The world of college basketball has been praising and lauding one specific coach recently: Michigan’s John Beilein.
Beilein has experienced a great deal of success in his tenure at Michigan. He has taken Michigan to the NCAA National Championship game twice, although he has not won. He also has made additional Elite 8 and Sweet 16 appearances.
Let me be clear: This is NOT a “Beilein should replace Calipari” post. Not at all. This is more of a…”Calipari can learn from Beilein post” - if nothing else.
Two seasons ago, the Wolverines went to the Sweet 16. Last season, they played in the National Championship game. This year, they’re off to a 10-0 start with convincing wins against North Carolina, Villanova, Providence, and Purdue.
Beilein is a fantastic, well above-average offensive coach. But in the last 2 seasons, their success has been a result of Beilein’s ability to recognize the need for an important addition: a “defensive coordinator” for his coaching staff. He went out and hired Luke Yaklich, a young assistant with a specialty in man-to-man defense.
With Yaklich taking over the defense, the Wolverines won 26 games in his first season, then 33 games in his second season - being one of the top defensive teams in the nation each year.
John Calipari can learn a lesson here from John Beilein. Both are Hall of Fame coaches, but Beilein realized he cannot be an expert in all facets of coaching. Although he is a phenomenal offensive coach, he went out and hired the best defensive mind he could find. Calipari has exhausted himself trying to be the main offensive AND defensive coach, AND be the lead recruiter for the program. He’s crushing himself, mentally and physically.
Calipari is an elite recruiter. He’s a motivator. He’s a great salesman and marketer for the Kentucky brand. But Calipari is not a great modern offensive coach. He sells the “positionless” pitch to recruits, but his offensive lacks this mindset. It would be in his best interest to go and find the brightest, young offensive mind that he can find.
The UK coaching staff needs a shakeup. I won’t use this as the time to discuss which assistant needs to go, but Calipari needs to bring in an “offensive coordinator” to help modernize the team’s offensive concepts. He needs an offensive coordinator that will implement a more spread-oriented offense, a more fluid and free-flowing offense. In the very least, Calipari needs to bring in an assistant that will enhance UK’s offensive scheme from what Calipari was doing 4 years ago and still is doing today.
Calipari should bring in an OC that has spent the last few years on an NBA coaching staff. Obviously, an assistant coach from Golden State would make the biggest splash, but so would an assistant from Brad Stevens’ coaching staff in Boston. The Top 5 most efficient teams in the NBA for 2018 were Golden State, Milwaukee, New Orleans, Toronto and Charlotte. Maybe Mitch Barnhardt and Calipari can lure one of these assistants away from the NBA and to Lexington.
From the college ranks, Gonzaga is one of the top most efficient offensive teams in the nation each and every year. Does Mark Few have a trusted offensive assistant? Last season, St. Mary’s was 2nd in the nation in offensive efficiency. Maybe one of their assistants is an up and coming offensive guru?
Calipari needs help. It’s naive to pretend otherwise. It would be best for him to look for a new assistant coach, one who can recruit but also one who has a modern approach to basketball offense.