[Moderated by Matt Jones]
That awkward moment when Mark Emmert has to hand John Calipari the Championship trophy
18 days ago, the Kentucky Wildcats won their 8th National Championship, as I’m assuming all of you know. With the win however, a new piece of hardware was not the only change from the status quot, in fact, the win may have ushered in a new era in college basketball. The days of senior-laden starting lineups are over for good as of 11:42pm on April 2nd, and the maestro behind the seismic shift in basketball culture is John Calipari.
Calipari has consistently stayed ahead of the curve, reinventing the way a coach constructs a basketball team seamlessly as the rules changed. As far as marketing the program, recruiting, and public relations, there is no other coach in America that belongs in the same category as Coach Cal, as doing so would be an insult to just how great he has been. But now, with a National Championship under his belt as well, we very well could be witnessing one of the most dominant coaching runs in history. Over the past 7 seasons at both Memphis and Kentucky, Calipari has reached at least the Elite Eight 6 times, only falling short in 2009 at Memphis with a loss in the Sweet 16. Impressive statistics for any coach, but what makes those numbers practically miraculous is that he has done so by defying the logic of every basketball coach and pundit throughout history, churning out wins with core groups of players still fresh from their high school prom.
I’m firmly convinced that no coach in America does more with more than John Calipari. In a time when players can smell NBA riches the second they step foot on campus for orientation, Calipari’s ability to unite a “Who’s Who” of NBA Draft prospects into a cohesive, winning machine in 8 months time is astounding. The National Championship, as much as he would deflect it, was as much about him as it was his players. For years, the greatest college basketball minds had agreed that it takes experience, along with talent, to compete at the highest level, which is why this championship could flip college basketball on its head.
In 3 seasons at Kentucky, John Calipari has accumulated a 102-14 win-loss record, won 2 regular season conference titles, 2 conference tournament titles, reached 2 Final Fours, won a National Championship, had 4 consecutive #1 recruiting classes, and has also sent 15 players to the NBA, 12 of them being freshman or sophomores. Long story short, everything you thought you knew about college basketball means nothing, because once again, Calipari is 3 steps ahead of his competition. The man who had been an outsider his entire career, pestering the big dogs from smaller outposts at UMASS and Memphis, is now the king, the defending champion head coach at the winningest school in the sport, ushering out his entire starting lineup to the NBA only to reel in a new wave of diaper dandies who have Kentucky conveniently placed once again in the preseason Top 3.
When the standard system of operation in anything is challenged, one of two things happen. Either the law of averages prevails eventually, and the status quot remains, or the whole system is shocked and forced to adapt to its new competition. Over the past 7 seasons, John Calipari has consistently won at the highest level, proving that this is not merely a flash in the pan, but rather a refreshing change of pace, unless you happen to coach an NCAA team not named Kentucky.
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