Few coaches have had a run like Kentucky Wildcats coach John Calipari in the last few years. Calipari has always been a polarizing figure in college basketball, and as a result his fans have to be happy, even if his critics are not. Whether a fan or a critic, it’s hard to deny the success he has had in his 20 seasons of coaching.
What’s amazing about Calipari is his success since the introduction of the one-and-done rule back in 2006. Many college basketball fans were worried that it would be difficult for their respective teams to consistently field a good team. He (along with a few other elite coaches) has proved that worry to be unfounded. Since 2006, Calipari has created a powerhouse in Memphis and resurrected one in Kentucky. In the 5 years since the induction of the rule, John Calipari has the best record in college basketball. The only hole in his resume is the lack of an NCAA Championship, but with the talent he keeps getting since he’s been at Kentucky (2009), it almost seems inevitable that he will get his first (of many) very soon. Until now, I’d never tried typing with my fingers crossed.
It’s John Calipari’s ability to get that top-notch talent, year in and year out, that has allowed him to have his consistent success as a coach, despite the fact that much of it has occurred in the one-and-done era. Since he’s been at Kentucky, he has gotten 10 high school recruits that were ranked in the top 20 to come play there. Not bad for only 3 years of work. Since he became a coach nearly 20 years ago, he has been one of the best coaches at getting his players selected as NBA draft picks.
It’s that very reason why John Calipari has been able to get that top high school talent to play for him. High school basketball stars love to come play for a coach that has a reputation for preparing and improving them well for the NBA. They want a guide to the promise land, and Calipari embodies that persona well. What is the reason for this perception?
Calipari’s stint as an NBA coach could have definitely been a contributor. A coach with NBA connections is definitely an attraction for a young player trying to get there. The same seems to be the case in college football. Nick Saban’s success as a recruiter with that some aura has enabled Alabama to become a perennial powerhouse. Both coaches are known for getting their players pro-ready, and for having the connections to get them a good head start toward their ultimate destination.
It’s a valuable combination for getting the best to come play for you. The amount and depth of talent that comes in every year makes up for the chance that some (if not most) of your players are only going to be there for a year.
Of course, the name Kentucky is synonymous with college basketball royalty. The Wildcats have more wins and a higher winning percentage than any other Division I college basketball program in history. They were in somewhat of a slump (by Kentucky standards anyway) before Calipari arrived in Lexington. John Calipari’s reputation along with the legend of Kentucky basketball, merge to create a very bright present and future for Kentucky fans.
Kentucky basketball is among the best again, right where it belongs. Now it’s time to see when that first national championship will come for John Calipari. Then it will be time to see how many more he can add to Kentucky’s legacy. And yes, I’m still typing with my fingers crossed.