This is the final part of a series with media members offering their opinions on Kentucky’s season.
Question: Do you think, in general, Kentucky fans are still solidly sold on what John Calipari is doing and has done at UK or do you sense some uneasiness after the last two seasons?
Ryan Lemond: “There has definitely been some uneasiness lately, and I think even Cal would admit it’s justified. There is no way this team should have underachieved the way it did this year. No way! I think UK fans love Cal. They believe in him, but the last two seasons have been a disappointment in everybody’s book. That’s gotta change. I would still take a national championship for two underachieving years, but most fans can’t do it. Win, and win now, and win a lot!”
Larry Glover: “I think all would agree he can really coach. You don’t get to Final Fours at three schools without really knowing what you’re doing. However, some are legitimately questioning the ‘restocking the roster with freshman every year’ as the best long term approach. I think a balance between experience and talent needs to be struck.
“Honestly, I think his promoting UK as a ‘Player First Program’ is a bigger issue for lot of folks in the BBN. Some of his quotes on the matter are giving the impression that winning games and championships are not a high priority. I don’t share that point of view. I think Cal is very motivated to win big. I think he feels, and I share this opinion, that if you recruit and produce great talent … titles will come as a result.”
Keith Taylor: “Based on what I have heard there are some doubts about the one-and-done players. Fans miss the connection they had with four-year players. I sense they are missing the bonding and building relationships with the veteran teams and an experienced team.”
Tyler Thompson: “I think most of the fan base is still on board with Calipari. Given the right ingredients (talented freshmen plus veteran leaders), his recipe hasn’t just proven successful, it’s won Kentucky its eighth national championship.
“I think the one thing UK fans have learned this season is that you can’t rely on freshmen alone. The learning curve is too steep. Cal’s first three teams at UK have all had veteran players step up and give valuable contributions. Back in 2010, it was Patrick Patterson; 2011 Josh Harrellson and DeAndre Liggins; 2012 Darius Miller. Even last year, Julius Mays tried to put the team on his back after Nerlens Noel went down. Coming into this season, most of us thought Willie Cauley-Stein or Alex Poythress would take that role, but so far, neither have, and the lack of leadership haunts this group. In turn, the freshmen have been expected to do it all on their own, and unfortunately, none of them are Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, two unique players mature beyond their years.
“Fortunately for Calipari and Kentucky, there is talk that the one-and-done rule may give way to a two-year rule, which would improve things immensely.”
Mary Jo Perino: “I think there’s definitely been a referendum on one and done players, but I don’t think that’s the problem. You don’t turn any of these guys away and you don’t truly know who will stay and who will go. But I do think there are some fans fed up with it. On the whole, it’s really tough for me to have a legit conversation with someone who really doesn’t think Cal is the guy for the job. I still believe he is 100 percent. Now if this happens again next year.”
Mark Buerger: “Not based on what I hear on Sundays. The tiny minority that wants a new coach is out on the far limit of sanity, but when you make a big production of telling a passionate and dedicated fan base that you are going to run the program they love in a new way and immediately follow it with seasons like the last two, you pretty much invite people to ask questions.”
Jennifer Palumbo: “UK fans want the team to compete for a national championship every season. Obviously last season was disappointing, but it also showed how hard it is to create the 2012 level of success. I think most rational fans appreciate that Cal is doing everything he can to bring the best players to UK. The preseason hype by recruiting analysts and the media raised Big Blue Nation expectations to unrealistic heights. Every time I heard 40-0 talk, I cringed. I want Coach Cal and the Cats to believe they can win every game, but that can be their goal. And if it ever happens, I’ll be first in line for the T-shirt.”
Tom Leach: “There’s always going to be uneasiness when things don’t go well. Fans set the bar high at Kentucky but that’s why this program continues to win championships through almost every coaching transition. Kentucky fans love to get to know the players and so they, along with Calipari, would love to see the rules changed to enable players to stay in the program longer. I think the overwhelming majority of fans–when not in the moments after a loss–would say they believe in Calipari but they’d like to see that “tweak” in the rules that would provide a little more continuity of rosters and add a little more experience to each team.”