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Is Coach Cal the Coach of the Decade?

John Calipari, Head Coach at University of Kentucky

Consistency is key.

This is a common saying we hear throughout our life whenever we’re working at something. My youth basketball coach would echo this throughout the gym as we would stand at the free throw line intently staring at the rim. To be consistently good at something shows that you are no fluke, you are here to stay.

John Calipari has slowly defined the word ‘consistency’ over the span of his 32 year head-coaching career.

Since his infamous first post conference for the University of Kentucky in 2009, John Calipari has proved he’s built for the position. The Calipari hire drew headlines nation-wide, and not just because of his success at UMass and University of Memphis. Fresh off of recruiting violations committed at Memphis, Calipari was looking for new beginnings and that’s when he landed in Kentucky.

A historic, blue-blooded program like Kentucky comes with a load of expectations. The Big Blue Nation is ruthless and will let you know when they’re not happy with the product you’re producing. And for Coach Calipari, he was already facing heat from the media about his prior recruiting violations being resurfaced. A cool, calm, and collected Calipari turned on tunnel vision and went to work. Coach Cal started off his tenure with a bang by bringing in his inaugural class that was headlined by future NBA stars John Wall and Demarcus Cousins. This 2009 team featured a starting lineup of 5 eventual first round picks and went on to finish in the Elite 8 with a 35-3 record. Since 2009, Calipari has been in the Top 2 for recruiting classes every year.

The one and done, invented and perfected by John Calipari, has revolutionized the game of basketball as we know it today. Highly skilled teenagers are being recruited out of high school by top college basketball programs already knowing that they can leave school after 1 year to declare for the NBA draft. A stepping stone, if you will. Calipari has used his platform as head coach to develop his players as intensely as he can for 1 year, in hopes of them maximizing their draft stock so they can capitalize the following year. Since the one and done has become the preferred option for many college freshmen, Calipari has seen nothing but success. Coach Cal has seen a total of 35 of his players drafted, leading all active coaches. Kentucky is also the highest-earning school in the NBA with a combined $900 million dollars in contract money. ‘One and Done’ is a strategy that is player-first driven with their best intentions in mind. Unfortunately, this puts more stress on the head coach to bring in talent to fill spots and have the ability to create team chemistry with a completely different set of guys year after year. Calipari quietly puts together a consistent product year after year of rosters consisting mainly of freshman. Coach Cal has an overall record of 330-77, with an overall winning percentage of .811 during his time at Kentucky. He has 11 seasons in the top 10 for winning percentage.

Some of the greatest moments in sports happen during March Madness. The month long postseason event for college basketball is one of the most entertaining and most watched sporting events of the year. In a single elimination format, college athletes travel to neutral sites in a battle to be crowned the top college basketball program in the country. As fans, this is the event we put our heart and soul into. Our teams can make the tournament as a bubble team for all we care because any team has the chance to win. The strategy Calipari has utilized at the University of Kentucky is one that has the potential to upset the fans. Watching their newfound players leave after 1 year and there is a larger chance for team failure. Many Division 1 programs like Oklahoma, LSU, Alabama have had their fair share of successful one and done’s, but many believe it effects the team’s success. Calipari and his staff’s ability to convince a 5 star recruit to play in a team system while also developing them for the NBA is unmatched throughout the country. While Cal has only brought 1 national title to Lexington, the program has seen its fair share of consistent success. Since Calipari’s first season in 2009, Kentucky has 3 Elite 8 appearances, 2 Final Four’s, a Sweet Sixteen finish and a national title. Kentucky has also seen its’ dominance of the SEC continue with 5 first place finishes since 2009.

John Calipari came with baggage from the University of Memphis when Kentucky hired him in 2009. The university knew he was a talented coach and recruiter, but took a risk with his known violations at previous schools. Since the day he was hired, Calipari has been a trailblazer in many regards. His perspective on college basketball and his ‘one and done’ approach revolutionized college basketball and the structure of the NBA. His ability to develop players for the NBA combined with his unmatched recruiting tactics has moved him among the ranks of the greatest coaches in college basketball history. Calipari has exemplified his knack to be consistent by navigating the most winningest program in college basketball history to continued success throughout the 2010’s.

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