Kentucky Basketball: Why the "One and Done" is for everyone... Coach Cal just does it better

Andy Lyons

In today's world of the one and done, or as John Calipari would have it, "succeed and proceed" player, everyone is trying to recruit them. Coach Calipari is just better at it than anyone else.

Let's go ahead and get this out of the way; John Calipari did not invent the one and done rule, John Calipari does not even like the rule.  Coach Cal has gone as far as openly opining against the rule, and in an interview with Kentucky Sports Radio, Cal said:

"I'm the one guy out there saying we've gotta change this somehow," Calipari said.  "We've gotta encourage these kids to stay two years.  But the NCAA's gotta do some stuff, and if they don't do it we need to separate from them.  I'm not afraid to say it.  Look, they've embarrassed me.  I've done nothing, so they're not gonna come in, show retribution to me and do stuff.  I don't really care.  But something's gotta change with this one-and-done rule.  I seem to be the coach saying anything."

However, the philosophy has become so synonymous with his name and style that it has become a negative connotation, to the point that Calipari openly advocates changing the name of it altogether.  What Coach Cal does is play the hand he has been dealt, and unfortunately for college basketball and many curmudgeons, he plays it better than anyone out there does.

Beyond the criticism of the rule and Calipari "exploiting" it, there is a narrative that nobody else wants to do it that way, that nobody wants to have to suffer the yearly turnover and "ruin college basketball" the way Calipari is.  The problem with that argument is that it just isn't true.  I'll ask this simple question to those that feel the Duke's, UNC's, Michigan State's and Kansas' of the world prefer to do it a different way:  Do you really, truly, honestly believe that if Andrew Wiggins, Julius Randle, Aaron Gordon, Jabari Parker and Andrew Harrison wanted to commit to Duke that Coach K would say "Sorry guys, I'll take one of you, but we don't play the one and done game"?  Do you really, truly, honestly believe Ol' Roy would say, "Aww shucks guys, I'm flattered but no thanks"? If you believe that then I have a timeshare of the Brooklyn Bridge I need to see you about.  I can tell you the answer to the question because I know what Calipari would say; "Bring it on, let's do it."

So, beyond all the conjecture and hand wringing on this, let us look at results.  Because Kentucky is the lynch pin in this, it only makes sense to look there first.  In his fifth year at Kentucky, Coach Coal has amassed the following results at UK:

  • 152-37 overall record (.804)
  • 18-3 NCAA Record (2nd only to Coach K in career tournament winning % as well)
  • 4 Elite 8's
  • 3 Final 4's
  • 1 National title
  • 17 NBA Draft Picks (4 per year avg)
  • 13 First Round Picks (just under 3 per year avg)
  • 8 Lottery Picks (2 per year)
  • 2 OVERALL #1 picks

The bottom line is that there is no other coach in the same stratosphere as Coach Cal in those results; the closest to him would be his final four counterpart Billy Donovan.  How about another fun fact; of the top 10 Rivals-ranked high school recruits coming into this year, six of them played in the Final Four... two for Florida and four for Kentucky.  The bottom line is that success in the NCAA is directly correlated with having future NBA players on your roster, and from day 1 of being on campus in Lexington, Coach Cal has made that a priority.  For comparison, let's look at some of the total number of players on an NBA roster at the beginning of this season for selected schools:

  • Kentucky 21
  • Duke 15
  • North Carolina 15
  • Kansas 14
  • Connecticut 12
  • Florida 12
  • UCLA 12
  • Arizona 9
Now here is the list of National Champs

