Let’s be honest with ourselves for a minute: despite the fact that John Calipari seems more and more destined to retire at the University of Kentucky (thank you Cleveland), he probably doesn’t have more than 5 more years at this school. It’s just too much of a grind for a coach anymore. The fact we might get 10 years out of Calipari is a minor miracle. But what is truly miraculous about the Calipari-era is 2 fold for me:
1. That the first 6 years have included 4 Final Fours and 1 National Title
2. I can’t envision the program ever not being elite under Calipari
Now, you might argue that this is Kentucky and the right guy would never let this program dip. But the fact of the matter that EVERY UK coach not named Rick Pitino let the program dip before they left the job. Take a little look:
Rupp: Rupp did not go to a Final Four in his final 6 years in Lexington, which included one season at 13-13. He lost 13 games in his final 2 years, which is a lot more considering his teams were playing 7-10 less games a year than they do now. While Rupp was forced out because of age, his program wasn’t dominating when he left.
Hall: Probably the weakest argument but Hall’s last team went 18-13 and without a surprise run to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament, that team would have been quite a massive disappointment. It’s not that his team didn’t have talent though. They went to the Final Four the year before and won 32 games the year after, but Hall lost 8 or more games in 3 out of his last 4 seasons.
Sutton: Of course Sutton’s demise was through probation but he obviously left the program on a low
Tubby: The strongest argument, Tubby definitely left the program on a low note after 2 incredibly frustrating seasons.
Gillispie: No explanation needed
Some of these guys left the program in worse shape than others. Hall left the cupboard quite full when he left but fans didn’t exactly love him at the time. Rupp’s entire career is what is focused on but the end was hit or miss. And Sutton, Tubby, and Gillispie left the program on very shaky ground for many different reasons.
But here is my point: I can’t imagine John Calipari leaving this program in some kind of mediocre shape. It doesn’t mean that he hasn’t had bad season. Of course the 2013 season was a disaster and had he left after that year, I wouldn’t write this post. But for whatever reason, I just can’t see UK struggling again under Calipari. The recruiting and talent are just too good. He dominates the conference. He dominates his rivals. He has many of the fans wrapped around his little finger. And beyond unforeseen circumstances like probation, he’s going to leave the program on strong footing.
Maybe it is just my age and having dealt with Tubby and Gillispie, but you always got the sense with those guys that if everything didn’t fall just perfect, the program would fall apart. With Calipari, it seems like bad things have happened (Poythress injury i.e.) and the program just keeps on trucking. The amount of great talent that did not choose UK this offseason would have crippled a Tubby Smith team. Instead, Calipari still has a Top 10 team.
Do you feel the same amount of confidence I do that no matter when Cal leaves, UK will be strong? That there is no way Calipari leaves on a low note with the program?