We have heard John Calipari say it many times before, Kentucky men’s basketball is the “gold standard”.
However, Calipari doesn’t believe the Kentucky Wildcats' facilities are up to that standard and says that upgrades are needed.
During a Monday radio spot with Dan Issel and Mike Pratt, Calipari said he’s pushing to get upgraded basketball facilities.
Calipari also briefly discussed Jai Lucas’ departure to Duke and what Kentucky is looking for in his his replacement.
“Now, as we start talking about staff, because the name, image, likeness and the transfer portal, it’s even more vital,” Calipari stated. “So, whoever it is, they got to add value. They got to show me how they’ve added value to players. Our stuff here is results.”
Calipari oddly mentioned that he did not fire Lucas, so the Kentucky coach must have heard someone suggest that to him.
“First of all, I did not fire Jai (Lucas), and I did not force him out. I wish him well. This is what he thinks is best for his program, and I absolutely wish him well, and we all should.”
It’s still very early in the search for Lucas’ replacement, but it sounds like Calipari is making sure the next hire will be well-versed in the NIL department.
As for the facility upgrades, Rupp Arena is currently in the final steps of a $300+ million dollar renovation, and the Joe Craft Center, Kentucky men's basketball’s practice facility, had some recent renovations made to the locker room suite in 2017.
So, what facilities is Calipari talking about?
For starters, the Wildcat Coal Lodge is one of the more outdated men’s basketball dormitories in the country when compared to the top programs. Opened in 2012, the lodge features an average hotel-esque type room with worse amenities than the University's newer dorms, which are open to all students.
Here is a virtual tour of the lodge.
In comparison, take a look at Kansas’ McCarthy hall which was built nearly six years ago, which can be seen by clicking this link. With a more luxurious feel, McCarthy Hall also features a third-floor patio, theater room, and an indoor basketball half-court visible from the main lobby as well as the second-floor lounge.
Now, back to the Joe Craft Center. While the locker room suite was renovated back in 2017, a large part of the facility is still outdated and hasn’t been touched since opening in 2007. Much of the facility still has a mid-2000’s feel, with old Kentucky branding and older architecture/design, which can be seen in this fan’s video tour from 2021.
Kentucky basketball has a rich history that should be displayed tastefully, but that shouldn’t carry over to having outdated facilities or falling inferior to other programs’ facilities.
Most importantly from a recruiting and branding standpoint, it is key for Kentucky, one of the biggest brands in all of basketball to have top-of-the-line facilities. I know the Big Blue Nation and John Calipari are ready for it. The ball is now seemingly in Mitch Barnhart's court.