he’s set in just his first four years is pretty lofty.  But Kentucky, more than any other school, has demonstrated that it is a program that’s bigger than just one coach.  If it wasn’t, the titles would have stopped with Rupp.

So while the Dukes and Butlers of the world have to worry about how to replace the coach that created the program from out of nothing, we at least don’t have to worry about that.

We might be groggy for a little while, but that shouldn’t last too long.

Article written by Corey Nichols

22 Comments for How Bad Will Kentucky’s “Calipari Hangover” Be?

  1. David
    7:04 pm July 6, 2013 Permalink

    UCLA has won titles with more than one coach.

  2. Not Dan Issel
    7:10 pm July 6, 2013 Permalink

    Duke reached at least 3 final fours prior to Coach K that I am aware of (1964, 1966, 1978) and is 4th or 5th in all time wins. Coach K is the unquestioned best, but Duke was good before he arrived.

  3. UK
    7:20 pm July 6, 2013 Permalink

    I love KSR and I know this is a slow time of year but….with Brad Stevens getting hired by the Celtics it seems some UK fans are trying to push Cal out. I want Cal to be here as long as possible and I’m not really worried about what happens when he does retire because I’m enjoying it now. Thats why these types of articles frustrate me.

    I’ll hang up and listen.

  4. Andrew
    7:21 pm July 6, 2013 Permalink

    the question is, will we take a coach such as Josh Pastner or Sean Miller that is proven recruiters or Coaches that is unknown in the recruiting but excellent in everything else such as Brad Steven, Shaka Smart ect. Man with coach Cal we get the best of both. I really don’t want to lose him 🙁

  5. Andrew
    7:22 pm July 6, 2013 Permalink

    *are* instead of is after the two words “Coaches that” brain fart!

  6. Chaz
    7:26 pm July 6, 2013 Permalink

    I’m just having fun looking forward to the 2013-2014 bb season. Corey, I know it’s summertime and it’s a slow news season, but just maybe we could all hold off a little and not worry about circumstances beyond our control. In spite of being overlooked after Tubby left, Cal wanted to coach at UK and came here. Remember – Rupp – titles, Hall – title, Sutton – no title (but we had fun watching Rex), Pitino – Unforgettables plus title, Smith – title, BCG…well let’s just move on, Cal – title, etc, etc, etc. Hangover? Somehow, BBN and the program seem to survive changes. GO CATS!

  7. Katdaddy
    7:33 pm July 6, 2013 Permalink

    Coach O next in line. He Can recruit here as good as anybody.

  8. Rumor
    7:34 pm July 6, 2013 Permalink

    There is a rumor on another uk premium board that Cal is recruiting a juco guard for this season.

  9. Uk fans are hillbillies
    7:42 pm July 6, 2013 Permalink

    As long as uk has sandy bell, they will always be able to get retards like Bledsoe eligible.

  10. Scott
    7:42 pm July 6, 2013 Permalink

    Personally, I think the next guy is Sean Miller, currently at Arizona.

  11. kentuckyjoe
    8:02 pm July 6, 2013 Permalink

    I think the Cal hangover is going to be flat out awful. No one is going to be able to do what he has done and will continue to do. Think UCLA post Wooden.

  12. bung
    8:16 pm July 6, 2013 Permalink

    with the UK status Cal leaves behind…I predict a former UK player will have immediate unbelievable success as coach…

  13. BBB
    8:24 pm July 6, 2013 Permalink

    Well we’ve already got Cal leaving and worried about the draft before the season even starts. How about something on how we can win #9.

  14. bosshogg24
    8:40 pm July 6, 2013 Permalink

    How long do you keep beating this dead horse? You are talking about 10 years down the road, give it a rest! Stevens will never coach here and Miller will probably never coach here!

  15. bosshogg24
    8:42 pm July 6, 2013 Permalink

    FORD from Okie St. will never coach at UK!

  16. 90% of UL fans in Louisville live in the projects and leech off the government
    8:48 pm July 6, 2013 Permalink

    Tremendous job of deleting the UL trolls comments.

  17. crazycatfan
    9:49 pm July 6, 2013 Permalink

    Don’t even want to think about it ,,,,,

  18. Wes
    10:42 pm July 6, 2013 Permalink

    Why even write this?! Slow day?

  19. Dead Horse
    10:53 pm July 6, 2013 Permalink

    Matt wants us to play nice on here, yet he allows the same story to be recycled three times. This is the story that started all the chaos in the first place. Can we please put this horse out to pasture now? Oh wait……it’s dead….never mind.

  20. Hitman
    11:11 pm July 6, 2013 Permalink

    Matt, please moderate this and don’t allow this guy to keep writing! It’s bogus and negative . You guys are bringing the quality of this site down. Remember where you were BEFORE Cal arrived. You are screwing up with this Corey Nichols!

  21. Hypothetical writer
    9:49 am July 7, 2013 Permalink

    How bad will KSR reader’s Cory Nichols Hangover Be?
    If he keeps writing stupid a** articles it could be a long headache. What 5th grader will replace him?

  22. Don
    9:57 pm July 7, 2013 Permalink

    Don’t want to think about Kentucky without Cal. If that should happen though. I would like the Kentucky boy that coaches Oklahoma State.