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Kentucky Basketball: The Lesson of Jeff Pearlman and John Calipari

I am very late to this party, but I might as well pile on. Last night,'s Jeff Pearlman sent this tweet:

I don't think this is particularly ambiguous -- clearly, Pearlman doesn't like John Calipari, and I think the most passionate Kentucky fan can appreciate that Coach Cal is a bit of an acquired taste. Not everyone (particularly fans of opposing teams or rivals) is going to appreciate the way he does his job, even if almost everyone can appreciate his results.

Pearlman is, or was, a writer for Sports Illustrated at, although his archive suggests he hasn't written much for them lately. I suppose it was Kentucky's highlight-reel-filled victory over the Arkansas Razorbacks last night that prompted this outburst.

Lest you think this is something new for Pearlman, let me disabuse you of that notion right now. Pearlman has a bit of a history taking shots at Kentucky on his blog. For example, here is a blog post from back in February of 2010:

If one thing seems obvious, it’s that [former Tennessee head football coach Lane] Kiffin is just another in he long line of Calipari-esque slime-balls who’ll do anything to better his own standing. Just look at his approach and antics at Tennessee this past year, when he talked much trash, mocked opponents, then, when a better offer came along, bolted.

Don't sweat giving Pearlman hits. It looks like to me like any hits he gets from us might be one of the few, and his blog is really not commercial at all.

Then, there is this, from another post:

Truth is, a coach serves a school not as a teacher, but as a symbol of its overall priorities. When, two years back, the University of Kentucky brought in John Calipari and his one-year-and-off-to-the-NBA mantra, for example, it said to the nation that its sports mission was not personal development or the merging of academic-athletic goals, but to win, to win big and to win immediately.

And this one, more generally:

You can’t have it both ways. If you want to run a professional program, which UK does, admit it and treat your athletes for what they are: Future pros stopping by for a week.

You get the idea. Not a fan of John Calipari. Not a fan of modern college basketball. Not a fan of the University of Kentucky.

But let's give Pearlman credit -- he is an equal-opportunity coach-and-program basher, taking shots at every big-name college basketball school in America, including Duke, Kansas, Ohio St., and presumably others. And Pearlman didn't spare Rick Pitino, either, writing this rather scathing critique of Pitino's 15 seconds of shame. So lest you think Pearlman is just picking on Cal, don't. He appears to hold similar opinions of every coach and college program that isn't Delaware or a struggling mid major.

So the question is, would Pearlman really deny his child an education just because he might have to associate with a man he does not like (and apparently, doesn't even know)? He straightforwardly informs us that he would.

I wonder how Pearlman's kids, if he had any, would feel about their father turning down a completely free college education on their behalf rather than taking a chance that they might actually learn how to play basketball well enough to make millions in the NBA, and have an opportunity, either immediate or post-professional, to earn a college degree from a respected institution? And I wonder if it even occurred to Pearlman, should he actually care, that most of Calipari's charges at UK have done very well academically for the time they have spent here?

Yeah, Pearlman has a real sensible position ... that is, if you're talking about a Hacidic Jew sending his son to be a member of al-Qa'ida rather than to the University of Kentucky.

Does that seem extreme? Not to me. Some opinions are so bizarre and ill-informed that only the most absurd simile will do.