I honestly don’t envy the guy who is going to have to follow John Calipari as the next basketball coach at UK. It is much in the same way that I never envied Tubby Smith for having to follow Rick Pitino. He was in an almost impossible situation to continue at the level of success that Pitino obtained, and then when he wins the title in his first season he was basically screwed. Almost any program in the country would have taken Tubby’s tenure happily but we always compared him to Rick and that was a key in his failure with the fanbase. The guy that follows Calipari will likely have the same program.
But has this almost 10 year span been the “golden era” for UK basketball? I think when breaking down the numbers, there is really only 1 other era that compares: 1992 through 2001. That era spanned 2 coaches but was still an amazing decade of basketball. Many might point the late 1940’s and 1950’s as a competitor but that wasn’t modern basketball for it’s smaller tournament, far less overall talent poor and lack of integration. That was an amazing run as well but there are caveats to it.
I think you basically are looking at that Pitino-Tubby run and this Calipari run as the two best decade-long stretches in UK basketball history. Calipari obviously has another year to add to his 10-year resume. So what would it take to surpass that 92-01 run or has he already done that? Take a look:
Wins (Currently through 9 Cal years: 265 wins)
1992-2001: 293 wins
NCAA Tournament Wins (Currently through 9 Cal years: 28)
Final Fours (Currently through 9 Cal years: 4)
1992-2001: 4 Final Fours
SEC Regular Season Titles (Currently through 9 Cal years: 5)
SEC Tournament Titles (Currently through 9 Cal years: 6)
1992-2001: 8 titles
1st Round NBA Draft Picks (Currently through 9 Cal years: 24)
So which is it? How good does this next Calipari team need to be and how much do they need to accomplish for this to be considered the greatest 10 year run in UK basketball history?