Sunday, April 13, 2014

John Calipari's Slimy Affirmative Defense

It is not easy to criticize John Calipari and his ability to build competitive college basketball teams. Taking the sanctions and Cal's ability to cover-up atrocious SAT scores out of the equation, Cal-coached teams are always extremely athletic, talented and - most importantly - successful. The 2008 Memphis Tigers team posted one of the best single season records in college basketball history. Combine that with his five Kentucky Wildcat teams, who are more often than not highlighted in your Final Four, if you were wise enough to pick them. The man wins, and it's mainly due to his ability to 'cruit the best players in the country. Like Tommy Boy's dad, he could sell a ketchup popsicle to a woman in white gloves. If your an 18-year-old 5 star recruit, and Cal is sitting across from your momma's coffee table, your probably going to be hashtagging "BBN" by dinner.

There is nothing wrong with that model, and it has proven to be successful and legal. I'm not going to sit here and call him slimy or sleazy because of that, despite his uncanny resemblance to Silvio from The Sopranos, who could make you feel dirty just by looking at him. But what is sleazy is the fact that once those kids fail, Cal uses their youth to justify the teams short-comings.

I'm sure this point has been written before, and I'm in no mood to go look-up Jeff Goodman articles from 2011, but it is worth acknowledging again now. After the greatest freshman class in the history of the world lost by scoring 54 points against a 7 seed while missing 11 free throws, Cal's comments were peppered with "These kids are 18" and the like. So what? Is the college basketball community supposed to forgive them for looking overwhelmed?

One of the many responsibilities a college basketball coach is preparing his players for the moment-- the pressures, the ups and downs, and the adversities.  Yes Julius Randle, the Harrisi and James Young are 18 and James' last name, but they are the players Cal's model targets and thrives off. You can't be a genius when it works, then use the very thing that makes it work -- young talented players who would rather be preparing for the NBA draft -- to explain why you failed. UCONN did not beat you because "these kids are 18". They beat you because they were more prepared, motivated and grounded. I acknowledge that Cal has taken the blame several times throughout this season. But it becomes an increasingly empty comment when all you hear in pre, in, and post game comments are references to his teams age. Cal seems to think it can be an affirmative defense to extinguish even the most disgusting of facts such as 54% from the charity stripe and 13 turnovers in the Natty, but what it really is a backhanded deflection of his own shortcomings. Pat Forde was recently critical of this same thing, telling Cal he made his bed, now he must lie in it. I would encourage you to read it for a more polished, detailed and critical assessment of the Cal model. I'm just suggesting Cal wash the grease out of his hair before sleeping in that thing.

No comments:

Post a Comment