With the exit of Brad Calipari after next season and what appears to be a potentially loaded roster, every fan has heard rumblings and wondered if there is a slight chance this could be the end of the John Calipari era. And if that happens, it will have been a hell of 10-year run, assuming another great season in 2019. But if history tells us anything it is that these Hall of Fame coaches have a real struggle on knowing when to step away from the game. It is likely a combination of their schools/fanbases fearing to get rid of a Hall of Famer and a natural ego these coaches have that they can always bring back the greatness.
But when hunting through all of the college coaches currently in the Basketball Hall of Fame, you see a multitude of coaches who did not end their careers on the highest of notes and only a small group who really went out with a bang. I wonder if UK has a big season, Final Four or better, with all of the factors at play and looking at this list below, would Calipari know when to get out? And would we, as a fanbase, respect his decision to go out with a bang? Or we would hold it against him if he decided to call it quits while the program was rolling, leaving that greatness at risk of falling apart.
I would have said HELL NO don’t go before actually doing this research. But after seeing some of the names here and remembering how sad it was to see some of these guys go out like they did, I would respect Cal for having the ability to recognize when it isn’t going to get any better and fading off into the sunset. As you look at this list, maybe your opinion will change too:
WENT OUT WITH A WHIMPER
Phog Allen (Kansas, 1956)
-Won national title in 1952 but went 25-19 in final 2 seasons, finishing 5th in Big 8 both seasons.
Lou Carneseca (St. Johns, 1992)
-Won just 1 conference title in final 6 seasons and except for Elite 8 run in 1991, won just 2 NCAA games in other 5 seasons.
John Chaney (Temple, 2006)
-Went to the NIT in each of his final 5 seasons.
Denny Crum (Louisville, 2001)
-Had 2 losing seasons in final 4 years and didn’t win an NCAA Tournament game in any of those 4 years.
Don Haskins (UTEP, 1999)
-Did not make the NCAA Tournament in any of his final 7 seasons.
Hank Iba (Oklahoma St, 1970)
-Went 47-80 in final 5 seasons at school.
Bob Knight (Texas Tech, 2008)
-Fired at Indiana, just 3 NCAA wins in 7 seasons at Texas Tech, a 62.7% win percentage with Red Raiders.
Guy Lewis (Houston, 1986)
-Went 30-28 in final 2 seasons, missing the NCAA Tournament both years
Lute Olson (Arizona, 2007)
-Double Digit losses in 3 of final 4 seasons
Rick Pitino (Louisville, 2017)
-Strippers and hookers
Nolan Richardson (Arkansas, 2002)
-Final 6 years included just 2 NCAA wins and 74 losses, no conference titles
Jerry Tarkanian (Fresno State, 2002)
-Five NIT’s in 7 years at Fresno and just 1 NCAA win
Gary Williams (Maryland, 2011)
-Final 8 seasons had 3 NIT berths and just 4 NCAA wins, no appearances past 2nd round
WENT OUT WITH A BANG
Jim Calhoun (UCONN, 2012)
-Sandwiched the 2011 national title around 18-16 and 18-13 seasons in 2010 and 2012. The title close to retirement gets him here but you could argue he went out with a whimper too.
Al McGuire (Marquette, 1977)
-Won national title in 1977 and retired.
Dean Smith (North Carolina, 1997)
-Final Four in 2 of last 3 seasons
John Wooden (UCLA, 1975)
-Won national title in 1975 and retired