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Opinion: Why John Calipari is the Biggest Problem in NCAA Basketball

By Daniel Enjamio

On March 15, Kentucky head basketball coach John Calipari defeated Arkansas to win the SEC championship. Technically Kentucky won the game, but it’s only fair to give Calipari all the credit and attention since that’s what he wants, no, demands from us. The win, a modest fifteen point victory over a much inferior yet Top 20 team, kept Calipari’s vision of an undefeated season in tact, and continued to feed the notion that the 2015 Kentucky basketball team might be the best collection of talent college basketball has ever seen. But forget all the future lottery picks and potential future NBA all-stars for the Wildcats because, whether we like it or not, this is the John Calipari show. Despite the fact that he’s the coach of the undisputed best team in America, Calipari continues to represent everything that is wrong with college basketball, and is, therefore, the sport’s biggest problem.

Tomorrow night, the Kentucky Wildcats continue their march towards an undefeated season by playing in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament. They are two wins from another Final Four appearance for Calipari.

Before being hired by Kentucky, the best salesman in basketball led two other schools to the Final Four. Despite Calipari’s glaring run of success with Massachusetts and Memphis, athletic directors were openly hesitant to hire him. Why you ask? Calipari’s two prior coaching marriages ended in ugly divorce, as both those schools were hit with recruiting violations under his reign. That didn’t stop Kentucky, the same school that had passed up on Calipari three years prior because of his problems. Kentucky was desperate to win by any means, and the “kings” of college basketball felt the only way to assure this was to hire the sport’s greatest villain. They were immediately showered with prized recruits and future NBA players such as John Wall, Demarcus Cousins, and Eric Bledsoe. The NCAA clearly doesn’t think those violations were enough to punish Calipari again so we’ll have to let that slide. Don’t worry, we won’t let him get off that easy.

The fact that Calipari has put two schools on probation and continues to coach isn’t why I find him to be a disgrace to college basketball. That fact is more an indictment on the NCAA than it is on Calipari. My issue with Calipari is the way he runs his program, and the fear I have for his style becoming a theme in the sport is why he’s a problem. Kentucky lives off getting the best high school players in America, with the intention of having them stay for one year, two at most, and then replacing that talent with new talent. This makes Calipari more a collector than a coach, a showman who’s given a front row seat to watch the best team in the country as he holds the door for 18 and 19 year-olds on their way to the NBA. While I don’t see a problem with a school taking a young man for one season and allowing him to leave to further his career if he’s ready, I do have a problem with a school and a coach content with taking three, four, sometimes even five or six of these kids year after year. You see, that’s the problem with Calipari: often even the kids who aren’t ready to go pro still go pro. A program built on high school athletes choosing a college that will allow them to attend school for basically a semester and then go off to the NBA regardless of whether or not they’re ready? That’s a problem.

As Calipari continues his own epic quest to win himself a second national championship, we must not allow him nor this particular Kentucky team to let us forget all the teams, past and present, who have succeeded in implementing the more difficult process. As you turn on ESPN and hear Calipari mouthing off about how humble he and his team are, don’t forget the 2008 Kansas team, led by juniors Mario Chalmers and Brandon Rush, which beat Calipari’s mighty Memphis Tigers in the championship. When you see the humble salesman telling a sideline reporter at halftime how much better his team has been since their last practice, think back to how Calipari’s first Kentucky campaign ended, a loss to a veteran and hungry lower seeded West Virginia team in the Elite Eight. And finally, as he steals the microphone from Jim Nantz after he wins the national championship and begins to echo his long sermon about how much better at basketball the University of Kentucky is than every other unworthy school in America, remember the Florida team just last season, which started four seniors and beat Calipari’s freshmen three times. Or, better yet, you can just sit there and admire the greatness that is John Calipari. That’s the way he would like it, anyway.

7 Responses to “Opinion: Why John Calipari is the Biggest Problem in NCAA Basketball”

  1. Fcordal says:

    This writer actually established his point well. Very impressed.

  2. Moises Jattin says:

    I had a strong feeling you were the one who wrote it even before I saw it, haha. Great article, though.
    P.s. Calipari is making bracket picking very easy, so not entirely an enemy lol

  3. Keith Green says:

    Daniel, great article!

  4. Charles Frazier says:

    Hey Bub!!!
    I was very impressed with your writing skills!
    Supported your opinion quite well.
    How about an article on the Marlins!?

  5. EricG says:

    I don’t agree with you on this one Daniel. Still a very well written article, if I was looking to change my opinion on the great John Calipari, this would definitely do the job. Unfourtunately, that’s not the case, I believe his expertise of coaching college players into phenomenal all-stars is why he’s the best thing in NCAA Basketball.

  6. Fcordal says:

    What a great debate-starter and really a nice piece. Can’t wait to see you around school to chat about who you picked for this years tournament and maybe even a pick up game soon? See you around

  7. Sheri E says:

    Well written however I disagree. How can one hate a coach that year after year pretty much starts from scratch? The rules of this one and done are certainly not his rules. I am sure if you asked him he would love to have this GREAT team for 2+ years, but who is he to keep these kids from making the money they are being offered in the NBA. If he discourages the players from going then people will call him selfish etc etc. What I have come to realize is Coach Cal is in a no win situation with the “haters”. He is a phenomenal coach and what he has done with his players this year with the platoon system is proof! No place or time for egos, they believe in each other and play for each other. Coach Cal has said more than once his team is not perfect, as the games against Ole Miss, Texas A&M and most recently Notre Dame has shown. They are currently undefeated and will continue to go after the ” perfect season” 40 – 0! Regardless of the outcome, the Kentucky Wildcats have given me a season to remember! What a thrill….and thanks for a great ride!

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