Apr 03

UK Basketball: Calipari delivers on promise

I remember when John Calipari was introduced as Kentucky’s basketball coach on April 1, 2009.
At the time, many critics, including Louisville coach Rick Pitino, urged against dismissing Billy Gillispie after a two-year tenure as the school’s coach. Pitino said firing one coach and hiring another in such a short time would set the program back even further than the Cats had slipped under Gillispie’s watch.
Thirty-six months and three days later after his hiring, Calipari watched as the university hanged the school’s eight banner in Rupp Arena after the Wildcats defeated Kansas 67-59 the previous evening at the Superdome in New Orleans.
It was the fulfillment of a promise Calipari made to Big Blue Nation.
Calipari has caught a lot of criticism because of his recruitment of “one and done” talent, but has proven that starting with a clean slate of players each season can be a recipe for success in college basketball.
It’s not a traditional practice, but Calipari’s ability to attract top-notch players hasn’t changed since he arrived from Memphis. He remains one of the best recruiters in the collegiate ranks.
He has however, matured into a much better coach in his three seasons with the Wildcats and his desire to keep learning, tweaking and improving his coaching skills has resulted in the team’s success on the court.
He isn’t afraid of change and has indicated over and over during the past three years that there are thousands of ways to coach and lead a program. Using that style, he has returned the Wildcats back to prominence in college basketball.
Starting over on a yearly basis is hard, but Calipari has made it look easy.
His first year featured a roster stocked with five future first-round draft picks, Kentucky reached the Elite Eight. The following season the Wildcats were back in the Final Four for the first time in 13 years. This year, Kentucky returned to the Final Four and won it all.

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