John Calipari is not big on the NCAA: after some earlier calls for reform (which would, naturally, benefit Kentucky considerably), now he's on about the one-and-done rule.
It's an NBA rule, of course, but Calipari would like for the various interests to come together to keep kids in school longer. Barring that, he thinks "we should leave."
To an extent we agree with him. There are guys like Andrew Wiggins who may be ready to make the leap physically if not psychologically (our contention is that very few 18-year-olds are prepared for the many harsh realities of the NBA lifestyle. Kids naturally focus on the glamorous aspects, but rarely consider the social isolation, the immense boredom of road trips, the way hotel rooms can come to resemble a prison).
Where we lose patience with him is here:
"Can we continue to separate, can we continue to do this with these rules the way they are? I'm the one guy out there saying, 'We've gotta change this somehow. We've gotta encourage these kids to stay two years.' But the NCAA's gotta do some stuff. And if they don't do it, we need to separate from them. I'm not afraid to say it. Look, they've embarrassed me. I've done nothing, so they're not going to come and show retribution to me and do stuff. I don't really care. But something's gotta change with this one-and-done rule. I seem to be the only coach saying anything. You know why? No one wants to see these kids two years here (at Kentucky). They don't want to see them for two years, so now we're all good with one year. It's wrong for high school kids, it's wrong for college kids, it's wrong for the NBA, so why won't we come together and do something about it?"
We've marveled over the years at the behavior of Kentucky fans, the extraordinary devotion, but also the reactionary nature of the fan base and the occasional sense of either paranoia or victimization.
We couldn't put a finger on this until just now, but Calipari fits into that in two potentially disastrous ways: arrogance and paranoia. His arrogance is a natural fit at Kentucky: the rest of college basketball is worried because he has one-and-done players every year?
The truth is that while Kentucky has prospered, they won the national championship under Calipari for three distinct reasons: 1) an extraordinary talent in Anthony Davis; 2) an extraordinary freshman leader in Michael Kidd-Gilchrist); and 3) critical injuries to UNC's Kendall Marshall and John Henson.
We're reasonably confident that a healthy UNC team would've beaten that Kentucky team. We'll never know obviously, but that was a really good, experienced group.
The idea that there is sort of a conspiracy against Kentucky and Calipari is just...crazy.
It's not easy to sustain what he's doing, as we learned this past season (hello NIT and Robert Morris): not only do you not have any definite guarantee that you'll get the top players, but you'll have years when the top players aren't that great.Â And when you get into a situation like he has now, with a whole lot of guys who will want to leave next year, you have to keep feeding the beast.
Last year, he tried to get by with Ryan Harrow and Julius Mays as backcourt mainstays and that didn't work out so well.
This year, Calipari says he's "seeking perfection," which is easier said than done under any circumstances. With most of his new roster aiming for the NBA next year - many people think he may have as many as eight first round draft picks - he'll have a time just getting everyone on the same page.
And after they leave, he's got to make find enough players to make it all work again.
No wonder he wants to get everyone together to help Kentucky get two years instead of one. He's riding a tiger, or a wildcat if you will, and he knows it: Kentucky fans will be fine as long as he wins titles. If he fails on a consistent basis, and continues to have big swings, life in the big blue fishbowl will get correspondingly uncomfortable. And then we'll see Calpari's paranoia, amply demonstrated when he was with the Nets, re-emerge.
Calipari isn't the only one advocating change. Ohio State's Gene Smith would like to see the top 60-70 NCAA schools move into a separate division and then have the chance to make what he sees as appropriate changes.