Can't Knock the Hustle, Kentucky Needs Calipari to Run the Show
John Calipari is the Jay-Z of college basketball coaches. The "Roc Boy" of the Memphis Tigers might be running the show in Lexington very soon. The best coach on the market for the # 1 college basketball program of all-time. The Kentucky Wilcats fired coach Billy Gillispie this past Saturday March 28th in a move that was sudden, and expected after a sub-par 40-27 record in 2-seasons as head coach. The Wildcats missed the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1991 when the program was in a rebuilding mold after the scandal and NCAA sanctions handed down from the Eddie Sutton era at UK from 1985-89.
The program was put back on the map in 1992 when the Cats were able to make it to the Elite 8 when they faced Duke and lost to the Blue Devils in overtime 104-103 in one of the 5 best college basketball games ever played. Jamal Mashburn the Bronx, New York star forward is credited as the main recruit in 1990 to help revive the Kentucky program.
Calipari has the style, the hustle, and the street-cred to lure top tier blue chip recruits from America's urban cities to come to Lexington and play ball. The Kentucky program hasn't seen a Final Four appearance in 11-years since winning the 1998 NCAA Championship under then coach Tubby Smith who guided the recruits of former UK coach Rick Pitino to the NCAA title.
The resume of Calipari getting big-time studs to his programs goes back to the Marcus Camby days at UMass where Calipari and Camby led the Minuteman to their only Final Four appearance. It was 13-years ago today (March 30, 1996) when UMass lost its Final Four matchup to eventual 1996 NCAA Champion Kentucky 81-74. Calipari coached Umass from 1988-96.
During his tenure in Memphis star players Rodney Carney, Shawne Williams, Dajuan Wagner, and Darius Washington have come and played for Calipari. His last two super-star recruits Derrick Rose the first pick of the 2008 NBA Draft and favorite to win the 2009 NBA Rookie of the Year Award, and Tyreke Evans the 2009 College Basketball Freshman of the Year shows that Calipari is man when it comes to recruiting star players. That is what is lacking at UK since the departure of Rick Pitino. Calipari will bring that element back to Kentucky.
If Calipari has the biggest stage in college basketball he will have a chance to become one of 3 best coaches in the country and back it with one of the 5 best college programs on the planet. During the 2008-09 season Calipari became the first coach in NCAA Divison 1 history to have 4 straight 30-win seasons (2005-2009). His 134 victories over that span is also an NCAA record. His 104 victories over 3-seasons between 2005-2008 ties the 1995-98 Kentucky Wildcats. That too is an NCAA record.
The Calipari vs. Pitino (Louisville) rivalry in the state of Kentucky will be mentioned in the same breath as the Roy Williams (N. Carolina) and Mike Krzyzewski (Duke) rivalry in N. Carolina. It would be good for the sport to have 2 coaching heavyweights that can go toe-to-toe.
When the question is asked, where does Kentucky rank among the best basketball programs in the country a casual fan of college basketball might say Duke, Kansas, Connecticut, Michigan State, and most definatly you will hear N. Carolina, but UK is lost in the mix. John Calipari as basketball coach of the Kentucky program will flow like a rap song sung by another NYC like Jamal Mashburn. Some call him Shawn but most know him by the name Jay-Z.
Can't Knock the Hustle!