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Kentucky and NBA players



Rush the Court has answered a question somewhat related to this one posited by A Sea of Blue member Mahatma.  Mahatma was asking about the perception that Rick Pitino gets players into the NBA vs. the reality.

RTC's research shows that despite being tied with Kentucky in overall draft picks, Louisville has only managed 4 draft picks in the last 14 years, which encompasses all of Rick Pitino's time there and some of Denny Crum's.  Of course, RTC goes on to point out that Louisville is currently poised to add significant numbers to the draft in the next year or two, and unless something surprising happens, that seems the high probability.

It looks as though Kentucky is poised to fall further behind UCLA and North Carolina, while possibly being positioned to make up ground on Indiana and maybe Duke (although in Duke's case, It is just about as likely to go the other way given the relative ease with which their players seem to find their way into the draft, if not actual NBA success).

I thought I would go a bit further and do some all-time analysis about players in the NBA, to more accurately address Mahatma's question:  Is the perception that Pitino gets players in the NBA more or less accurate?  And the answer, of course, is conditional.  What I have done is simply share credit for those players, and based on my analysis, this is how it looks for UK over all the years:

Historical UK NBA players by coach. Sorted most to least.
University of Kentucky
Coach NBA Players Notes
Rupp 31 Includes 4 Hall of Famers
Smith 9
Pitino 8
Sutton 4
Shared Pitino/Smith 4
Total 56


As you can see, Rupp leads the way in this category, but then, he coached a very long time.  Smith actually wound up getting more in the NBA if you don't count the shared players than Pitino, but then he coached longer at UK as well.  If we were to assign 50% credit to both coaches, it would wind up as 10 and 11.  Some may argue one coach or the other deserves more or less, but it just isn't that important.

How has Pitino done at Louisville?  Not very well by this measure:

Pitino: The Louisville years
University of Louisville
Coach NBA Players Notes
Pitino 2 Since he has been there


It's hard to argue that Pitino has been anywhere near as successful at Louisville as at UK, but he is about to raise these numbers significantly after this year, most likely.  Still, it is fairly obvious that while Pitino does get players in the NBA, he is certainly not setting the world on fire.  I haven't analyzed Ol' Roy or Coach K yet, but I'm betting both would blow Pitino out of the water.  Analyzing coaches is a bit harder given the dataset I have to work with, which comes from the excellent

Taking a look at history comparing Kentucky to the other schools mentioned in RTC's analysis (I didn't have the time to run the analysis for all schools, so it could be that somebody got left out that should have been included).  Here goes:

Historical NBA players, several major schools by number of players.
Total NBA Players
School Players
University of North Carolina 70
University of Kentucky 66
Indiana 52
Kansas 49
Duke 49
St. Johns 48
Notre Dame 47
University of Louisville 42
Minnesota 41
Michigan 39
Ohio State 36
Arizona 36
Maryland 35
Cincinnati 30


In the historical measure, UK comes up looking quite competitive, only 4 behind UNC and 6 behind UCLA.  However, as I said earlier, UK is likely to lose some ground to both of them over the next year or so.  Ol' Roy is likely to put as many as six in next year, and Howland will probably put one or two more in, while Kentucky could only count on Patterson being an NBA player right now.  In a couple of years, we should be back among the top schools getting players into the Association.


Ah, one more thing, namely, a disclaimer:  I can't vouch for the accuracy of the data, since it isn't mine.  Some other's lists apparently conflict with this, so please don't treat it as the be-all and end-all of accuracy.  There are some gray areas in any endeavor, some of which I hope to clear up in an update.