In an article today entitled, "Kentucky's John Calipari shows his priorities," Jeff Sentel of the Birmingham News criticizes Calipari for saying that Thursday's NBA Draft was the "... biggest moment in the history of Kentucky basketball":
Kentucky basketball is about banners, not draftee bonus checks. It's about seven NCAA titles. The moment sums up Calipari's coaching career perfectly. It's individual glory over team accomplishments. Remember those "Team first, Me second" T-shirts? Does Calipari need to hand out ones that read "Draft first, Team second" after the first practice?
What a bunch of nonsense. Has this guy never heard of hyperbole, some thing that Calipari is an undisputed master of when the situation demands it? Calipari was trying to make his players feel good, feel important, feel like a part of the history of Kentucky basketball even though they did not win a national championship. He was right to do so. In a program where we celebrated a tough loss to Duke University in the national quarterfinals in 1992, this was yet another milestone worth celebrating. But that was just part of his message, and not the only part that Sentel failed to receive.
As I argued earlier this week, Calipari's bread is buttered by creating the impression that his goals (i.e. national championships) are less important than the goals of the players he recruits. It is important that the recruits who saw Calipari on draft night understand exactly the message he wants them to hear -- come to Kentucky, and you could be DeMarcus Cousins, John Wall, Eric Bledsoe, Patrick Patterson or Daniel Orton.
It is absurd, of course, that Calipari is more interested in individual glory than team accomplishments. If Calipari does not win a national championship at Kentucky, his tenure will be regarded as an underachieving one, no matter if he puts 15 consecutive #1 draft pics in the NBA and wins 35 games a season for 15 years. Does Sentel think Calipari is unaware of his own legacy, or rather, lack thereof?
It is beyond doubt that Calipari intends to disprove the idea that you can't win a national championship with high player turnover. Sentel just doesn't understand that, as you would expect from a Georgia alum and a man who's spent his entire life in the south, to whom "basketball" is a strange game played in the interregnum between football seasons.
Jeff, just to clue you in here -- Calipari sent exactly the message he wanted to send. Even if you misread the smoke signals, the future five-stars around the country did not.