Pressure cooker week for John Calipari


John Calipari is under extreme pressure to win the Sweet 16 game between Louisville and Kentucky. Lose and his whole approach is in question. Win and he’s infallible, as far as UK fans are concerned.

Calipari has been under attack from UK fans for weeks as the losses added up for UK. Analysts, writers and fans picking his recruiting and coaching styles apart. The UK ship appeared to headed for the rocks a couple of weeks ago, the losses piling up with 10 or more losses the past two seasons and a first round loss in the NIT last year.  The Cats were coming up empty, looking for escape hatches,

Fortunately for any UK coach, there’s always the Southeastern Conference tournament at the end. Put together a couple of wins over SEC opponents and suddenly his team is on a “run.” Play Florida a third time, keep it close, lose by only one point, and  “UK is back.” Convincing wins over Kansas State and Wichita State and, suddenly, Kentucky is “on a roll.”

Calipari has gotten the Wildcat fans all worked up again, forgetting how poorly the team was faring a week and a half ago. They are confident UK will defeat UofL, and are hungry for another Final Four and a ninth national championship. Having arrived this point, they feel almost entitled, simply awaiting delivery of more NCAA hardware.

Funny things sometimes happen between the first and second weeks of the NCAA tournament, suddenly hot teams sometime become ordinary all over again. Maybe this is why the Las Vegas oddsmakers have made UofL a five point favorite, being overly protective of their economic resources and all.

Anything short of success, like “the greatest recruiting class in history” losing to Louisville, will be paramount to total failure for Calipari. Pretty hard to blame a bunch of freshmen bunking in temporary quarters for such a disappointing season. Most of the heralded freshmen will be gone next year, and the cycle will begin all over again for him.

Calipari has to be careful that he doesn’t convey the pressure to his players going into Friday’s game, or it could be a very long night and and an even longer off season. Win, and he continues to be king in the Bluegrass until he fails to make another Final Four.

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Author: Charlie Springer

Charlie Springer is a former Louisville editor and sportswriter, as well as a public affairs consultant, a UofL grad and longtime fan.

10 thoughts on “Pressure cooker week for John Calipari”

  1. Whatever helps you sleep at night Charlie. If uk wins I will be curious to see how disappointed all the over confident UL fans will be. It will undoubtedly be the work of the wretched officials whom already previously decided the outcome of the game. “How did montrezl get called for so many fouls?!” “Randle fouls every 3 seconds on the court!!”

  2. Cats are ranked lower, got a lower seed in the tourney, are NOT the previous year’s champions, and somehow the pressure’s on UK’s coach?

  3. Yeah, well, Randle didn’t even play the ENTIRE 2nd half of the whoopin’ [seven points] the cards took in Lexington. Not sure why Cards fans should feel confident at all, really? Other than a great coach and a Russ Smith – what is there to fear from the Cards??? I think the absence of a formidable front-court will be the difference. GO BOG BLUE!!!

  4. To the UK fans who are avoiding Charlie’s point; what will you think of Calipari’s system if the Cats do lose? Will his focus on top tier, one and done, players seem less likely to produce consistency? Do you care if some years the team never gels and winds up in the NIT, or, will the promise of the next year always makes it possible for your team to dominate in the foreseeable future, and is that enough for you, as fans?

    I suspect that Coach C wants to be near the top each year, I suspect the administration at UK expects the same; I think it is reasonable to speculate that Coach Calipari might be nervous about what a loss says about his methods.

    But, what do I know, I don’t even exist, right?

    1. As a uk fan I want national titles. I was at the championship game in 2012. When the game was over and we were talking I told my buddies we can go to he nit for the next two years if it means we can win it all in the third. To me, an elite 8 is the equivalent of not making the tournament. There are no trophies for 8th place. A loss in this game would be a bummer, but I would rather have an erratic, inconsistent, team that can beat anyone every year. Than a consistent, elite 8 occasional final 4 team ( like wisconsin/ohio state) that will never win a championship…. So basically this is an erratic team, we can win it all if we play well, or lose to ksu in the first round. Expectations are to compete to a championship, and beating wsu as an 8 seed makes me feel good about an underachieving year. Beating UL as the hottest team in the country would mean a lot for the season= beating 2 of the 5 hottest teams in the country. That being said why would losing this game as an 8 seed to a peaking UL be dissapointing? UL is supposed to win. If pitino loses to this uk team of freshman with a senior all American and senior ff MVP, why shouldn’t you question him…not to mention cal will then be 6-1 vs pitino, 2-0 in the tourney.

      If UL goes on to win it all though… There will be tremendous pressure to win it all ASAP…this game itself not as big a deal

      1. I appreciate your honest reply, not everyone would admit/accept that kind of thrill ride, at the top, at the bottom. But you seem to have found value in either position so long as you receive the hope that each year will be the year while accepting the style of your favorite program will lend itself to some poor years balancing some great years. More power to you if that is what you like.

        Your Cats had a great ride this year, and came very close. Your Coach says the loss goes to the team’s youth and inexperience, and his inability to help them at the end, but, he expects them all back next year, so your every fourth year title scenario has a shot to pan out.

        And, this year’s run will keep Cal off the hot seat, he has proven that with enough talent you can win most of them. 😉

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