Just when you thought that most of the media had finally come around to the reality that John Calipari isn't some evil genius trying to tear apart college basketball, one comes along to prove that all the sharks have not yet vacated the waters of sanity.
When will sportswriters learn that it isn't necessary to tear someone else down in order to build up the subject of your fascination? Never, I suspect — at least in the case of Mike Bianchi, the bomb-throwing Orlando Sentinel writer who never seems to tire of taking shots at Calipari and Kentucky.
Consider his latest grenade lobbed up north:
The thing I like about Donovan is he actually has built a college basketball program and not a one-and-done NBA factory like Kentucky coach John Calipari. If you want to spend a couple of semesters in school while waiting to get drafted into the NBA, Calipari is the coach for you. If you want to go to college and possibly develop into an NBA player, Donovan is a much better choice.
Is Donovan really a better choice? Let's do the math. Florida currently has 12 players in the NBA. Kentucky has 21. Would anyone like to call Anthony Davis "undeveloped?" DeMarcus Cousins? John Wall? Patrick Patterson? And does he really imagine in his apparent fever dream that every one of Donovan's charges would not jump at the chance to leave early if they actually were going to be drafted high in the first round? So by that simple examination, Bianchi is not only wrong, he's profoundly wrong.
See, he doesn't get the idea that the "one and done" thing has nothing at all to do with Calipari. Calipari is recruiting the best talent, and it is normal, and expected, for the best talent to go to the NBA early. It isn't what Calipari wants — who wouldn't want to have talent like this for four years? But leaving early is often what's best for the young men and their family. Bianchi, as usual, attempts to substitute his judgment for that of others, but although his target is Calipari, he winds up hitting the players and their families. Nice shootin' there, Tex.
Kentucky has six true freshman McDonald's All-Americans who are all known, but probably will never be loved. It's hard to be loved when you don't stick around long enough for the student body to connect with and embrace you.
And Bianchi knows this how? Where are his examples? Kentucky follows the exploits of guys like John Wall, Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Brandon Knight and others as though they were their own sons. Sure, we'd prefer to have them around longer, but trust me — a guy who actually knows rather than a guy who has no clue — we love our players a lifetime's worth, even in one year, and they will never be forgotten.
Bianchi holds out Patric Young as the example of why things are so great. Young immediately proceeds to oblige him by swallowing Bianchi's bait:
"Kentucky has had a bunch of one-and-doners the last two years in a row," Young said. "They were like preseason No. 1 the last two years in a row [actually, the Wildcats were preseason No. 4 last season]. And last year, they went to the NIT and this year everybody was buying into that they were going to go unbeaten."
Patric is a young guy, and I can forgive him for his smack talk. The Kentucky team might not, though, and I hope they take that quote and tape it on their lockers for the next few days. From what I have seen this season, Young has developed but little under Donovan, lacks any significant basketball skill other than size and strength, and might be better off entering into the NFL Draft than the NBA. Yeah, he has a bushy beard, but no jump shot, and that 3' jump hook isn't going down very often at the next level, where that kind of stuff usually winds up starting the opponent's fast break.
I think Donovan is a great coach, but he runs his program his way, and Calipari a different way. It beggars understanding to see why Bianchi feels the need to blast Calipari in order to praise Donovan, and contra his assertion, real basketball people have been talking about Florida long before Chris Walker became eligible. The fact that few writers in Florida have is really an indictment of the Florida media, but Bianchi would rather paint with the broadest brush possible lest he be accused of actual cognition rather than bombast.
Instead of taking my word, take the word of former Kentucky player Patrick Patterson:
"Guys want to make him into a villain, into some bad guy, because he does what other coaches can't do," Patterson told me. "People want to say it's the easiest job in college basketball (because Calipari gets the most talented players). But in my opinion he has the toughest coaching job in college basketball. He's at the mountaintop. He's constantly in the spotlight. You come to Kentucky as the basketball coach, you're not just a coach -- you're an ambassador for the university. You're constantly in the public eye. If it happens, it's gonna be out there, bad or good. You're constantly judged on anything you do. You have so much expectations. The expectations are through the roof."
Bianchi doesn't get that — and he doesn't even try. It's simply beyond his cognitive abilities to believe that Donovan could not do what Calipari does, and would completely devastate his world view. He thinks of it as Donovan's choice, but even Donovan would admit that it isn't. He simply can't recruit like Calipari can, whether he wants to or not. But it's not just Donovan — nobody can so far, although Bill Self is trying to prove that assertion wrong, and may actually succeed. We'll see. If he does for more than this season, good on him, but I still have doubts.
But don't tell Bianchi. His head would probably explode.
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