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ESPN names John Calipari the 2nd best coach in college basketball


Over the past few weeks, ESPN has been counting down the 50 best coaches in college basketball. This morning, they wrapped up their series by revealing the top two spots: #2 John Calipari and #1…Billy Donovan.

Here’s a bit of what Eamonn Brennan had to say about Cal:

Last season’s March run was also a helpful reminder of Calipari’s sheer coaching ability. We laud coaches for bringing their teams along at the right time, for finding their peak in March. That’s the Tom Izzo specialty. Calipari found that gear in his team at the last possible moment last season, and once he figured it out, it was clear why everyone — himself included — was so high on Kentucky in October. There is real tactical substance here: a unique, restrained offensive system, an ability to coax great defense out of young players and real fluency in advanced scouting and statistical ideas.

And, Donovan:

The most impressive thing about all this? The fact that Donovan has done it at Florida. Before Donovan, the Gators’ baskteball history was almost nonexistent. In 1932-33, the Gators fielded an SEC basketball team for the first time. For the next 47 years, they finished higher than fourth in the conference standings just four times. The Gators didn’t have a full-time coach until 1960, and their only sustained success (under Norm Sloan from 1980 to 1989) led to the Gators’ first postseason berths ever, and also a major NCAA scandal.

So basically, Billy is better because he was able to achieve success at a football school like Florida, whereas Cal is doing it at the epicenter of college basketball in Kentucky. Okay. I’ll still take Cal any day.

For more of Brennan’s reasoning, check out each story on

Top 50 coaches: No. 2 John Calipari
Top 50 coaches: No. 1 Billy Donovan

Article written by Mrs. Tyler Thompson

No, I will not make you a sandwich, but you can follow me on Twitter @MrsTylerKSR or email me.

56 Comments for ESPN names John Calipari the 2nd best coach in college basketball

    9:48 am July 3, 2014 Permalink

    I agree TT never seen such ignorant rankings. Cal by a mile

  2. Piedma Schwartz
    9:52 am July 3, 2014 Permalink

    Eh, I can get behind this. What BD has done at Florida is pretty special, and he has more NCAA championships than Cal.

    • Big Blue Coming At You
      10:07 am July 3, 2014 Permalink

      But not recent NCAA championships. It’s been 7 years since his back to back titles not to mention he won them because that same group came back. What’s more impressive about Cal is that he’s had to do it while turning over most of his roster. That’s far more impressive than anything Donovan has done. If Cal’s players kept coming back, he’d have multiple championships as well.

      Also, after those back to back championships, Donovan was in a real slump and Gator fans were pretty much ready to get rid of him until his recent success. Donovan is a great coach but Cal has the most recent success and should be #1. But it’s an ESPN ranking so I’m not surprised they got it wrong.

    • Tom Tom Cats Fan
      10:11 am July 3, 2014 Permalink

      Piedma: Donovan does have two titles to Cal’s one. But Donovan has been at Florida for 18 years and it took him 10 years before he won one. Cal won one in his third year. At year 10 at UK, will Cal have two? What about after 18 years? Donovan has done a great job at Florida but I would not trade Cal for Donovan. No way.

    • Tubby
      10:37 am July 3, 2014 Permalink

      Tom Tom, based on that maybe Tubby Smith should be #1. He won a title in hist first year.

    • tom
      11:06 am July 3, 2014 Permalink

      I would be happy to have either man as head coach at UK. Both are passionate about the game and represent their schools and fan bases with class.

    • bigbluetruth
      12:34 pm July 3, 2014 Permalink

      This was about the last 3-5 years so I guess losing in the 1st rd, 3 E8 and 1 final 4 is better than 1 NIT, 1 elite 8 and 3 final 4’s with a championship and a runner up. If it was the last 10 years I could agree but it’s just another example of the hate for Coach Cal who proved more than any other time how great of a coach he really is this past NCAA’s. So anyone who thinks otherwise is just a hater, troll or idiot so I’ll let you pick where you fit.

