I have read no end of articles and comments recently predicting dire dooms for the Kentucky basketball program since John Calipari has become head coach. Warnings of NCAA disasters and sudden abandonment for the Bigger, Better Deal (BBD) are everywhere this week, along with rebukes of Coach Cal for "stealing" Terrence Jones from the sweet, innocent Washington Huskies.
First of all, I want to thank all you fine people for your concerns. It is truly touching when fans of other basketball teams show such sincere and heartfelt worries for the men and women of the Big Blue Nation. I may be naive, but I am totally convinced that there are no ulterior motives behind this anxiety, such as dislike of the Wildcats or their fans, fear that Calipari is building a juggernaut in Lexington, or just plain, green-eyed jealousy that their coach cannot seem to recruit at a level anywhere near that of Coach Cal. No sir, I just know this vexation is straight from the heart with the purest of intentions.
Take this nice piece from the Indiana Business Journal, for example. In it, the author is thankful for Tom Crean coming to Indiana and is certainly glad that I.U. didn't pick Calipari instead:
While I’m not convinced in the effectiveness of Crean’s offense or his recruiting tactics, at least the Hoosier faithful don’t have to go through all the off-season hand wringing that Kentucky is enduring right now.
In Crean, IU has a stable, straightforward approach you simply don’t get with a lot of college coaches these days. Yes, I know Crean knocks down about $2 million annually in cash and prizes from IU, but it seems a small price to pay when you stand him next to Calipari.
Yes, indeed that's right -- you have no fear of the dreadful NBA coming around and trying to pinch your coach. Of course, there is the small fact that Indiana has been uncompetitive in college basketball for the two years that Crean has been there. Yes, we must take into account the fact that the wreckage Kelvin Sampson left did hamper Crean a bit, but I'll bet the Hoosiers haven't stopped caring about college basketball during that time.
Some might say that isn't worth the extra money Calipari makes, but I think few of them would be Wildcat fans. We do appreciate the concern, Hoosiers, but really, we're good. Don't worry about it.
But if you leave, don't expect to come to Washington. My guess is, Romar has had enough of your false promises. He'll take the players who want to be at Washington and win with them.
Note to Mr. Kelley -- if Coach Romar has a scholarship available, and Jones wants to renounce UK and play for UW, you may trust me when I tell you that he will kill the fatted calf and welcome home his prodigal son. As he should.
Kelley goes on:
So congratulations, Terrence. But you better live up to the expectations of the crazed Wildcats fans or they will spit you out like so much bad barbecue.
Yes, Mr. Kelley, we do tend to spit out players here at Kentucky -- straight into the first round of the NBA Draft. I'm guessing that's an expectoration that Jones could live with.
John Canzano of Oregon Live does not throw out any fake concern for the Wildcats or Jones' future. Instead, like so many before him, he points to Bob Knight as the shining example of Truth, Justice, and the American Way, at least when the subject is Coach Cal:
Legendary college coach Bob Knight blasted Calipari and wondered why he'd still be allowed to coach after the Memphis fiasco. And on Wednesday, Oregon State coach Craig Robinson refused to criticize Calipari, but was asked about Kentucky's post-commitment pursuit of Jones and said that he stops recruiting players the instant they commit elsewhere.
With due respect to you, Mr. Canzano, Bob Knight is legendary more for his abuse of players, chairs and the media than his success on the hardwood. So if you're going to take the moral high ground with any kind of credibility, I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that perhaps the utterances of Bob Knight are not the most firm ground upon which to rest your argument. NCAA violations (of which Calipari is responsible for exactly zero, by the way, just like Knight) are not the only form of unethical and disturbing conduct for college coaches.
Finally, we have the Seattle Post-Inteligencer. A blogger there rebukes Calipari:
John Calipari scored another recruiting victory. There is no evidence he broke any written rules. Though he clearly snapped unwritten ones he claimed to adhere to, like not talking to recruits who give a verbal commitment to another school.
Hmm. Let's see. Calipari is called by Jones after his "commitment," as far as anyone knows is not contacted by him again, and changes his mind. So Calipari broke the "unwritten ones" ... how? By using The Force?
Seriously, I don't blame any of these people for their conspiracy theories, their loathing of Kentucky or Calipari. I just don't. You hate what you don't understand, what you fear, or that which is superior to you. Even if I were to concede (which I don't) that Washington occupies all the moral high ground in this affair, I would be constrained to point out that it was ultimately the choice of the young man himself where to go to school, and neither choice is a bad one. He was obviously not sold on Washington -- Romar simply didn't close the deal. And after his verbal commitment to UW, Romar surely had a better opportunity than Calipari to lock him up, owing to the fact that Kentucky is something like 2500 miles away from Oregon and Seattle and Portland live in the same gated community.
But it seem that opponents are willing to attribute remarkable, even supernatural powers to Calipari -- able to arrange a substitute test taker in Detroit from Memphis, able to somehow persuade a recruit away from a coach who lives in his own back yard through three time zones and thousands of miles ... the list goes on.
When Kentucky hired Calipari, I had no idea we were hiring a guy with characteristics one can only consider sorcerous. He magically makes even normally rational foes forget reason and embrace madness, persuades people like Jones from afar, and even turns Dick Vitale into a defender.
So in closing, thanks again to all who have expressed their concerns about Kentucky getting into some kind of trouble with Calipari, or losing our souls. We deeply appreciate the sincerity, but really, we're fine and dandy.
The Big Blue Nation
P.S. -- Now what did I do with that rum and those cigarettes? I have some praying to Jobu to do, we need another guard this year ...