Of course, we all know John Calipari is now in full media promotion mode for his new book, and that includes a bunch of interviews with whatever television and radio talking head will have him. Yesterday, he did an interview with Bill O'Reilly of Fox News which was widely panned by many, but instead of worrying about what O'Reilly said or asked, I want to focus on Calipari's answers.
What struck me was that Calipari really understands that lacking a father doesn't always mean lacking discipline. Normally, when players get good enough to draw his attention, discipline has long been a part of their lives, because except in a very few extraordinary cases, few people are talented enough to become any good without it. What I found most interesting was his frankness when it comes to how potential recruits treat their parents and/or other guardians. Here's a partial transcript courtesy of Larry Vaught:
O’Reilly: So you impose strict discipline on that.
Calipari: Yes. Here is what I would tell you. These kids come from good homes. People will say well he doesn’t have a father. Some of the best kids I coach were raised by a grandmother who was so firm that they understood.
O’Reilly: So you evaluate their character before you give them the scholarships.
Calipari: If I walk in a home and a young man disrespects his mother or grandfather, grandmother in front of me, I’m out. Because if that’s the case, he respects no one. He is not going to respect me.
I think that is exactly right. I'd be willing to wager that Calipari does a good bit more screening than people think when it comes to selecting his players. You just don't have misbehaving guys come in and average 3.0+ in a college curriculum. It goes without saying that these are high-character young men to begin with, and Calipari gives them the additional training, both in life and in basketball, that gets them through Fishbowl Kentucky.