Kentucky Basketball: Is Calipari “one and done” with the Wildcats?

Horse racing, bourbon and basketball are the most prestigious entities in Kentucky.

In a state where the people harvest corn and tobacco on grass as blue as the sky and mine coal as dark as the night, basketball serves as an escape.  The University of Kentucky men’s basketball team is the provider of refuge for Kentuckians all across the Commonwealth.

kentucky basketballFifth-year UK head coach John Calipari has seemingly dominated college recruiting since his arrival in Lexington in 2009.

The 54-year-old Calipari became a hero to the big blue faithful after reaching the NCAA Division I Elite Eight, Final Four and winning the national title in his first three years, respectively.

Calipari’s immediate success was the kind Wildcat fans have demanded for years, dating back to the days of legendary coach Adolph Rupp’s decorated and controversial coaching career. Rupp won four national titles and instilled a basketball obsession in the DNA of Kentucky basketball fans.

“Bleed blue” is an expression repeated without a hint of sarcasm by a fan base that believes winning the national title every season is as rational expectation.

Calipari’s Wildcats failed to reach the NCAA Tournament last season and instead suffered a humiliating defeat against Robert Morris University in the National Invitation Tournament as blue tears were shed across the state.

Coach Cal has referred to Wildcat fans as “crazy” and this may be an understatement.  Prior to the Wildcat’s victory against rival Louisville in March, 2012, two elderly men came to blows in a Kentucky dialysis clinic.

Last December, one Kentucky fan called into a radio station and pleaded for the school to focus less on education and more on sports.

Despite Calipari’s basketball prowess, some Kentucky fans were outraged by the 2013 NIT appearance and have questioned the sustainability of the “one-and-done” recruiting strategy of Calipari.

As rumblings of animosity toward the man who led UK to its eighth national title appear to be growing in the Bluegrass state with every Kentucky loss, University of Texas head coach Rick Barnes is enjoying his 16th season in Austin despite a “mere” one Final Four appearance.

UK fans helped orchestrate the departure of Tubby Smith by placing “for sale” signs in his yard.  It did not matter that Smith won the National Title in his first season in Lexington.

Nor did it matter that Smith won the SEC regular season and tournament titles five times each and reached the Sweet Sixteen six times and the Elite Eight four times. Kentucky fans demanded a new face of the program and they got what they wished for in Billy Gillespie.

Well, they got him for two seasons.  Gillespie was fired in 2009 after an NIT appearance, despite the signing of four future NBA players.

For what UK fans lack in patience, they make up for in passion and tax payments.  At $5.4 million, Calipari is the highest-paid state employee in Kentucky and the second highest-paid coach in college basketball, but how much more pressure can Cal take from the Big Blue Nation before he “dribbles drives” away from Lexington?

Upon the announcement of the finalization of the basketball team’s recruiting class for the 2013-2014 season, a proclamation was cast throughout Kentucky.

The class became known as the “greatest in the history of college basketball.” The team would surely finish 40-0 and t-shirts were even created predicting the perfect season.

Six losses later, a growing number of those “crazy” Kentucky fans fueled by speculation and pessimism, are on the brink of mayhem.

Speculation has risen that Calipari may leave Lexington after his son Brad graduates from a local high school next year. Some fans suggest he may desire a return to the NBA. Others believe Calipari’s system, the same one that was used during the 2012 championship season, is failing.

No matter the reason Calipari would want to leave Lexington, he should know one thing.  The grass may be greener on the other side, but it certainly will not be bluer.

  • sifjr2

    Dumb article. Obviously, you didn’t do your homework BEFORE you wrote the story. First, coal mining is at an all-time record low….you choose the reason(s) why. The tobacco industry has all but disappeared in most parts of the state. Now, to the crux of the matter: Many fans are sick and tired of Calipari constantly whining about how young this team is. Solution? Stop recruiting “one and dones”! UK fans are definitely passionate about their team. They would just like to see some of these recruits stay a little longer. The saying of : Play for the name on the front of your jersey and not the one on the back” seems appropriate here. The constant turover of the roster and Cal’s “youth” excuses have soured some on his methods.

    • Luke

      I’m sure you wanted tubby smith and his four year players gone at the time. It’s simple: “one and dones” are the most talented players, and coaches’ jobs are to recruit the best of the best

      • Bill S.

        coaches should recruit the best players possible,BUT! something has to be done about one and done. the ncaa needs to step in and solve this stupidity. what good is one year of college ball to the NBA? nothing comes to mind,might as well do the James thing. in my opinion it takes the first year for new recruits to learn to play together as a team.this wildcat team is a prime example, they just do not play as a team consistently! a coach can only do so much, if the players don’t lesson, bench them, that is what coach Rupp did!

        • Luke

          Jw, are you bill simmons? Serious q. Big if true

        • With901

          “coaches should recurit the best players possible”. Not true. No one would make a living recruiting six point guards every year or six 7′ centers every year. You recruit a team, guards, forwards and centers. You should also recruit a tearm, maybe 3 McDonalds and 3 who will be there three or four years like Darius Miller or Patrick Patterson.

  • diddid

    hey coach cal, big fan BUT,,,,,, why not use both 7 footers til we get a point guard! i’d start cauley stein, johnson, young, randle and let polson finish his senior year as a starter, he’s as good as either harrison are now. we need to get some wins and obviously andrew can’t cut it yet. next year maybe

  • bobj404

    Lets Face it–the rating system for high school recruits is greatly flawed! 5stars – 4 stars etc–obviously most of these recruits are 3 star or 4 star recruits not 5s–Harrison twins are in no way 5 stars recruits–R U KIDDIN ME?