It’s that time of week again. Time to take an unbiased look at what’s happening with Coach Cal, World Wide Wes, and the overly-hyped freshmen who seem to comprise the UK roster each year. This season, the team hopes to make the NCAA Tournament, obtain a favorable draw, and a relatively simple path to the Final Four. They also hope against hope that unlike the previous Final Fours in which John Calipari has coached, this one will stick. For those who want to stay informed and educated, follow me on Twitter @NotJerryTipton. Here’s the weekly notebook:
* Meanwhile Back in Memphis: When then-Memphis coach John Calipari accepted the job at Kentucky, he immediately tried to convince several of his Memphis commits to join him at Kentucky. Two of them — DeMarcus Cousins and Darnell Dodson — eventually caved in to the pressure applied by Calipari, and reluctantly decided to accompany him to Lexington. Calipari’s behavior was widely and understandably viewed as bush-league and unethical. Recently, former Arizona head coach Lute Olson joined in the criticism of Cal, describing the actions as “very unprofessional.” Frankly, it seems difficult to disagree with this assertion. For one thing, these players had no choice in the matter. They were apparently forbidden by Calipari to stay and play at Memphis, which was presumably a lifelong dream for each of them. For another, it seemed a particularly unfair thing to do the young coach who succeeded Calipari at Memphis, Josh Pastner. This was his first head coaching job, and he would be starting off with almost no players on his roster. Looking back, had a player like Dodson been allowed to remain at Memphis, it is entirely possible that Memphis would be a national title contender this year, rather than unranked and irrelevant. When a player commits to a college to play basketball, he commits because of the school, not the coach. “Very unprofessional,” indeed.
* Try A Little Tenderness: After the UK/Alabama game, John Calipari caught a lot of heat when cameras showed him cussing out star freshman Terrence Jones. In response to all the criticism levied at Coach Cal, many Kentucky fans have predictably attempted to explain away the behavior, arguing that such language is commonplace in modern big-time athletics, especially in the “heat of battle.” In fact, some have asserted that coaches such as Duke’s Coach K and Louisville’s Rick Pitino frequently employ that kind of language, the implication apparently being that if elite coaches like Krzyzewski and Pitino talk that way, then ordinary coaches (e.g., Calipari) should be able to conduct themselves likewise. However, I cannot seem to recall the language of Coach K or Rick Pitino being featured on ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption or Around the Horn the way that Calipari’s was. As such, I think it’s fair to assume that they don’t talk that way. And while it’s true that most Kentucky fans have dutifully defended their beloved coach, not all of them have exhibited such blind allegiance. Reader Hubert Pinkerton, who admits to being “ate up” with the Cats, did not approve of the outburst: “I Jest Dont Thank a Gentel Man Speeks Like Thataway to his Playrs on His Teem and so it Jest aint Good and I Dont Thank Coach RUPP or Mr Bill WILD-CAT Kitely or Caywood Wood do that and Stuff and so GO BIG BLUE win..”
* Don’t Know What You Got Til It’s Gone: Recently, some UK fans have bemoaned the toughness — or lack thereof — of this UK team, especially after it got physically manhandled by Georgia and Alabama in embarrassing losses. These fans may have short memories. “Toughness” was a common theme of one Billy Gillispie, the much-maligned former Kentucky coach who was fired by the university just two short years ago. If “toughness” (which was indeed a hallmark of Gillispie’s teams) is such a valuable commodity, one thinks that Gillispie would still be the coach at Kentucky today. In fact, this writer wonders whether more than a few UK fans regret the decision to terminate Gillispie so quickly, especially — as one reader has pointed out — in light of the fact that both Gillispie and Calipari had the exact same SEC record after 21 league games: 17-4. In light of the fact that Gillspie’s salary was much more reasonable than Calipari’s, I’m guessing that it’s not just the Kentucky fans that regret the firing of Gillispie and hiring of Calipari. It’s quite possible that at this point, the UK administration has come down with an acute case of buyer’s remorse.
* Don’t Come Around Here No More: Heading into this season, it was the opinion of Kentucky fans that their Wildcats had the top recruiting class in the nation, a class which consisted of Brandon Knight, Terrence Jones, Doron Lamb and Enes Kanter. At the outset of the season, Kentucky fans were optimistic that the NCAA would somehow overlook the fact that Kanter was a professional back in his native Turkey, and that he would eventually suit up for the Cats. However, the NCAA correctly ruled Kanter permanently ineligible, which means he will never play a second at UK. With that in mind, the question now becomes whether the 2011 NBA Draft will be a repeat of the 2010 Draft, which saw four UK freshmen drafted in the 1st Round, which resulted in Calipari controversially and laughably labeling that night “the greatest day in the history of Kentucky basketball.” The latest projections from nbadraft.net regarding the 2011 draft have Kanter being selected 5th, Jones 6th, Knight 19th and Lamb not at all. What this means, of course, is that the one player who was never coached by John Calipari is going to be drafted before the players who were. Is there a cause-and-effect relationship at play here? How long before rival recruiters astutely point out the fact that kids who don’t play for Calipari are likely to be drafted sooner — and paid more money — than those who do? This is definitely a situation that bears watching in the future.
* Dre Day: Recently, several members of the Kentucky basketball team have been photographed with oversized, cumbersome headphones, which are a brand known as “Beats by Dre” headphones. This is apparently top-of-the-line audio equipment, which retails for an average of approximately $300. Of course, one may wonder how college students are able to afford such an expensive item, given the fact that they presumably also have to pay for gas, entertainment, clothes, etc. When this reporter was in college, for example, he was barely able to scrape up enough money to purchase a used tape player and a Jethro Tull cassette, so it does seem a little hard to believe that each member of a basketball team can afford such a pricey accessory. Could this possibly have something to do with the fact that the team associates with rap singers like Drake and Bun B? It does make one wonder, even if there has not been any conclusive proof of wrongdoing. Yet.