As my day winds down (I know, I keep odd hours- work's a bitch sometimes), I have been reflecting on both what has happened today, the comments I saw on ESPN and ESPNEWS all day (work's a blessing sometimes), and what has really happened.
First and foremost, we have finally exorcised the ghost of Pitino. Oh, he may very well still haunt us from time to time, but we are no longer under his looooonnng shadow. Congratulations guys, it only took us a little over a decade and three coaches! Seriously, though, Calipari has a distinct luxury that neither Tubby nor Clyde were afforded- the opportunity to stand on his own abilities. Granted, this reflects more on Cal's own accomplishments and pure coaching acumen more than it does on the fans or the two previous coaches, but it is a DRAMATIC shift in perspective. Not once today did I hear anyone question whether he could live up to what Pitino accomplished at UK (actually, I take that back- there was one question, asked in jest, if he had to hang two championship banners to top Pitino's one- but that was the ONLY time I heard it, and never on a news/commentary report). What I DID hear about is how nervous/jealous/miffed that Pitino is/seems/appears/should be. The specter no longer hangs over the head of the University of Kentucky basketball coach. Indeed, there is a new ghostly presence...this one has taken up residence in a school down the highway. Pitino now has the ghostly presence of his championship run at Kentucky hanging over his head. It is taking him a bit longer to reach that goal at the 'Ville. I hope and believe that this attitude toward our coach will continue in Big Blue Nation. I also hope and believe that Coach Cal will give us plenty of reason to maintain this attitude- after all, the reports on ESPN DID predict SEVERAL new banners in Rupp! For the first time in over a decade, we are looking forward instead of back to see the best days in Kentucky hoops. And that, my friends, is exciting. VERY exciting
I was also struck by how much contrast I saw between today's press conference and the one we saw a couple of years ago. I don't know who prepped Coach for today's events, but they did a hell of a job. He was the anti-Clyde. Humble, direct, motivating, and informed about the intricacies and quirks of the program. He presented us with a promise. Not the "I can do it" that drives egos (and our previous coach's infantile, insecure behaviors), but the "we can make this happen" that inspires champions. He promised that WE CAN do it, not that HE WILL do it. Cal didn't come here to show what a big shot he is. It's ironic, because he IS a big shot.. a REALLY big shot. And even moreso now. But he knows that he can never be bigger than this program. All this talk about his ego the last few days has been misguided. It wasn't his ego, but his humility that brought him to our stoop. It was his desire to be a part of something bigger than himself. Two years ago, we were holding pep rallies, setting off fireworks, and dancing in the streets- all for a MUCH less promising set of circumstances and a coach who intended to beat his system into the program and players because HE could do it. BCG wanted to win a championship to be a championship coach, not to be a part of the lore. Champions come once a year. Legendary programs come onece a century-if you're lucky. Calipari CAN do it because he KNOWS its the people who surround him that will make it happen. We are a part of his philosophy, something we were sorely left out of the past couple of years. It's a major shift in attitude, and one the fanbase appears to embrace. Maybe we have "grown up" a bit. I'd say this is a good sign. It is definitely more becoming of the most storied program in college basketball history. Let's save the hoopla for game day. Follow Coach's lead and let our performance do the talking. I actually prefer to walk softly and carry the big stick.