  3. Ken Osburn
    9:58 am July 3, 2014 Permalink

    Seems someone forgot Lon Kruger took the Gators to the Final Four in 1994. But, other than that, they are correct.

  4. James K
    10:03 am July 3, 2014 Permalink

    The main justification for this, in my opinion: clicks.

    • Rick Pitino
      10:18 am July 3, 2014 Permalink

      Clicks? Did you mean “Chicks”? If so, how come I am not #!????

  5. Tom Tom Cats fan
    10:03 am July 3, 2014 Permalink

    There is no one I would would rather have at UK than Cal. He is the best coach at UK in my lifetime. He gets it. He thrives on that big stage. And he is damn good coach. Keep Donovan. Williams. Pitino. Self, etc….. I’ll take Cal any day. He could easily have 4 titles at UK right now. #1 recruiting class every year. Three FF in 5 years. Two national title games. Its about to be four FF in the last 6 years. No current coach can touch what Cal is doing at UK. (The closest is probably Pitino with two FF in the last 5 years but we know how one of those ended for Pitino. Tee hee. Cal eats Pitino and UL for breakfast and UL is done. Cal is just hitting his stride) If Cal stays here, he will win multiple titles. That he is not in the HOF when people like Williams and Pitino are is a joke.

  6. Eric
    10:16 am July 3, 2014 Permalink

    Anyone who bashes Cal for anything is a complete moron. Everything the guy does is right…… his morals, check…. his daily devotion to his religion, check…. .his family, check……. kids first… check….love for others, check…. . ..face for the university.. check…. he just gets it….. all of it!

    The fact that people tag him with slimy and sleezball is just humorous!!!

    Did he make someone else sit in for Rose’s SAT?!?!? no…… he only waited unitl the NCAA cleared Rose to play him

    Did he convince Marcus Camby to take money from an Agent?!?!?!

    Yet UNC and the Roy scandal continues….. UNCbelieveable!

    • Tom Jurich
      10:24 am July 3, 2014 Permalink

      Well, didnt he screw some skank on a public table in a restaurant and also bang a student athlete that he had on the university payroll…. uh….. wait a minute. Scratch that…. Gotta run. My pancakes topped with doughnuts and sprinkles are getting cold.

    • bigbluetruth
      12:38 pm July 3, 2014 Permalink

      You forgot Corey Magette at Duke, same thing as Camby, took money from an agent mid way through his SR season but nothing happened to Duke or Krybaby.

    • Haha
      2:45 pm July 3, 2014 Permalink

      Wow you’re going to have a rough time when he eventually leaves. He’s a good coach and gets results, but in any other walk of life his egomaniacal tendencies are considered a character flaw. Whatever. I’m just saying he ain’t perfect, pal… And he doesn’t walk on water either

  7. Jerry Jerry
    10:18 am July 3, 2014 Permalink

    “He is the best coach at UK in my lifetime.” Clearly were born post 2000

    • Tom Tom Cats Fan
      10:25 am July 3, 2014 Permalink

      I wish!

    • Cal's Cats
      10:26 am July 3, 2014 Permalink

      Hmmm. He’s the best coach at UK in my lifetime and I was born in ’78.

    • Jerry Jerry
      11:17 am July 3, 2014 Permalink

      You must be forgetting about a two time national coach of the year. Brought the program back from the dead, never missed a tournament (except when on probation due to Eddie’s run) much less a first round loss in the Not Invited Tournament. Props to Cal for what hes been able to accomplish thus far, got a few more years to prove hes the best at UK

  8. James Nelson
    10:50 am July 3, 2014 Permalink

    ESPN’s rankings baffles me. Not a Duke fan by any stretch, but Coach K #4? Boeheim #12? Seriously? But Donovan is #1? SMH

    • UKBlue1!
      11:05 am July 3, 2014 Permalink

      Boeheim no man has done less with more talent than Boeheim.

    • VinD
      11:58 am July 3, 2014 Permalink

      Um…Dean Smith begs to differ.

