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Kentucky Wildcats Basketball: On The Calipari Rumors

There is yet another article out this morning (actually, it looks to me like an older rumor gussied up and reported) in the New York Post that the Knicks have their eye on dragging John Calipari kicking and screaming back to New York, ostensibly with boatloads of Big Apple bucks.

Look, we knew this would happen.  It happened last year.  It will happen next year (hopefully), and every single year after that that.  Don't hate reality, it is what it is.  This is something to be embraced, mocked a bit on Twitter and generally held as a Good Thing.

For my part, I am skeptical, as always of rumors, but realize that in my case, as a Kentucky fan, my perception is colored by the fact that I don't want any rumors that suggest Calipari will leave for the NBA to be true.  That's why, whenever you read my commentary on things where I or other UK fans have a partisan interest, you have to remind yourself of that fact.

With all that said, there is no doubt that NBA teams will have an interest in Calipari, and that they will offer him jobs.  This is going to happen.  It is comforting for UK fans to think that Calipari would never take another job other than UK, but we all know from bitter experience that is Cloud-Cuckoo land.  Here's CBS's Gary Parrish this morning:

What I can tell you, though, is that this is not the first time I've heard a Calipari-Knicks rumor. One was brought to me before the Final Four, for what it's worth, but it's difficult to separate fact from fiction with this stuff, especially when the Knicks are still playing with a coach still under contract. In other words, we'll have to wait and see where this goes, then see what happens next. But similar to how I stated that Calipari would've left Kentucky last year for the opportunity to coach LeBron James, I have no doubt Calipari would leave Kentucky this year for the opportunity to coach Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony (and perhaps Chris Paul) with the Knicks.

I really don't quite agree with him about the LeBron thing.  I think the Knicks job is more likely simply because Calipari doesn't have the kind of relationship with Anthony et. al. that he has with LeBron James.  The closer you are to the players that you coach in the NBA, the harder you are likely to fall when that relationship inevitably takes a turn for the worse.

Will the Nets offer Calipari the job?  That's entirely possible.  Will they offer it in such a way that he will seriously consider it?  Indeed, that is also entirely possible.  Is any of this reasonable and to be taken seriously?  Well, that answer is much more complex.

It is certainly reasonable for the Knicks to consider a college coach who just coached up a bunch of future pros to make a Final Four run as freshmen.  Is it a good business decision?  In my view, no.  The vast majority of times this has been tried, it has met with varying degrees of failure, producing bad results for both the team, its ownership, and the coach.  They say one definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.  Calipari repeated this proverb recently.  Let's hope he keeps it firmly in mind.

There is also the matter of money.  Despite public perception to the contrary, the pros don't pay much more than many colleges, and very few professional coaches make as much as Calipari does at Kentucky.  But don't think for a minute that argument overwhelms all others -- pro teams can pay coaches a lot if they think they'll get a return, and Calipari's college results certainly provide a basis for a reasonable argument that he could produce as an NBA coach.

Arguing against Calipari is his earlier misadventure with another New York area team, the Nets.  Calipari famously used this incident to inform his most recent book, Bounce Back.  It is very rare for the NBA, once it has chewed up and spit out a college coach, to come calling again.  It is not unknown (see Brown, Larry), but it is exceedingly rare.

But also within this same story lie the seeds of why Calipari might want to give the NBA another try.  Calipari does not like to fail, does not like to lose, and may see his Nets debacle as a stain on his reputation that he'd like to put to rights.  None of us really knows if this is true or not, but it is undeniably within the scope of human nature.

In the end, I know that many Kentucky fans will scurry about wringing their hands in horror, but we do have to face the fact that someday Calipari will leave Kentucky.  His goals and hopes for life, and where he wants to be right now, are things that only he and his "kitchen cabinet" could possibly know.  All the rest of us can do is speculate and hope for the best.