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Kentucky Basketball: The Washington Post on Calipari's Leadership


Wild Weasel provided us this excellent link to a Washington Post piece a couple of articles below in the comments. The article itself is written by Jenna McGregor, who apparently opines about leadership and not about sports.

There are several things to like about this article, but the one that really caught my attention was this passage:

And while this is just one of the many reasons many hoops fans make Calipari the villain (there is also the rich pay package, the salesman approach, the past infractions by players), one can’t deny that he is very, very good at winning.

Does anything stand out at you above? I find it incredibly notable for two things -- what's in it and what's not in it.

What's in it? McGregor is one of the rare authors who gets her facts right, and she does it without even being paid to comment on sports. Specifically, she points out correctly that both of Calipari's NCAA problems were caused by players doing the wrong thing.

What's not in it? No claim of Calipari really knowing all about the wrongdiong, or looking the other way. No claim that recruiting violations, which have never even been alleged, as the reason for Calipari's controversial nature.

It is simply astonishing to me that a leadership writer, a person who could reasonably be expected to get the facts wrong, gets them right while professionals who are paid to get them right consistently fail to do so.

Then there is McGregor's conclusion:

In some ways, he has to start from scratch each year. As SLAM editor-in-chief Ben Osborne pointed out in a March piece for On Leadership, Calipari regularly has to develop fresh, raw talent, build team camaraderie quickly, and get new players to focus on their current team rather than their future fortunes. Calipari’s coaching style may be controversial, but he’s certainly not taking the easy way out, either.

This is finally becoming accepted in the sports community, although it has been a long time coming. The conventional wisdom has been that all Calipari had to do was "roll the ball out" and let his players play. As we saw last year, nothing could possibly be further from the truth. All one had to do was look at what happened with the Connecticut Huskies, where the tremendously talented Andre Drummond could not be coached to anything like the level Coach Cal has gotten UK players to routinely play at. He was a disappointment at UConn, and no mistake.

Calipari's leadership style is controversial primarily because of the disdain in the college sports community for a rule he has absolutely nothing to do with -- "one and done." We can only speculate how good Kentucky could be if college players were required to finish college before going to the league, or conversely, if there were no restrictions on high-schoolers going straight to the NBA.

In either case, I think Coach Cal's leadership style might be considered right up there with Mike Krzyzewski but loathing of the "one and done" rule. His aggressive marketing tactics would no doubt still result in the veiled Italian bigotry we see so often when Calipari is described as slick, oily or greasy, but there would be far fewer complaints about the way he leads teams to success.

If that isn't so, his crictics' commentary would be built on even softer sand than it already is.