    • bigbluetruth
      12:41 pm July 3, 2014 Permalink

      Coach Krybaby won a title in 2010 and has done nothing but flopped since. Hate him and SLICK RICK but the LOSERVILLE coach should be ranked higher than K.
      Shows how much hate for Cal or just plain stupid the writers at ESPN really are. They vote Cal as #10 in getting players ready for the NBA but the 2nd best coach in College basketball. They can’t even get their hate right.

  9. J-Dub421
    10:56 am July 3, 2014 Permalink

    In the last 5 seasons UK has finished better/further in the NCAA tournament than Florida every year except for our NIT year. Cal is better than Donovan. When Donovan takes three different schools to a Final Four or better, then ESPN can maybe have an argument….

    • RocNation
      11:07 am July 3, 2014 Permalink

      Cal has taken 1 team 3 final fours. ESPN’s “forecasting” is the most inconsistent Donovan shouldn’t be 1

    • J-Dub421
      11:38 am July 3, 2014 Permalink

      Cal has taken UMass, Memphis, and UK to a Final Four or better.

    • RocNation
      11:47 am July 3, 2014 Permalink

      two have been taken away

    • J-Dub421
      12:05 pm July 3, 2014 Permalink

      That doesn’t mean that they didn’t happen. MAacus Camby took money at UMass and Cal is the one who told him to turn himself in. The NCAA cleared Rose to play (TWICE!!) then went back 2 years after the fact an vacated their season based on zero evidence, which is a joke and should never have happened. Yet they can’t seem to do anything about Duke players taking money or the UNC academic fraud….

    • bigbluetruth
      12:45 pm July 3, 2014 Permalink

      But nothing happened to Magette and Coach Krybaby for same thing as Camby. Just the plain as the nose on your face the hate for COACH CAL AND BBN. Let all in Dookieville, LOSERVILLE and at ESPN keep hating and UK will keep going to final 4’s and hang at least 3-4 more banners under Coach Cal, this might move him down to 5 or 6. And if won’t be Sweet 16 or we beat UCONN banners like two teams in red.

  10. drunkswanson
    10:58 am July 3, 2014 Permalink

    Funny how everyone bashes SEC basketball (sometimes rightfully so unfortunately) and we have the 2 best coaches in the country according to ESPN…

    • tom
      11:09 am July 3, 2014 Permalink

      Great point!

    • DaySleeper
      11:54 am July 3, 2014 Permalink

      Sorry drunkswanson – I see you beat me to the same thought!

  11. UKBlue1!
    11:03 am July 3, 2014 Permalink

    Calipari has put the excitement back into UK basketball. Due to TV contracts and social media it might be bigger than ever nationally. I totally believe if Calipari decides to coach another 7 years, he will win another Title or Two.

  12. DaySleeper
    11:51 am July 3, 2014 Permalink

    The two best basketball coaches in a “football” conference. How about that!

  13. kybigblue
    12:01 pm July 3, 2014 Permalink

    FL. now has the third largest recruiting base in the nation. They should be successfully in all sports. Just think what UK could do in football if they had the third largest recruiting base in the nation.

