John Calipari knows that in recruiting, like any other competitive endeavor, if you're not moving forward, you're moving backward.
There is an article today over at CoachCal.com written by John Calipari himself on the dangers of complacency in recruiting, and what he and his staff are doing to prevent complacency from creeping in. Complacency is doubtless the biggest enemy in any human competitive endeavor, and even college basketball is probably not as competitive overall as the recruiting game. These coaches are out there to win, and they are all willing to pay a high price in personal sacrifices to do it.
I’m not saying that I’m working harder than any other coach out there. I just want the Big Blue Nation to know that my staff and I are working as hard as we possibly can. The minute you become complacent or intoxicated with success, you are setting yourself up for failure.
This is the truth, and it really doesn't matter if it's recruiting, work, basketball, golf, or tiddlywinks. When you become comfortable, when you don't want to operate outside your comfort zone or sacrifice in other areas in order to become the best, you will lose your grip on the top spot. College basketball recruiting is perhaps the best example possible of the old adage, "If you aren't going forward, you're going backward."
With the turnover that Kentucky has had under Calipari, anything but the top recruiting class every year will be a step backward from where UK is now. It isn't necessarily required for UK to blow away the field like Cal & Co. did in 2011, but for Calipari's strategy to be successful, he has to keep his class at or very near the top in the nation every year. So far, that strategy has produced two teams which either did or should have won the NCAA Tournament (2010, 2012) and the 2011 team that got to the Final Four despite the adversity of having their best big man declared ineligible by the NCAA.
Which brings us around to Calipari's shelf life. As we have seen in other endeavors, there are only so many years a person can stay ahead of everyone else. After a while, other considerations will begin to drag on the effort to constantly improve recruiting. The NCAA may throw sticks in his way, or other coaches may be quicker to pick up on a trend or a new technology. Health concerns can crop up unexpectedly at any time, and just ask Steve Lavin how that can impact your results.
The bottom line is, while many Kentucky fans have become complacent about recruiting (I know I have), Calipari is trying to remind us that he has not, and doesn't intend to. That's comforting to me, because with all the things going on in Coach Cal's life this last year, it would be understandable if he wanted to tread water for a while. That's no who he is, though, and it's a big reason why Calipari continues to be so successful.
So enjoy it while it lasts, because it won't last forever.