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BTI’s Rants and Ramblings: Lots of Chips on the Table for John Calipari in 2020-21

When we look back at the 2020-21 season a decade from now and John Calipari is probably no longer the coach at UK, I think this season will be a key moment in what the legacy of Cal will be.  And I don’t mean that a poor season somehow ruins his overall legacy at Kentucky.  His name is going into the rafters no matter.  The love the fans have for him isn’t going to be permanently damaged.  But let’s be honest, Calipari is on the back end of his career here.  He isn’t going another 10 years.  And I think this season will be very key is how that ending is going to look for fans.  And there are 2 major reasons why:


It’s rare for Cal to hype up how good his team is coming into the year.  He usually insinuates that his team is young and sucks early in the year.  But instead he is talking like this team should be elite from the opening tip.  This change in attitude certainly should get fans excited for the year whenever it begins.  But there are serious risks that come with that.  If this team struggles at the beginning of the year, as many Calipari teams have, then will the backlash from fans be greater than ever and talk about Cal “declining” could increase.  And what will be a weird year already, with NCAA Tournament spots likely limited, could become a disaster if the Cats are on the bubble.  Remember, only 1 player returns this year.


So the program hasn’t been rolling for a bit now.  They are still one of the 10 best in the country but some cracks and potential cracks have begun showing:

  • Kenny Payne leaves program (Bruiser Flint as replacement not loved)
  • Several high level recruit losses (Zion, Banchero among others)
  • Some high level UK recruits have disappointed (Montgomery, Whitney, Juzang, Green, Diallo, Vanderbilt)
  • No Final Fours in 5 years
  • No #1 seeds in 5 years
  • Wenyen Gabriel criticisms, Ashton Hagans public spat

Look, 350 college basketball programs would still take what Kentucky has done since 2016 everyday and twice on Sunday.  This is not an indictment of the program as a whole.  But you can not deny that the program has dipped some since the 38-1 squad of 2015.  It just has.  And with Calipari on the tail end of his career here I get concerned we are slowly heading towards Tubby Smith territory.  An assistant coaching staff that doesn’t excite fans.  Some additional recruiting failures.  Surprising losses.  No Final Fours.

But that brings us back to this year.  Calipari has framed this season as a national title level team, or at least the Final Four.  And I think he might be doing that not only because he truly believes it but he NEEDS it to be so.  Which is why there is a lot on the line I think.  If Kentucky goes 23-7 and gets a #4 seed, what will we think of the direction the program is headed?  I don’t know and we don’t really know how much of a season will even be played, but assuming we get a full year or near a full year, I think there is as much pressure on this Calipari team as there has been in the last 5 years.

Article written by Bryan the Intern

5 Comments for BTI’s Rants and Ramblings: Lots of Chips on the Table for John Calipari in 2020-21

  1. lexslamman
    10:32 am August 26, 2020 Permalink

    Wake up. The program has been spiraling downward for at least five years with no signs of abating.

    • claiborne_field
      2:47 pm August 26, 2020 Permalink

      What have done for me lately?… geez. Do you remember the Billy G days?

    • BowdenQB4ever
      5:24 pm August 26, 2020 Permalink

      @claiborne I do, but I’m not sure what that has to do with the clear atrophy in the program. Cal has been ice cold in elite recruiting, lost his top assistant, and responded by bringing in his retirement age friend and an “ace recruiter” that can’t go on the road or initiate contact with prospects. The cat is out of the bag, and he doesnt really seem interested in retrieving it. Dude is gonna cash checks and fill up g league rosters for a few years, hopefully he lasts long enough that mitch cant get any where near the replacement process.

  2. 54Meeks
    11:34 am August 26, 2020 Permalink

    Good points. How many years do we have to go without a 1 seed/ F4 before the sheep admit Cal has lost a step? 7? 8? 9? People will scream “we still have a top 2 recruiting class!”. Yes, but, for Cals OND model to work we need the “Best of the Best’ top 5 recruits every year.

  3. KyZoneBlitz
    1:23 am August 27, 2020 Permalink

    I dont know…. I’ll admit, didnt think Payne would leave. Surprised the hell out if me, especially leaving for anything other than a college head coaching gig. Dont know much about bruiser flint other than him and Cal are buddies. Maybe he turns out to be a positive hire, time will tell, but I KNOW Jai Lucas will become a GREAT hire. Yes, at the moment he can’t recruit, but I think the current situation doesnt last past this one season. Cal knew he had to get him on the staff no matter what, and that’s what he did. After this upcoming season ends, things will be moved around to where Lucas can do what he does best. I wish there was a way for Cal to bring back Orlando Antigua, when he left for the south florida head coaching job, thats when our recruiting dipped. We had both Antigua and Payne, 2 best recruiters in the country, and they proved it by bringing in multiple top-5 recruits every year. Then we lost 1. Dont get me wrong, I love Barbee and Joel Justus, but as far as recruiting goes, neither compare to Antigua when he was here. Im hoping that Jai Lucas and Flint can help form that top duo again, although I do have to admit, Bruiser Flint coming here from the Hoosiers didnt really get me excited, but neither did signing a recruit ranked in the 30’s/40’s/50’s after missing out on top-5/10 players. But then Tyler Ulis dominated college Bball, Devin Booker Shot the lights out and Tyler Hero also balled out and became a lottery pick. And I’ve also been less than content on missing the final-4 the past 4-5 seasons, but weve came really freaking close. The Fox/Monk led team that lost to the tarheels on a last second shot, that was a really, REALLY good team. If we beat N. Carolina, we win the title that year, just as they did, and we had already beat them earlier that season. The ball just bounced the wrong way 1 time, was just the wrong time. I dont think Cal should be blamed for a last second shot on basically a scramble-drill type of situation when the shot was taken, Luke maye could of missed and Cal has 2 titles here. Year before last, Elite-8 vs Auburn. We had the better team, were riding a ton of momentum coming into the matchup, but Auburn was touched by the hand of God and couldnt miss. We didnt play terrible, but we also didnt play our best. If we beat Auburn, thats another final-4 and probably another title. I think we ended up losing by 6? Forget exactly but, the point is while yes, weve missed out on the final 4 and weve missed out on top-5 recruits, it isnt like we havent been EXTREMELY close. Yes weve missed out on top-5 recruits but weve signed numerous top-10 guys. You guys say were on a decent but I disagree, were about to return to the top, this was just a brief vacation before a strong closing.