  14. Ky_Tom
    12:03 pm July 3, 2014 Permalink

    You have to be fair in this voting….Billy went to Florida when it had Zip -0 in basketball…Nothing like what it has today. No history, No tradition , and yes No Fans…Florida was a Football school in a football league. Billy built the Florida basketball program from the ground up, and has won Two National NCAA Championships, a Couple Southeastern Conference Crowns, and Couple Southeastern Conference Post Season Tournaments in his 18 years there…From any point of view, You have to give Billy Donavon all the credit for his work he has done there…….
    John Calipari , a great coach in his own right…He’s won everywhere his coached…The only school he coached that even come close to having nothing, was U Mass…He took that program to new highs and records with wins in the NCAA Tournments..Only to have those wins taken away by the NCAA Rules Committee..Then He tried the NBA, only to fall on his face and getting fired…He moved on to Memphis, a school that had a so so basketball program in what I call the little fish pond..He won there, against bigger and stronger teams, making to the top with that program…Those wins were also taken away…So at this point, Coach Calipari collage game of coaching wasn’t riding high, with a shelve full of NCAA trophy’s, and Hall Of Fame Votes….Then He got a call from the countries number 1 winning program in college basketball, Kentucky….A place that had 7 NCAA National Championships, and over 1900 wins to its credit..A school that knew about winning than losing, and a fan base of millions around the world. So what did Coach John Calipari have to offer this school that was already at the top of the basketball world, and had done so, with 4 coaches that each won a NCAA Championships…How could John Calipari come to Kentucky and top what had already been done..#1, He got a job that didn’t need him to build up a program from the ground up, and a job that He could use to better His skills as a coach, by using the schools great past and history to reruit even the better players than he had ever hoped in having them play for Him..#2, He changed the way everyone looks at recruiting, and He played the NCAA and NBA rule book, by making Kentucky a brand New program, A Players First School…Many did not agree but after a his first year, He started to even change the mines of even the hard core UK fans that thought it took 4 year players to win NCAA Championship games…Yes, Coach Calipari has done better than those he replaced, and he’s done it in much less time, except for Coach Smith who won in 1998 with what everyone says was Pitino’s recruits and players…..Yes John Calipari has made His mark in Kentucky History, and it will be very hard for the next coach to come into Kentucky to match John Calipari’s record…..So, if John Calipari can his second NCAA Championship in under 10 years, then I’d say, He would have to surpass Billy Donavon as the Nations #1 coach in collage basketball…

  15. hell cat
    12:07 pm July 3, 2014 Permalink

    When I take my UK blinders off for a second, I’m ok with Donovan at 1 and Cal at 2. What Donovan’s done there for an extended period of time is pretty incredible. At least Coach Rat Face wasn’t #1.

  16. Bdmnky81
    12:17 pm July 3, 2014 Permalink

    5 years ago, every person in BBN would have preferred Donavon over Cal. We have been asking for Donavon since 3 years into tubby. Don’t be dishonest about the truth. However, Cal has come in here a smashed expectations left and right and has created a standard for success that maybe 3 (donavon, kysyzvdjdjdb, and that guy who coaches down the road) other coaches in bball could have matched if put in the same situation and none of those 3 could have handled the off court aspects of the job to the level Cal has. I can admit when I was wrong. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to act like I never had Billy D on a pedestal. And let’s not forget he is still young and Cal isn’t gonna last forever……

    • J-Dub421
      12:37 pm July 3, 2014 Permalink

      Donovan is a very good coach, but Cal is better. I’d currently take Cal over Donovan any day.

    • bigbluetruth
      12:50 pm July 3, 2014 Permalink

      Never liked SLICK RICK even while at UK (loved the way we played but hated him and his wife) and didn’t want Billy D., but I do feel I’m in a small group about this.

    • bigcatstanding
      7:51 pm July 3, 2014 Permalink

      what really bugs me and it’s nothing against Billy Donovan. Is the fact that three of the top five coaches have championships in the last 5 years. those three easily with their other success should be the top 3 on the list. with John Calipari and his success, no one I mean no one even Florida fans on the ESPN., me and another gentleman a Michigan fan have been talking back and forth, it is quiet as if there’s nothing out there but crickets as The Michigan fan stated. meaning even they are surprised, based on recent success.

      3 Final Fours, 2 championship games, a championship, & a Elite Eight his first year taking over a NIT team.
      I’ll wait while someone put down all of Billy Donovan success as of late lol. I’LL MARK OFF a little space for what he’s done. >( )< I know the space was quite large for what he has accomplished in the tournament, but I wanted to make sure in case someone rights big fancy words lol. UK ILF#9 BABY

  17. Craig Warren
    12:25 pm July 3, 2014 Permalink

    Wasn’t it just a couple weeks ago that ESPN said that Rick Pitino was a better coach at preparing kids for the NBA? Now however they are ranking Cal as the 2nd best coach.

