Holy Cal - UK Lands their Man?

April 3rd, 2009

What a week for the University of Kentucky. Going from firing Gillispie to hitting a Grand Slam with hiring Calipari. I must admit this is a fabulous hire for the Wildcats if everything works out. They needed a leader who is well spoken and can serve as an ambassador to the program and Calipari can certainly sell the media along with the fans. As a long time UK fan, this hire allows me to reminisce back to the days of Pitino. Calipari has similar attributes as Pitino, they both are slick talking New Yorkers. They could sell a ketchup popsicle to a kid with white gloves. They both have egos larger than life itself. Now this is not necessarily a bad thing when it comes to coaching UK, you have to have a large ego to deal with the contingent fanbase. What separates Pitino from Calipari is that Calipari is coming into the fold with some alleged baggage associated with him.

When Pitino was hired at Kentucky there were some rumors that he had a hand in illegal recruiting while serving his only full year as an assistant at Hawaii but that was way back in 1975 and never made many headlines. Calipari is taking over the program as one of only two coaches to have a Final Four stricken from the record books. Calipari was expressly cleared of any wrong doing during the UMASS scandal and Marcus Camby was convicted of being on the take after his soon to be former agent squealed to the press. However, this happened under Calipari's reign when he was in charge of the program and I'd have to be naive to believe him when he said he didn't know this was going on.

A similar incident happened at Memphis in 2006 with Shawne Williams was allegedly given $5000 by Carl La Mondue. Back in 2004 a campus apartment that housed four Memphis basketball players was burglarized and approximately $66,720 worth of possessions, including eight mink coats valued at $40,000 were stolen. Two days later the report was amended and the minks were removed. Calipari declined comment citing a lack of knowledge about the situation. One can merely "Google" Calipari and find a myriad number of allegations he may or may not have been involved in. Though he has always been known to play in the gray areas he has never been caught or proven he has done anything wrong.

Now that Calipari is at Kentucky he will be watched closely by the media since they would love to be the first to report some type of scandal. I hope I'm wrong about Coach Cal and that he really does run a clean program but all the numerous incidents clouding his former players makes me a bit hesitant to trust him. There is no doubting his coaching ability and the dribble drive offense he brings will be exciting to watch. He will recruit the upper echelon recruits that the Wildcats have lacked because he is one of the best recruiters in the game. Kentucky will be back to being a power house but at what cost? Hiring Calipari is a high risk high reward and something Mitch Barnhardt felt he needed to do.

I'm backing the decision and hope everything turns out for the best. But if a scandal comes to the forefront in a few years I wouldn't be too surprised.