John Calipari (Vicky Graff Photo)
By KEITH PEEL, Contributing Writer
After reading this quote from Colin Cowherd recently: “I think the questions about Calipari are legitimate,” Cowherd said on air. “He has three to four times the NBA firepower of even – forget average programs – of the star-studded programs. And once again, can’t win a fourth game. And I’m not giving you credit for the first two.”
I asked myself if the criticism is warranted. How does Cal stack up against other elite college basketball coaches in the game today.
Coach K at Duke has won two national championships and two additional Final Fours since Cal arrived at UK in 2009. Bill Self at Kansas has won no national championships during that time period (he did win one in 2008) and had one Final 4 appearance. Roy Williams at North Carolina has also won one championship and two additional Final Four appearances since 2009. Rick Pitino has one championship and 1 additional Final Four appearance during the time period from 2009 to present. All of those coaches listed are or will be Hall of Fame coaches.
During that same time period from 2009 to present Cal has had the number 1 recruiting class 6 times and number 2 class twice, Coach K has had two number 1 classes and three classes ranked either 2 or 3, Roy Williams had no classes ranked 1,2 or 3 during that time span, Bill Self had one class ranked number 2 and Pitino had no number 1,2 or 3 classes from 2009 to present.
All that information tends to make Cal look like an underachiever. He has the best talent but can’t seem to win championships. Unfortunately for all the Cal haters additional facts need to be considered. Cal has the number 1 or 2 recruiting class each year because he loses the number 1 or 2 recruiting class each year.
Being a great recruiter is a two edged sword. You get great talent to play for you but you only get them for a year. All the other coaches on that list get very good talent (their classes consistently rank on the top 10 most years) and get to keep that talent for 3 or 4 years.
Albert Einstein said “the only source of knowledge is experience.” If you consistently have only one year of experience you have very limited knowledge of how to play the game. The lack of knowledge shows up in crunch time against equal or almost equal talent. If Cal kept his players the same length of time as the other coaches listed he most likely would have additional national championships.
With all that being said I think that Coach Calipari is performing well with the best talent that are consistently freshmen. This year’s Duke team may give people a glimpse of how other programs will perform in the future if they also begin to use a high percentage of freshmen as their key performers.
In the end each coach must use either talent or experience (or both if you can get it) to try to be the best team they can be for six games in March and April. In looking at the achievements of the other Hall of Fame coaches we can see that is not an easy feat.