YEAR CHAMPION (RECORD) COACH SCORE RUNNER-UP SITE
2014 Connecticut (32-8) Kevin Ollie 60-54 Kentucky Dallas, Tx.
2013 Louisville (35-5) Rick Pitino 82-76 Michigan Atlanta, Ga.
2012 Kentucky (38-2) John Calipari 67-59 Kansas New Orleans, La.
2011 Connecticut (32-9) Jim Calhoun 53-41 Butler Houston, Texas
2010 Duke (35-5) Mike Krzyzewski 61-59 Butler Indianapolis, Ind.
2009 North Carolina (34-4) Roy Williams 89-72 Michigan State Detroit, Mich.
2008 Kansas (37-3) Bill Self 75-68 (OT) Memphis San Antonio, Texas
2007 Florida (35-5) Billy Donovan 84-75 Ohio State Atlanta, Ga.
2006 Florida (33-6) Billy Donovan 73-57 UCLA Indianapolis, Ind.
2005 North Carolina (33-4) Roy Williams 75-70 Illinois St. Louis, Mo.
2004 Connecticut (33-6) Jim Calhoun 82-73 Georgia Tech San Antonio, Texas
2003 Syracuse (30-5) Jim Boeheim 81-78 Kansas New Orleans, La.

That list reads like a who's who of college basketball, and even more impressive is other than Louisville last year, you have to go back to 2003 to find a National Champion that is not on that list.  Syracuse won it that year and ironically, they were led by maybe the best one and done of all time:  Carmelo Anthony.

So the moral of the story, and the math backs this up, is that if you do not recruit the very best players on the planet, you have much lower chance of winning an NCAA Tournament title.  Therefore, if you are claiming that your school does not recruit one and dones, congratulations on either a) your undiagnosed delusion or b) your ignorance.  Another fun fact, of this years Final Four; only Wisconsin is not on that list, so three quarters of the Final Four and both teams that made the final game were on it.

So how is it that UK keeps getting disproportionately more NBA players than do anyone else?  Ask anyone other than members of the Big Blue Nation and it is a product of cheating or Worldwide Wes or some other sour grapes agenda.  The truth of the matter is it can be summed up in one paragraph that comes from SB Nation writer Tom Ziller who recently wrote an article entitled "Future NBA stars don't need their college coaches."  Ziller wrote:

"When Kentucky's done, Cal will tell Julius Randle and Willie Cauley-Stein to go get that paper.  And that's why Cal will grab the next Randle, the next Anthony Davis, the next John Wall, the next Derrick Rose.  If Self, K and Boeheim want to be honest with their own stars and tell them they are ready to go get paid, maybe Calipari wouldn't have such a strong hold on the preps-to-pros pipeline."

I could not agree more with Ziller.  My opinion is that when anyone not named John Calipari snags up a future lottery pick, the mindset is one that they have reeled in the guy who is going to lead his team to national glory and maybe a national title and a contract extension.  The difference with Cal is he is a players first coach (he even wrote a book on it) and he knows he will only have these guys for a short time.  Therefore, he works tirelessly to develop their game to do two things; 1) turn them into better teammates to be "their brothers keepers," 2) prepare them for a future that is going to change their family's fortunes.

Coach Cal takes more joy in seeing Eric Bledsoe and Demarcus Cousins instantly become multi-millionaires and instantly changing the future(s) of their respective families.  One of the things Coach Cal does with his players is teach them to give back, to help others.  It never showed up more than when John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins both received contract extensions within days of each other and both promptly donated $1 million back to their respective communities.

The 2010 NBA draft saw UK have five players selected in the first round, a first in NBA history, Calipari proclaimed "I'd like to say it is the biggest day in the history of Kentucky's program."  The outrage was palpable with even former players like Dan Issell amusingly saying it was the dumbest thing he had ever heard.  While many a UK fan agreed and many more thought it was just Cal getting caught up in the moment, what we have all learned is Calipari was simply ahead of the curve.  That night has allowed him the opportunity to recruit on a level never seen before, and the dual edged sword of that is that Kentucky fans can rejoice in the results on the court, while John Calipari rejoices in his player's development and the way they are changing their family tree for the foreseeable future.

I could not agree more Mr. Ziller; if more coaches thought like this, Calipari he would not have a stranglehold on the recruiting pipelines and would not be dominating the college basketball landscape as he is now.

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