by Kent Sterling
John Calipari will do anything he has to. There is no barrier he respects enough to allow it to dissuade him from improving his team. Gather the best possible players, and reload after they go to the NBA. Fill the rest of the roster with studious kids who will get his team GPA high enough to not be an embarrassment. WIN!
My opinion of Calipari runs deep into the earth’s bedrock. He uses the skills of kids to feather his own nest to the tune of $4-million per year, but it’s that blind ambition that has allowed him to separate from the rest of America’s college coaches. While others sweat the development of kids as people and players, Calipari is recruiting one-and-done kids with as much interest in an education and degree as they have in becoming neurologists.
Enes Kanter is a kid that 346 D-1 coaches knew was a professional and would never play one minute of college basketball. The 347th is John Calipari.
Some coaches pretend they are paid big bucks to produce well-rounded graduates ready to tackle the challenges of adulthood. Calipari understands why UK pays him more than any other college basketball coach, and it’s all about winning. The one-and-done kids need to play someplace, why not aggregate them all at Rupp Arena?
There is hypocrisy throughout college athletics that is maddening. Agents pay kids and their families, boosters buy and lease cars for kids’ cousins, schools hire tutors to write papers, and then present the product like a holy bastion of amateurs’ love of the game. That hypocrisy doesn’t exist in Calipari.
He has no such need, desire, or impulse to present his starters as anything more than kids doing their time in college until they are eligible for the draft. Kanter as a pro from Turkey might wind up being taken in the middle of the first round, but after playing on national TV 35 times this season for the Wildcats and becoming a marquee player at a top program, he might elevate his stock into the top five. For Kentucky, they would get a year from a game changing player.
There is something oddly admirable about a guy who is unapologetic in using the inherantly corrupt system to build a hugely successful career. Calipari occasionally talks about grades, but he knows he’s full of shit. Reportedly, some basketball players sit at the study table while “tutors” complete their work (that comes directly from a member of the Kentucky women’s tennis team). There are wonderful professors at Kentucky who work hard to help students learn – none of them are paid more than a tiny fraction of Calipari’s salary.
There is nothing wrong with that. The guys and ladies who sit in the overstuffed leather chairs and jackets with elbow patches in Lexington made the decision that winning is most important to them, so they paid top dollar for a guy best suited to produce those results, and that is exactly what he’s doing. Kanter would have helped, so Calipari rolled the dice. He crapped out, but is now appealing the decision.
If that appeal process is as deliberate as the original investigation, Kentucky will get its answer right around the deadline to declare for the 2011 NBA Draft.
Some joke the $33K that the NCAA say caused the finding of professionalism might have made Kanter the lowest paid starter for the Wildcats. Some say it without laughing.