City Sports Report

John Calipari will never outrun his past

Calipari has done some excellent things at Kentucky, but his past will not allow for that recognition (photo courtesy of www.cbssports.com)

The Kentucky Wildcats are a team seemingly on a mission. They are 36-0 and face West Virginia in the Sweet 16 on Thursday in Cleveland, Ohio. This team has lived up to expectations for the most part and the guy that deserves all the credit for that is head coach John Calipari. Some point to the players as to why Kentucky is this good, but Calipari was instrumental in getting them to play as a team and to buy in to doing something special. But instead of him getting the credit for guiding this team, many downplay his effect on them and say that anyone could coach this team to a title. Some may want to take a look at the Seton Hall Pirates team with star forward Eddie and All-American point guard Andre Barrett. They did not even make the NCAA Tournament that season and were an early out in the NIT that season. That team imploded with all the talent that they had. So in essence the coach does deserve some credit here. But with Calipari, his past and his present will not allow for that credit to be given.

Calipari has always been a guy that attracted talent to wherever he has been. We all can remember him attracting talent to the University of Massachusetts like Marcus Camby and who can forget the talents he brought in to Memphis like guards Derrick Rose and Tyreke Evans. He made UMass into a team that had to be reckoned with each and every season as he led them to the Final Four. And after a quick time in the NBA coaching the Nets, he then came back to college and made the University of Memphis relevant again, even taking them to the National Title game. The great accomplishments he had at both these schools were short-lived and essentially memories the NCAA will not let us remember anymore though. Both schools had troubles with the NCAA under Calipari’s watch. And as a result, the appearances of both schools in the Final Four are something that essentially never happened. It is because of these issues at both schools, that Calipari has earned the reputation for being a guy that has trouble follow him constantly. The feelings about him in Memphis is that he left that program crumbled after he left. Now the Tigers have been able to get talent to come there, but some will never forget how he got his whole recruiting class to leave and go to Kentucky with him. That class, you might ask, had players like John Wall, Demarcus Cousins and Eric Bledsoe among others.

But the past is not the only reason that Calipari receives as much flack as he does. Some tend to throw blame his way about accentuating the “one-and-done” players. Calipari has made no bones about recruiting the best players in the nation to Kentucky despite the fact they more than likely will not be there but one year. He has recruited talents like Anthony Davis to Kentucky and to his credit, he has gotten the talents that he has brought in to buy into team play. And as a result, he has had success in every season at Kentucky but one. Heading into this season, he got four All-Americans to come to Kentucky and next season he could have a whole new group of them coming in as well. The ability to take a brand new team each and every year and make them a good, functioning team is a talent in itself. But there are some basketball purists that will never give him credit for what he has done at Kentucky. Former Indiana and Texas Tech head coach Bobby Knight even went as far as to say that Calipari is one of the reasons the college game lacks integrity. But even in all that, Calipari just keeps having success after success despite the outside noise that surrounds him at times.

At the end of the day, Calipari has been masterful in getting talent and getting them to succeed as a team. He may lack the strategical brilliance of Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, but he more than makes up for it in his ability to mesh talent. Because of what he is achieved, he could eventually be a Hall of Fame coach one day. But even if he did reach the Hall of Fame, it still would not take away the stench of what happened at UMass and Memphis under his watch. And it is because of that, many will not give him credit for much that he does. Calipari may be doing some great things with the players he has at Kentucky, but there are many that are waiting patiently for the NCAA to punish the team for something we are not aware of just yet. And for Calipari, it seems like he has come to peace with who he is and what he does. He knows he cannot change the perception that is there. But all he can do is coach and do the best he can. Unfortunately, whatever he does going forward will not erase what has happened in the past and the view of what he is doing now.

For more sports talk, feel free to follow me on Twitter @General_MP or check me out on Facebook at Mike Patton-The General .

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