John Calipari never ceases to amaze us. Comes now news from ESPN’s Andy Katz that the "combine" event Calipari decided to schedule early in the year to give NBA teams a look at his players, then restrict them from bothering them during the college basketball season, will be televised by ESPN.
Many pundits and members of the Big Blue Nation have been in awe of Calipari’s marketing savvy and his ability to get the Kentucky program and players front and center in the national sports consciousness. This new strategy has once again created an amazing buzz around the program, but not every college coach is sold on the idea:
Not all college coaches are in favor of a combine if it’s at the expense of not allowing NBA scouts into practice. Kansas Jayhawks coach Bill Self told ESPN last month that he likes having scouts come during the season.
And I think that’s perfectly fine. There’s no right way to skin a cat, and if having NBA scouts around all the time works for Self, I don’t see why anyone should complain about it. What does, and has, alarmed me is the implication from many authors writing about the Mike Krzyzewski Team USA recruiting "advantage" that Calipari is somehow gaining an advantage from his combine that other coaches are unable to enjoy. Obviously, that’s not only erroneous on its face but downright risible, yet we continue to see it.
But back on point, how cool is it for Kentucky to get this kind of attention? That alone may prompt other schools, including Kansas, to rethink their strategy, because it isn’t just about the NBA guys and when they can show up, but about publicity for the program. Think about it — Kentucky will be on ESPNU running through drills for professional teams, and they will likely be the only college basketball team doing it on TV. Do you think this might impress some of UK’s targets for 2015 and beyond? I’m thinking yes.
Also, as this becomes "old hat," there’s a fairly good chance that ESPN won’t do this every single year, and maybe never after this season. But rival coaches have got to be fuming about the impact this visual is going to have on tomorrow’s college basketball stars.
Is Calipari a genius? Hard to think otherwise, at least when it comes to recruiting, marketing and promoting a college basketball program. And with three Final Fours and an NCAA Tournament title in five years, he's a pretty fair coach, wouldn't you say?