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Kentucky Basketball: Thibodeau to the Bulls -- What Have We Learned?

Now that all the hype is over and Tom Thibodeau is expected to take over in Chicago, what have UK fans learned?

I think that at some point you have to learn to take Coach Calipari seriously when says something.  I know a fairly significant contingent of Kentucky fans were sure that the confluence of events represented by the Eric Bledsoe non-investigation, the LeBron James free agency, the firing of Vinny Del Negro and the reported friendship between King James and Coach Cal equaled a "one and done" for Calipari at Kentucky.

This conspiracy theory is now safely buried along with Jimmy Hoffa, although the Cleveland Cavaliers job is still open, which means a Cal to Cleveland theory is still out there.  For myself, though, I have no fears whatever that Calipari will bolt to the NBA, at least not this year and probably not for several more.  My serenity is based more on a feeling about Calipari than any actual facts that have been dug up or that I am privy to.

Some have remarked that the Bledsoe kerfuffle has more to do with rival coaches trying to raise enough smoke to make the NBA an attractive option for Calipari, but I personally doubt this.  Even if the assistant coach who allegedly leaked Bledsoe's transcripts to the New York Times turns out to be at one of Kentucky's major rivals or in the SEC, I think it's safe to say that this sort of muckraking is nothing new or particularly troubling.

So what would it take to tempt Calipari away from Kentucky and into the NBA?  I think it's a fair assumption that some set of circumstances exists that would force him to seriously consider it, or even make the jump.  I personally have no idea what that would entail, but I do expect that if a large contingency of UK fans started bemoaning a few years of not winning a championship and wondering what is taking so long, any coach might start to wonder if this place is truly worth the effort.

At this point, though, Wildcat fans are going to have to get used to anti-Calipari rants from almost everywhere.  Deserved or undeserved, Calipari has the reputation of being, at best, a guy who is willing to test the rules.  What amazes me is the amount of pure disinformation out there -- people thinking that Coach Cal has been accused of recruiting violations (never happened), or has been implicated by the NCAA in violations at other schools. 

The disinformation campaign against Calipari has become a self-perpetuating urban myth.  Any day now, I expect to be told that Calipari has moved out of  the Craft Center and into Barad-dûr, and has unleashed The Nine on unsuspecting high school seniors throughout the country.  It is getting to that point of absurdity, and passing complete fiction as fact is allowed to go on unchallenged and uncriticized.

Will all this smoke be enough to force Calipari out of Kentucky and into the presumably waiting arms of the NBA?  My feeling is no, at least, not on the sense of the current dialogue.  Calipari's success has enabled him to set the terms of any departure, should he find it in his best interests.  Hearing other team's fans and some in the sports media revile him ad nauseum has not had even the slightest negative effect on recruiting, and I doubt if it has even the slightest effect on Coach Cal -- I am sure he is well callused from his years in Memphis.

Besides, as many here and elsewhere have observed, it isn't as if fans would love Kentucky more if Izzo or some other hero of this turn of the wheel were coaching in the Bluegrass.  Kentucky would still be racist, still be redneck, still be "win at all costs," still be fill-in-the-pejorative-here.  All we'd hear is, "Why would Izzo want to coach at Kentucky?"

One thing they will leave out, though, and it matters.  Kentucky will still be the most storied and arguably greatest basketball school in America, and with Coach Cal at the helm, most Kentucky fans rightfully expect that the UK legacy will only be increased, and that quite rapidly.

As for the detractors, let them eat cake.  Or dust.  Or smoke.  Whatever.