I’m not quite sure what to make of this article by Tim Sullivan today. Usually, it’s a pretty straightforward analysis when writers come forth to smack around a coach or a team. Their point often winds up as a screed against something or someone, and depending on who’s ox is being gored, an appropriate response can be crafted. This article is just weird, first smacking John Calipari around, then trying to be reasonable. Puzzling.
This is yet another story in a chain that won’t die driven by Adrian Wojnarowski’s article suggesting Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski is the major beneficiary of Team USA. I write here to continue its existence because I must. For example, consider this paragraph early on in the piece:
If Kentucky coach John Calipari has a problem with Coach K’s national gig — as Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim alleged Wednesday — perhaps he should level the playing field by hiring a concierge and a bellhop for the Wildcat Coal Lodge, to go along with the private chef who works the players’ dorm. Perhaps he should bring in Beyonce as the opening act for Big Blue Madness. Perhaps he should simply continue to do as he has done, reaching high, winning big and churning out NBA prospects with assembly-line efficiency, because no coach has a bigger edge in college basketball.
The logic of this escapes me. Kentucky’s facilities are what they are. John Calipari neither built them, directed them to be built, or paid for them. Why he should "level the playing field," even assuming he could do such a thing, is bewilderingly unclear and breathtakingly bereft of reason. Perhaps Calipari could bring in Beyonce, but it’s also unclear what this has to do with the position Mike Krzyzewski has occupied for nine years as coach of Team USA. It’s not as if Calipari could simply appoint himself the coach of Team USA on a whim.
I guess this, combined with the photoshop of Calipari as a whining brat in today’s Courier-Journal (which made me laugh, by the way) is a form of implicit criticism for Calipari saying anything. After all, according to Sullivan’s logic, Kentucky’s facilities are so much better than Dukes or North Carolina’s … wait, you mean that’s not the case? Really? Well, it must be the Beyonce thing then. Surely Coach Cal could bring in Beyonce with just a phone call, right? I’m sure.
If Calipari thinks Coach K has attained an unfair advantage by moonlighting as coach of Team USA , and using that role to interact with younger players, he should consider the plight of those coaches who must compete against Kentucky. Consider: only one NBA team (Charlotte) finished last season with as many McDonald’s All-Americans as UK has now (9).
This is frustrating. Why should Calipari consider these things, and what the hell does it have to do with Krzyzewski’s position? The article at this point is written from a completely nonsequitur position. Calipari isn’t complaining on behalf of the Wichita States of the world. His complaint, assuming it ever existed — something that has never been confirmed by anyone other than the somewhat mercurial Jim Boeheim — is justified coming from any college basketball coach in the nation. Even Boeheim and the Duke blogs admit Krzyzewski gets a benefit from his position; the only person who disputes it, even asserting it’s a "disadvantage" is Krzyzewski himself. Talk about disingenuous — and Sullivan, to his credit, agrees.
The reality is that Krzyzewski gets an advantage not just over Kentucky, but over every college team in America not named Duke. Now we can all argue about how big that advantage is, but almost everyone understands that it does exist to some degree.
I really don’t care about any such advantage — Kentucky has recruited at such a high level that it’s hard to care, and frankly, Duke hasn’t exactly set the NCAA on fire in the last few years regardless of the magnitude of it. What I do care about is Calipari getting dragged into this discussion as some sort of black hat, juxtaposed against poor Coach K, who it seems has noting at all in his mind but leading the boys to victory against the foreigners. Recruiting? K? Never.
Sullivan’s piece, in case you got the wrong impression from my exasperation with it, is not exactly a hit piece on Calipari, or at least tries hard not to be. My complaint here is with the head-scratching reasoning that every college basketball coach who has systemic advantages related to the relative success of the program ought to shut up when a successful coach from one of those same advantaged programs gets appointed repeatedly to a position that he is eminently qualified for, but which also rightfully could be said to be earned by other coaches as well. Calipari is certainly qualified to lead Team USA, as is Roy Williams, Tom Izzo, Rick Pitino, Bill Self, and a number of other coaches of a somewhat lower profile. It's almost as if that were somehow grafted into his piece to justify the inclusion of the Calipari brat on the front page.
How Team USA became Krzyzewski’s birthright is the real question here, and it's the question nobody is asking. When is it somebody else’s turn? It’s not an "advantage" if everyone gets a fair shot at being considered, but we all know that’s not what’s happening.
Krzyzewski deserves enormous credit for his success as the coach of Team USA, and I’m giving him all of that. I don’t even mind if he's getting a big recruiting advantage, and I’m not asserting that is so. What does annoy me is that he has been in this position since 2005, and will be there through 2016. So if there is a recruiting advantage of any magnitude at all involved, Coach K will end up benefiting from it for 12 years.
How much is enough? Can someone else play?
Late addition from Kyle Tucker that I presume is related:
We messed up with that illustration today, guys. I'm not happy about it. I know you aren't. We will do better.— Kyle Tucker (@KyleTucker_CJ) September 19, 2014
Hey, I laughed. Must be my quirky sense of humor.