Can John Calipari surpass Adolph Rupp?
That is the question recently posed in an ESPN article looking at college basketball programs who have “faced the challenge of moving on from a single historically revered coach, evaluating the successes and failures they have experienced along the way.”
The article, which can be read in full above, examines each coaching hire that Kentucky has made since Rupp and ranks Cal as the closest to Rupp in terms of success, of course adding in the important historic context of the game then and now.
Jeff Borzello, Myron Medcalf, and Joe Lunardi then have a roundtable discussing Rupp, his legacy, Calipari, and what Cal may have to do to “surpass” Rupp.
Lunardi’s answer on the question of “What would John Calipari need to do to approach Adolph Rupp at Kentucky?” stuck out to me.
“It’s not apples to apples. Kentucky for most of Rupp’s time was among the few state schools to really care about basketball. The competition was nowhere near where it is today, with the sport heavily concentrated among urban, and in many cases, private schools. Given that, Calipari won’t surpass Rupp in NCAA championships. He may already have exceeded the Baron, however, in terms of impact on the game. He is the perfect man to thrive in and survive the Kentucky crucible. And “Calipari Court” at Rupp Arena sounds like the perfect ending.”
Medcalf also made a good point in talking about the generational differences.
“The boosters who crash Calipari’s postgame press conferences are in their 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s. I think those folks appreciate Calipari for making Kentucky a national player within the one-and-done era. But Rupp is their hero.
Still, I think folks 40 and under will talk about Calipari the way their parents talk about Rupp.”
It’s an interesting topic for discussion. To me, winning a second title is of the utmost importance for Cal in terms of his place all-time. Very few coaches get that elusive second title, and while Cal has been on the cusp of bringing home another title to Lexington and the second of his career, he hasn’t been able to finish the job yet.
Getting that second title certainly, in my opinion, places Cal among the top coaches in history. If he doesn’t, that 2015 Wisconsin loss will sting even more than it already does.
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