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Kentucky Wildcats Morning Quickies: Replacing Basketball Coaches Edition

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There is a lot of speculation about Mike Krzyzewski’s retirement from Duke lately, but let’s not forget that John Calipari has exceeded his own stated expectation for employment when he came here.

Mississippi State v Kentucky Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen of the Big Blue Nation, and welcome to the Tuesday Morning Quickies.

Today’s big news will not be discussed in this space today. We have enough opinions about the chaos in U.S. cities right now, along with the continuing pandemic as if things weren’t “interesting” enough (in the sense of the apocryphal Chinese curse). I don’t feel I need to add mine.

Much of the actual NCAA basketball talk going on right now is not about the 2020-21 season (or whether it will happen or not), but about Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, who is 73 right now, and who’s current contract at Duke runs out after the 2021 season. Many people are beginning to think that the unthinkable hour when Coach K retires from his position may be near at hand.

But this is a Kentucky space, and I don’t want to talk about Duke. Rather, I want to look at the same question for UK coach John Calipari. Back when Coach Cal came here, he intimated his expectations for his tenure at UK wouldn’t be into his 70’s, or even deep into his 60’s. Yet here he is at 61, still apparently going strong.

But that won’t last forever, and frankly, I’d be very surprised if he lasted as long at UK as Coach K has so far at Duke. It’s not impossible, but for some reason, a 73-year old John Calipari stalking the sidelines of Rupp Arena seems ... unlikely.

It’s perhaps arguable that replacing Calipari will not be as hard as replacing Krzyzewski — Coach K has been the only coach at Duke to win an NCAA Tournament championship, whereas Kentucky has had no less than four who have done so. Still, Kentucky has had difficulty replacing coaches before, and Calipari is a tough act to follow. There are few NCAA coaches currently who are intuitive fits at Kentucky, and most of the ones that are most likely can’t be coerced away from their current gig.

It’s interesting that after this last decade, nobody is talking about “one and done” in pejorative terms anymore, or dragging Calipari through the mud over it as was routine only five years ago. When Coach K got into the “one and done” act in a big way, it suddenly became okay, to the surprise of ... nobody, ever.

Still, there are very few coaches that bring anything like the talent Calipari, and for that matter, Krzyzewski, bring to their respective programs. Replacing either of them is a major challenge for any athletics director, and the odds of succeeding the first time are less than comforting. I know many of us will be snarking at Duke when Coach K retires, but it won’t be that long before we’ll have them returning the favor, I suspect.

Tweet of the Morning

Heh. Indeed.

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