This post is going to stir up a few things, like I always do, but I am going to make a case for the fact that John Calipari has not yet done his best coaching. In as much as I would love to say so about last year, it was not his best effort. Yes, it was a wonderful,magical first season here at UK, but it was not what we will remember John Calipari for, because that is yet to come.
Coach Cal has made some really incredible strides in the area of recruiting since he became a head coach in the world of collegiate basketball. His critics say that is the only thing he has really accomplished. I have always dismissed that as hogwash, jealousy and contempt for the man and his abilities. But watching Calipari in Windsor this week showed me something. I had not seen any of his practices, except for small blurbs on nightly news or ESPN stories. I did not know the full extent of the effectiveness of this DDMO he likes to run. I too, was a bit overly enamored of his abilities because he simply brought in too much talent not to be. But Canada showed me something. John Calipari can coach, and he coached a lot more in Canada than he did all of last year at UK. He was shorthanded, his team was not in top physical shape, he was playing away from home ( well, OK....it was 2500 out of 2600 fans that were from UK, but it was still Canada), he had virtually nothing to go on as to how his kids would respond, and he simply got out his clipboard, rolled up his sleeves, and went to work. And it showed all over the court.
We are giving props to all of these guys about how much they have improved, like Harrellson, Miller, Liggins and Hood. We are amazed at how quickly Poole, Knight, Jones, and Lamb adapted to this offense they have never run before. We watched as the Cats, despite not being 100% played defense like their hair was on fire, and moved like they had been playing together for years. Now I already know what you are going to say about this. This was at best a top tier NAIA team from Canada they were playing and not Kansas. Well, guess what folks, they would have beaten Kansas had they played them over those three days, because Kansas would not have known what hit them.
He had those kids moving like greased lightning. They averaged close to 100 points per game and averaged a 31pt spread for three days of back to back, tournament-style play. We had unlimited fouls, but after checking the stats, I did not see anyone with more than 4 fouls for any one game. This was truly where John Calipari shines. He was making more out of less than he is going to have here at UK. No one over 6'8" on the court? When was the last time we had that here at UK? I love what John Calipari accomplished here at UK last year. I love the way he does what he does. But he is going to have to guard against having so much talent on the floor that it takes away fro his strengths. He has to find a way to make 5 five-star players react to his coaching like 5 three-star or four-star players would. I now understand why Cal likes the underdog role. It plays right into his hands. He wants his guys to always play with the chip on their shoulder a la DeMarcus Cousins. I know why he and Cousins worked so well together now. In spite of what everyone may think, I believe he used that chip to put everyone's attitudes where he felt like they needed to be. He used the Bledsoe outburst last year, to make his point for him.
But what he has done is nothing compared to what he is going to do. When he has this group, and his subsequent groups all making this DDMO work for themselves, as well as making it work against the competition, we are really going to see something special. There are rumors that a 24 second shot clock is coming for the NCAA. The new NCAA president wants a NCAA baseball-style rule in place for basketball concerning this issue of one and dones. If those two things happen, John Calipari is simply going to become the most dangerous man on the planet, because both of these things play right into his hands. Calipari recruits one and dones better than anyone else. OK there, I said it. But when the one and done is a thing of the past, he will recruit the best three and dones as well. And they give him a 24 second shot clock to work with so that the DDMO gets 40-50 possessions per half of basketball, and the days of Loyola Marymount in the 80's are going to seem like Dean Smith and his 4 corners offense. We all thought UK was taking a risk when John Calipari was hired, and maybe they did. Maybe his hiring could have blown up in our faces, but with what seems to lie ahead, John Calipari's hiring is going to seem like the coup of the century and a bargain for it's price, because the best days are yet to come. No, we have not seen his best coaching yet, but it is going to be something to behold when we do. Go buy the most sophisticated recording devices you can get. Make sure that you get what is about to happen on High-Definition and saved for historical purposes. Because it is going to be scary good.