I have never liked former Memphis Tigers Coach John Calipari. He has an impressive record, but I don't like him in spite of his recent accomplishments.
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
During Calipari's first season in Memphis - my last year living in Memphis - I was a Tigers season ticket holder. I attended many games in the Pyramid, and I remember thinking, "Are we really paying this guy this much money to teach these players to pass the ball around the three point line for 25 seconds?"
Years later, I remember thinking "Are we paying him this much for annual appearances in the NIT?" People forget that it took Calipari 6 seasons to coach Memphis out of the 2nd round of the NCAA tournament.
He was charismatic, and a damned good recruiter. And he seems to create a good environment for the players.
But there was always something that rubbed me the wrong way. He was always too slick, and he never said anything that made me think he had a strong basketball mind.
In 2005, the NBA added a rule that forced the Amare Stoudemires and the Lebron Jameses to endure at least one year in college before entering the NBA draft. That season, Calipari's Tigers progressed to the Elite Eight and the coach's skills as a recruiter increased significantly.
With the best college player in the country, Calipari took the Tigers to the NCAA finals.
On the most public stage in college basketball, the Tigers then suffered the most miserable, embarrassing defeat imaginable, losing to Kansas after leading by 9 with 3 minutes left in the game. When winning the game was inevitable, the team choked on possession after possession for three excruciating minutes plus overtime.
That is the memory of John Calipari's Tigers that stands out most in my mind. When the team needed a leader to pull them together, Calipari was not able to do so successfully.
Now that memory is Calipari's legacy for me.
As for the Tigers, with Calipari gone, and the recruiting class decimated, the Tigers are just as close - at least two to three seasons - to relevance as they were when he arrived.
In fact, they may be further from relevance since CUSA has also been decimated since then.
You can't argue with Calipari's results. He almost won a championship.
You can't argue with his choice to leave. I would leave my job if I liked another opportunity better.
But when I think of John Calipari, I'm not impressed.