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As Kentucky Fans Sour On John Calipari, Speculation About His Replacement Begins

Not a good time for Cal

NCAA Basketball: Kentucky at Auburn
Jan 16, 2021; Auburn, Alabama, USA; Kentucky Wildcats head coach John Calipari directs his team against the Auburn Tigers during the second half at Auburn Arena. 
John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

College fans are fickle and none more so than Kentucky fans. Big Blue Nation likes to brag that it is the best fan base in college basketball. They’re certainly the most intense but the best fans wouldn’t be looking to get rid of a Hall of Fame coach for one down year.

But that’s where we are as a quick spin through the Twitter sewer and this column over at Fansided demonstrates: it’s listing potential replacements for a guy who’s won just a shade under 80 percent of his games at Kentucky.

The article makes it clear that the writer doesn’t expect Calipari to be fired or to quit. However, the list is somewhat ludicrous in spots. Here they are, last to first:

  • Richard Pitino, Minnesota - Seriously? He’s having a good year but he’s been on the hot seat quite a bit. That’s not a likely candidate for the Kentucky job. If you’re going for a Pitino, why not, you know, make a splash and go after the real deal Pitino? The one you already know can get it done?
  • Chris Mack, Louisville - Yeah, right. Good luck on that.
  • Chris Holtmann, Ohio State - He could be a solid candidate. But would he want to deal with all that coaching Kentucky entails?
  • Nate Oats, Alabama - Oats might be really good, but he hasn’t really proven himself at this level yet and there’s no indication he’s ready for the relentless pressure of this job.
  • Mike Young - We’re guessing the writer doesn’t know that Young is from the Blacksburg area and that he values the opportunity to spend what time he can around his elderly mother who still lives in Radford - or that he stayed at Wofford for 17 years when he could have moved on much earlier.
  • Brad Brownell - Look, Brownell is a solid coach. We respect him immensely. But he was on the hot seat a couple of years ago too. If they’d run Calipari off, what would happen to Brownell? Also, he’s never recruited on that level. Could he?
  • Shaka Smart - Again, a guy who was on the hot seat
  • Chris Beard - An excellent choice, but he’s a Texan coaching in Texas and doing pretty damn well building a powerhouse where none as existed before. Why would he walk away from what he has for the headaches at Kentucky? He might, of course, and he can coach with anyone, but would he want to deal with the, uh, unique issues UK poses?
  • Scott Drew - Another solid choice but he’s never had much luck in the post-season and that won’t go over well.

If we could add a couple of name, we’d suggest Illinois’s Brad Underwood. He seems surly enough to deal with UK fans and is a solid coach. This would probably be about as popular as hiring Louisville’s coach, but we’d seriously consider Jeff Capel. He’s a tremendous recruiter and Kentucky would give him a huge platform. He’d get players. And he’s shown he knows how to coach. If he were to succeed at UK the whole Duke thing would be more or less politely ignored.