John Calipari just won his first national championship and he was asked what is next. Calipari has a lot of people who don't like him. Too slick. Too smooth. Too Calipari. So maybe many of them expected the coach to say something like "Go to Disney World" or "Head to the NBA" or maybe even "Wait for the NCAA to call" Instead, the coach of the national champion Wildcats said "I want to go undefeated"
Calipari prides himself on being a contrarian. Maybe that is based on how and where he was raised from his Pittsburgh days. Maybe its based on his role as the outsider in the college game, always at the "other" school like UMass and Memphis. Maybe it is from years of getting the snide comments from the game's elite like Bob Knight and Roy Williams. So even from the perch of being the champion at the greatest program in the history of the sport, Calipari can't help himself but to say something that just infuriates his critics even more.
I never used to like Calipari as a coach. I saw all the things from the outside that everyone else saw about him. We all watched and read as the NCAA came calling about Marcus Camby getting cash at UMass or Derek Rose having someone take his SAT to get to Memphis. But at Kentucky John Calipari has taken college basketball's own rules and made them work better than anyone else. The sound you hear today is the game's coaching fraternity gnashing their teeth watching this guy cut down the nets in New Orleans
The people who hold the game is some sort of distorted reverence complain about his embracing of the one and done guys that make Lexington a pit stop on the way to the NBA. I just think Coach Cal figured it out better than anyone and happens to be located in a place that can attract that level of player. Is anyone paying attention to what is going on at Duke? Kyrie Irving ended up playing there about an hour and a half because of injury and then headed to the Cavs. Now it's Doc Rivers son moving on from Durham after one season year to join his father in the league. It's the way the game is played now but this year's Duke team did not make it by Lehigh in round one.
Please don't email to tell me that I am naive and that Calipari skirts the rules of the NCAA and is a bad guy. The truth is I don't really know the man personally and neither do you. I did see the way he acted at the Teddi T golf tournament for Camp Good Days last summer and know that he's been a good friend, both with his time and his money to that event. That alone doesn't make him a great guy but it shows that people are more than the snapshot we get when watching them on national television.
I would prefer to see the NBA and the college game get together and change the rules about player eligibility. I think it will help both entities to have players either go right from high school to the pros or, if they choose college, stay at least two seasons. But for right now these are the rules and for right now no one does it better than John Calipari. Go ahead and tell me how much you hate him and how much you despise Kentucky. But this coach will be the one waving goodbye to his 4 or 5 or 6 NBA draft picks and saying hello to an entire group of high school stars. The "One and Doners" will be great again next year and maybe even undefeated. Go figure. It's John Calipari winning by following the NCAA rules. Doesn't that just tick off the phonies.