    • bigcatstanding
      7:39 pm July 3, 2014 Permalink

      maybe you should go back to yesterday’s article, on this site where they proved that ESPN absolutely bombed out in that article as well. GO CATS

  18. REALLY
    12:39 pm July 3, 2014 Permalink

    If you aint FIRST, your last. : ) SHAKE and BAKE : )

  19. Justin
    12:47 pm July 3, 2014 Permalink

    I think the most telling fact from the list of top coaches is that UK played against 5 out of the top 10 during the tournament. And if you look at the list, all 6 teams we played in the tournament are ranked in the top 40. That’s pretty damn impressive.

  20. Nerds
    1:29 pm July 3, 2014 Permalink

    The nerd army is in full effect this today. I love watching people get worked up over subjective rankings/ratings. BBN will next argue what in fact is the best flavor of ice cream. You guys are a hoot.

    • Nerds
      1:30 pm July 3, 2014 Permalink

      Sans “this”.

  21. dave
    1:30 pm July 3, 2014 Permalink

    people tend to forget. that just before. Donvan came to Florida. before. moving on top Illinois…. man i can’t remember his name but he not only won the SEC with the gators but took them to the final four…

    • UKBlue1!
      1:45 pm July 3, 2014 Permalink

      Lon Kruger

    • bigcatstanding
      7:36 pm July 3, 2014 Permalink

      no denying that Billy Donovan is a very good coach. But no way with a straight face even a Gator fan can argue the fact that he hasn’t, even come close to what John Calipari has of late.
      even before that if we are going to argue Oh Florida absolutely sucked before Billy Donovan. Doesn’t anyone remember that John Calipari made his hey rebuilding 2 separate programs before coming to Kentucky.
      I mean get real UMass, a bottom feeder among all bottom feeders before John Calipari.

  22. Are You F'in Kidding Me?
    4:55 pm July 3, 2014 Permalink

    I say BS to Cal being a great coach. He’s not. he recruits the best players, and so far, he has ONE (1) title to show for it. Same as Joe B and Tubby. I can name TEN (10) better college coaches than Cal without even trying.

    • brain
      5:55 pm July 3, 2014 Permalink

      No. You can’t.

    • bigcatstanding
      7:31 pm July 3, 2014 Permalink

      get real took me a while to get done laughing at your comment. and you can name 10 and keep a straight face right ( NOT)!!
      you sir are a hater and absolutely know nothing about basketball, if you don’t think it takes great coaching ability to start from scratch every single year and make them championship contenders.

      maybe you watch the NBA, or are familiar with the Miami Heat landing more talent than anyone should possibly be allowed. Them taking 2 full season, even though they play several more game then college players, to get that them playing well together as a team bozo.

  23. Barri
    6:57 pm July 3, 2014 Permalink

    Of course men have decided this. Donovan is a jerk in public and rude to everyone in his company when drinking. He does nothing for KY where he got his start, thank you. At least Calipari visits the old folks, listens to the crazy female fans, who are ninety plus, and remind him of the importance of free throws. He is all in in KY. Plus after reading his book, he answers all the nay sayers in the SEC who are all about the money and the one and done rule.
    Community, family, players, plus the endorsements! Go Cal, see u in Colorado someday.

  24. bigcatstanding
    7:23 pm July 3, 2014 Permalink

    just one more way to prove their hatred, and bring him to the last second then crap on him.

    get real we are talking last 5 years, no 5 years straight probably in history other than what John Wooden did with his paid for players.
    I mean get real 3 Final Fours, 2 championship games, a Elite Eight his first year taking over A NIT team.

    Billy Donovan over the last 5 years only playing in one Final Four, having the overwhelming favorite team and bombing out.

    just so glad that I don’t spend any money being a insider 😉 lol, on that pathetic ESPN site. every year if they don’t already have enough, they hire more and more ACC X ball players. most of the time being from either North Carolina or Duke. the little point guard from Duke, the Williams kid, him not being able to drive a motorcycle very well cut his career short. that aside, him being the only one in the bunch, that I consider to actually watch it, and see what it is, and gives his straight up honest opinion on it. GO CATS

  25. Goebel Bartley
    2:59 pm July 4, 2014 Permalink

    I really like Coach Cal for his passion and ability but the best coach in MY life time at UK was Joe B. Hall. He always had a great team and ran a real clean program, never a hint of scandal.