Say what you want about Tubby Smith, I have always argued the thing that hurt Tubby’s time at Kentucky more than pace of play, a fairly dull personality, or perceived recruiting failures, was the simple fact that he was forced to follow Rick Pitino in the pressure-cooker that is known as Kentucky. I mean, Tubby won 76% of his games at Kentucky, a greater percentage than Joe B. Hall. Tubby went to the Elite 8 or further in nearly half of his seasons. He won either an SEC regular season or tournament title in 7 of his 10 seasons. He put several guys into the pros. But I don’t think anybody was satisfied with Tubby’s decade at Kentucky. And I think that is because the 8 years Pitino put in were so much better. Better style of play, more wins, more Final Fours, more NBA talent. When taken in a vacuum, I think Tubby’s 10 years were very good. Those 10 years were probably one of the best any program in the country had during that time. But Rick’s 8 years were without question the best 8 years any program had during that time with only Duke as a serious competitor.
Which brings me to Calipari. No matter how many more years Cal goes at UK, I strongly doubt the program is going to dip very much. I don’t see Calipari going out with a whimper at UK the way Tubby did. So no matter how many total years Cal coaches at this program, those X number of years will be considered some of the best in UK history. But it makes me worry about the next guy that has to take over. Kentucky is almost certainly going to hire a high profile guy whenever the time comes, but are we going to stack that person’s results against Calipari? Because despite the fact that Kentucky fans want the best every single season, I think we can all agree these 8 years have been a bit extraordinary in terms of results. 4 Final Fours in 8 years hasn’t happened very often at this school. No other school has been to that many in the last 8 years. If the next guy only goes to 2 Final Fours in 8 years, will we look down upon that tenure?
It is rare for schools to go from one great coach to the next. Kansas did it from Roy Williams to Bill Self. North Carolina did it from Frank McGuire to Dean Smith. I guess Kentucky did pretty well going from Rupp to Hall. Louisville has Crum to Pitino. But the odds are still small that you go from one amazing coach to another. You are more likely to get Tubby or Hall level results than you will to get another Calipari. Those are just the odds. If anything, I think you just hope you don’t get a Gillispie.
But what do you think? Will you stack up the next guys results (hopefully starting in 25 more years) against Calipari, and if so, is that unfair to that next person?