Summertime means hypothetical time when you are covering college athletics. And this little thought was bouncing around my head this weekend and I wanted to get a sense what everybody thought. So I am going to play out a hypothetical that is not that ridiculous to consider and I want your thoughts on the question at the end:
2009-2010: Kentucky decides to stop trying the bury threes, instead pounds it into the post against West Virginia and dispatches the Mountaineers. They overmatch Duke and Butler in the Final Four and win Cal’s first national title.
2010-11: Nothing changes (sure, UK could have easily won that title but that was a very fortunate run)
2011-12: Nothing changes
2012-13: Nothing changes (too many things went wrong to come up with a realistic hypothetical and that team was never winning the national title, Nerlens healthy or not)
2013-14: Nothing changes (young Cats surprising run and probably not a title team)
2014-15: An undefeated season is their destiny and UK gets past Wisconsin and Duke in the greatest Final Four in history
2015-16: Nothing changes (again, that team wasn’t realistically a title contender)
2016-17: Cats beat UNC in overtime, and easily dispatch Oregon and Gonzaga to win Calipari’s 4th title in 8 years
2017: CALIPARI RETIRES
So, in an 8 year stretch Kentucky has won 4 titles, made another 2 Final Fours and then Calipari decides to hang it up. All we changed were 1 bad game against West Virignia in 2010 and UCONN in 2014, a bad last 3 minutes against Wisconsin in 2015 and Luke Maye’s shot this year. And none of those changes is a stretch. Even when they played bad, they still had chances to win in all those games.
So, back to the hypothetical. UK has won 4 titles in 8 years. Calipari has retired. Now the question:
GREATEST UK COACH IN HISTORY?
If that scenario above actually happened, here is what the comparison between the 2 would look like:
CALIPARI (8 years): 4 titles, 6 Final Fours, 257 wins
RUPP (41 years): 4 titles, 6 Final Fours, 876 wins
I bring up this hypothetical because I have started to wonder, even with how it has actually played out with 1 title and 4 Final Fours, could Calipari actually be Kentucky’s greatest coach? He will NEVER get to Rupp’s records simply because he won’t be here 41 years but Rupp was winning a title every 10.2 years and Calipari is winning a title once every 8 years. Rupp went the Final Four 14% of the time. Cal has gone to the Final Four 50% of the time. Rupp did not go to the Final Four in his last 15 years at Kentucky and just once in his last 21 years. Can you ever imagine a scenario where that would happen under Calipari. Of course not.
And to top it all off, Calipari is doing this in a MUCH harder era to compete in college basketball. Rupp didn’t coach in an integrated game for half his career, had little serious competition in the SEC, dealt with 8 and 16 team NCAA Tournaments and frankly didn’t have the various social media and public pressures that Calipari has. And yet, if in some crazy world Calipari stayed here 41 years and kept the same pace he is on now, he would finish with:
20 Final Fours
So, again I ask: Is John Calipari the greatest coach in UK history?