Have we gotten to the point already when a trip to Lexington for a basketball game is almost pointless?
With all the highly touted players passing through the University of Kentucky since Calipari arrived, UK has been dominating the series in recent years. If Calipari deserves any credit, however, it is primarily for cultivating a friendship with World Wide Wes (William Wesley), with all his unique
Kentucky had a good basketball tradition, with its seven national championships, prior to the Calipari-Wesley marriage. But the school still had its recruiting challenges, having to gut it out like everybody else.
Now, it seems, all UK has to do is make a couple of phone calls, sometimes after commitments have been made elsewhere, and the five-star players come running. The ease with which he assembles the vast array of talent is unsettling, troubling given Kentucky’s history, and not good for college basketball.
Watching his teams play is like watching a Globetrotters exhibition, with all the individualism and free-lancing on the court and the drama on the sideline, resembling a circus at times, toying with the competition. A three-ring affair, complete with high-wire acts. The elephant, WWW, probably will be parked again in his front row seat for all to see.
Quite a change from a few seasons ago when UK hired a coach named Billy Gillispie, primarily it seemed because his Texas A&M team had defeated Louisville in an NCAA game. After that debacle, they were desperate, gambling with their reputation by hiring Calipari, with a history of vacated NCAA tournament wins and entire seasons. The risk seems to have paid off for UK thus far, getting the best of the blue chippers. Whether that adds up to another national championship or two remains to be seen — as does whether there may be more vacated wins in his future.
Calipari has yet to prove he is capable of winning the big hand before losing everything before the final horn sounds on his controversial career. But he has no problem with lecturing a knowledgeable fan base about what’s best for the program, floating the notion of dropping heated traditional rivalries or suggesting that getting players to the NBA is more important than winning national championships.
We sense in Calipari a severe case of lack of self-esteem and a lack of respect for the program he commands. The head coach of one of the strongest basketball programs in the country shouldn’t feel the need to constantly haze a respected coach like Rick Pitino or to belittle the University of Louisville, one of the most profitable college basketball programs in the nation.
That’s not going to change whether his team wins or loses Saturday.