by Kent Sterling
“Calipari doesn’t like the (one-and-done) rule anymore than you do!” a relentless wave of Kentucky fans write in their comments to my posts critical of Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari.
They also write that Calipari just recruits the kids destined for the NBA better than anyone else, and to hate Kentucky for that reflects jealousy unbecoming a journalist. Some bring up Duke and Kansas as programs that also benefit from the one-and-done rule. The truth is that Duke has had three freshman declare their eligibility for the draft since 2000, and Bill Self has had a total of three since coming to Kansas in 2003. From 2010-2013, Calipari has used the talents of 11 kids who spent less than one year in Lexington before jumping to the NBA.
There are insults – some funny, some silly, and others that reflect an unhealthy anger. I enjoy the funny insults, and pity those without the intellectual wherewithal to channel their anger properly toward humor. If you can’t be angry and funny, don’t indulge in either.
I hold no angst toward the university or the commonwealth’s people. When Tubby Smith was the coach, I enjoyed watching the Wildcats play. My dissatisfaction with John Calipari’s use of very talented athletes is an indictment only of him. Those who support Calipari view the world through the opposite end of the kaleidoscope, but dissent is what makes the world go around. Debate is enjoyable – at least for me. Through conversation, maybe I will gain a little wisdom.
Wouldn’t that be nice? Two commentors – Philboyd Studge and Warren from TN, I enjoy quite a bit. Both are really smart and possess a skill in writing their thoughts that I admire. Philboyd is always clever and Warren is sincere and thoughtful.
Let me try to explain a few things to make my point a little clearer:
- I am not accusing Calipari of cheating, as defined by the NCAA. I find it hard to believe that players at the highest level of college basketball don’t receive benefits beyond those allowed, but I don’t begrudge any athlete a little extra cash. There is plenty of money in college athletics, and for the athletes not to get a taste over, under, or around the table is unjust. I am certain that Calipari is bright enough to have built several Chinese walls between himself and the payments, if there are any.
- Whether Calipari knew about the relationship between the agent and Marcus Camby at UMass that caused problems, I don’t have a clue. Similarly, I don’t know anything specifically damning about the SAT issues with Derrick Rose that led to the NCAA woes at Memphis. Both occurred under Calipari’s watch, and because it’s plausible if not likely that he didn’t collaborate in either event, it’s tough to blame him. It’s also impossible to ignore that he is the only coach to have two visits to the Final Four wiped from the NCAA record books.
- People in Kentucky are beyond excused for finding joy in the Wildcat victories. These are tough times, and if something brings you joy and others aren’t hurt by it, what the hell could be wrong with that?
- Hating Kentuckians because of their complicity in allowing Calipari to employ the most pervasive use of the ‘neo-plantation mentality’ that modern NCAA inventor Walter Byers described would be ridiculous. Not calling attention to it so maybe a kid like last night’s Trestor Award winner Trey Lyles – an NBA bound young man with smarts as well as bulk and athleticism – might ask himself why Cal takes home $5-mil while he will enjoy the fruits of 30 credit hours in the 2014-2015 school year might ask just what the hell is going on would be unconscionable.
Kentucky will play Michigan this afternoon for a trip to the Final Four, and I will hope that the Wolverines find a way past the minor league Wildcat franchise to earn a spot in Arlington, not because I hate UK or Kentuckians, but because I have zero respect for the way John Calipari builds and rebuilds his program.