He’s one of the most divisive men in sports. You say the name “Calipari” amongst a group of college hoops fans and you’re more likely to hear diatribes about the NCAA and vacated Final Four appearances than an assessment of his coaching and recruiting skills. No coach has embraced the changing landscape of the college game (in practice, not in ideology) and the “One-and-Done” approach than Calipari. This year, he’ll face another mass exodus in June’s NBA Draft and begin the process again.
But, he’ll hit the recruiting trail with a piece of the net cut down following Monday’s win over the Kansas Jayhawks in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship Title Game. Anthony Davis overcame a terrible shooting night (1-for-10) by dominating the glass (16 rebounds), blocking shots (6) and leading the team in assists (5). Doran Lamb led the Wildcats with 22 points, one of just three Kentucky players to score in double digits.
The Wildcats were aided by a number of missed layups/dunks by the Jayhawks, but those only played a small part in Kansas’ overall deficiencies and abysmal shooting (35.5%). Tyshawn Taylor led Kansas with 19 points on 8-for-17 shooting, but committed a game-high five turnovers.
Critics will point to the vacated Final Four appearances and bemoan the “state of the game.” The rules are in place, and Calipari merely works to the best end. Even if you excise the vacated wins at UMASS and Memphis from his resume, Calipari owns a career .769 winning percentage. In three years at Kentucky, he’s compiled a record of 102-14 (.879). This year, Kentucky was the prohibitive favorite, and Calipari got these highly-touted young recruits to buy into team basketball, stave off upset bids and claim a title.
* I still like Tom Hanks’ “That Thing You Do!” and decided to get a little punny.