Mike DeCourcy writes in The Sporting News today that John Calipari has a lot to prove this year. Quoth he:
Calipari’s NCAA championship doesn’t even have two years’ worth of dust on it, so it would seem he still is in the stage where he can point to the trophy case and dare you to criticize him. But Calipari isn’t just any coach, Kentucky isn’t just any job and, perhaps most precisely, this isn’t just any team.
True, and it would be a major hit to his reputation if Calipari did not deliver a very good season. To me, I'll be disappointed if Kentucky doesn't win the NCAA Tournament this year, but others in the Big Blue Nation could be forgiven for settling for somewhat less than that.
To me, though, when you get a recruiting class like this, arguably the best ever, and fall short of a championship, you have failed to some degree. Now, as we saw last year, it is possible if many things go wrong for even a coach of Calipari's skill to wind up with a team that fails to perform to even relatively low expectations. Remember, though, that a lot of things had to go wrong to produce last year, and anyone who actually thinks that could happen again is, to borrow a favorite word from Coach Cal, delusional. Calipari didn't get to this position by repeating his mistakes, and even at full health, last year's team would have no chance at all against this incipient Kentucky team.
So while I would concur with DeCourcy that Calipari has a little something to prove, it is far too little to place him at the head of the class. For my money, that distinction belongs resoundingly to Steve Alford, for reasons that are entirely unfair to him. Alford has been placed in a position seemingly designed for him to fail. He could get a two-seed and get to the elite eight in the NCAA tournament and still be on the hot seat next year at UCLA. It truly sucks to come into a program on the hot seat, and that's exactly where Alford is — at least as far as the fans are concerned.
So to me, it's basically Alford and everybody else. Yes, Rick Barnes would be deep in the throes of the hot seat at a school like Kentucky, but at Texas, they are far more worried about Mack Brown than Barnes.