One of my guilty pleasures is over-indulging on sports talk radio. I listen to it live, and then when I can’t do that I catch up on the podcasts. One of my favorite shows to listen to is The Midday Rush Monday-Friday, 10:00 AM-12:00 PM on ESPN 680 in Louisville. The hosts are Andy Sweeney and my UK postgame co-host Lachlan McLean. They serve up local news and opinions but they are not beholden to either the Kentucky Wildcats or the Louisville Cardinals.
I was listening to the podcast of their show yesterday and they played an interesting sound clip from UofL assistant coach and head recruiter Kenny Johnson. He is fresh off of landing, seemingly out of nowhere, 5 star wing Brian Bowen.
When asked about Rick Pitino’s recruiting philosophy and why Bowen ultimately picked UofL, Johnson may have thrown some shade at John Calipari. You be the judge:
...we stay a little bit more focused on developing as opposed to... I think some programs are better going out and trying to uh... recruit in new players...
...he (Rick Pitino) spends his time each day developing these guys and working with them, you know through individual training, and practice, and that’s where he’s at... you know he’s not necessarily flying around the country chasing after the next guy and I think the fact that he (Brian Bowen) knew that he would have somebody, you know, more invested in him than anywhere else he could be and that really attracted him.
As we all know, the recruiting philosophies of the opposing coaches and the fan bases used to be diametrically opposed. Pitino and Card Nation take pride in recruiting under the radar guys that would stay three to four years while John Calipari and Big Blue Nation focus more on getting the youngest, best talent in the country for one year and then using the NBA Draft as a recruiting tool to get the next batch.
With the addition of Kenny Johnson to the staff, things have changed for UofL over the last few years. Johnson is a great recruiter, that’s what he was known as at IU before Pitino hired him away. He goes after four to five star talent in the 20-50 ranking range, which is much higher than what Pitino was shooting for before his arrival.
Now UofL fans have to adjust their opinions. In the past the L1C4 mantra was built around the premise of guys staying for multiple years at UofL and developing. Guys like Peyton Siva, Russ Smith, and Gorgui Dieng come to mind.
But things are changing. Terry Rozier played only two seasons at UofL. Chinanu Onuaku played only two seasons at UofL. Donovan Mitchell played only two seasons at UofL. Brian Bowen has one and done type of talent, the best Pitino has had during his tenure as the Cardinal head coach.
While I am discussing developing players abilities and them remaining in college for multiple seasons, I guess I need to throw out UofL’s own brand of one-and-dones like Damion Lee, Trey Lewis, and Tony Hicks. Those guys didn’t stay around for the much ballyhooed Pitino development as graduate transfers.
And what about the multiple guys that Pitino failed to develop that ended up transferring out? I’m sure Shaqquan Aaron, Zach Price, Angel Nunez, Anton Gill, Akoy Agau, and most recently Matz Stockman and Jay Henderson would like to have a word about Pitino’s ability to coach ‘em up.
I get that Kenny Johnson is feeling good about himself after landing Bowen, but don’t come at my man John Calipari. Cal is the King. He’s owned UofL basketball and Rick Pitino throughout his time at Kentucky. Calipari doesn’t need to talk about developing players, he just shows his ESPN 30 For 30 and runs off his list of players getting paid in the NBA. UofL’s NBA player list is short right now so it wouldn’t take them long to rattle it off.
Calipari has been consistent in his message when he talks to recruits, that’s evident in the old footage in the aforementioned 30 For 30. If Johnson and UofL want to continue to recruit more top ranked players and send them to the NBA after one or two seasons, they’re going to have to change their tune.
And finally, let’s see how well this UofL team is developed under Pitino if the NCAA sits his butt out for half the season for failing to monitor his program.
Check out the entire sound at the 33:30 mark and then listen to my buddies discuss the quotes. Both of them believed it was a swipe at Cal. The original interview was conducted by Drew Deener on The Deener Show, Monday-Friday 7:00 AM-10:00 AM on ESPN 680.