Citizens of the College Basketball Landscape:
This FanPost is a warning to all of you that have grown up loving the game of college basketball. It has come to my attention that there is a subtle and well trained con artist making a fairly decent attempt at altering the way in which we define and recognize achievement in the sport of NCAA men's basketball. I would not think it necessary to report these suspicious behaviors had the con man in question not begun to show signs of (1) obsession to repeat the offense and (2) a fetish to aim for larger programs and conglomerates of fans. Furthermore, while the seriousness of these attempts was not thought to be as severe at the Universities of Massachusetts and Memphis State, the con artist has most recently set his brash aim on the most storied and entitled college basketball program in the history of this earth. With sincerest regret, I write to inform you that this program and its fanbase have taken the bait that is the John Calipari brand of Basketball, and I fear that the University of Kentucky, as well as its glorious fanbase, may never be the same as a result.
What follows is an exposing of the deplorable steps that Mr. Calipari has taken in his attempt to bring down this proud and storied program's expectations of real achievement while, at the same time, cashing the richest coaching checks in all the land. The intention of this exposition is to equip other programs with the ability to reject this seemingly harmless rubenesque figure as he tries to swindle his way into your beloved basketball program. Frankly, as a result of my investigation, I can't help noticing this guy's affinity for jumping ship as soon as the waters get rough, and I wouldn't want to see anyone else's program become the rescue boat for this swindler.
Sting Operation: The Duping of the University of Kentucky
Target(s): Program, fans, cash
My investigation has led me to some examples of human frailty I thought I may never have to witness. In the hours and days after the University of Kentucky's loss to West Virginia University in the East Regional Final of the 2010 NCAA Tournament, I have seen on Kentucky blogs, heard on radio talk shows, even witnessed first hand during conversations with fans, a desire to praise their team's efforts throughout the season. References have been made to the team's 35 win season, their reemergence into the national spotlight, their exciting style of play, their memorable players, their regular season and conference tournament titles, their number one seed (I fear that I could go on for pages with ease, but the further examples would no better illustrate the sting than these observations already do). These examples should be addressed separately.
-While it is true that Calipari's team did win 35 games, it is important to note that they did not win one against a great team. This team's best wins came against Vanderbilt (who would later be granted a 4 seed into the tournament, but would waste that seed by losing to the 13 seed Murray State) and Tennessee (who would later be granted a 6 seed into the tournament, and would advance to the Elite Eight round of that tournament with wins over San Diego State (dismal), Ohio (putrid), and Ohio State (impressive) before losing to Michigan State.) In fact, for the purposes of this exposition, it is important to document that the first time this team faced another foe with similar talent and ability, Calipari's Cats struggled to compete over the course of a forty minute contest.
-While it is true that Kentucky did reenter the national conversation of college basketball, this reemergence was just as much a result of the team's lack of success over the course of a decade as it was the team's success over 5 months.
-While it is arguable that this Kentucky team did play one of the more exciting brands of basketball over the course of the season, this brand was unable to answer the threat posed by a more disciplined and learned basketball team during the most important single elimination tournament of the year.
-While it can not be disputed that the fans' memories of this "memorable team" are all they will be able to draw from as each of the important parts of this team leaves this temporary stop on their way to their real goal of becoming an NBA player, it will be interesting to measure the worth of these memories as a result of the team's inability to properly advance to its expected spot in the tournament.
-And while it is true that the University of Kentucky was able to claim championship over its regular season and tournament in its conference, playing in a conference that is ranked outside of the top 3 in a down year in college basketball is hardly an applaudable feat.
The average college basketball fan can understand these points. But, where John Calipari has succeeded is in his ability to blind Kentucky fans from comprehending. Instead, Coach Cal has instilled a new set of standards for judging achievement. 35 wins in a watered down schedule is not success. Returning a program from relative non-existence to visibility is not success. Playing an athletic style of basketball that fails to beat great teams is not success. Injecting a fanbase's psyche with NBA in waiting players who will stay in school as long as Carmelo Anthony but are not talented enough to deliver the goods is not success. Winning in the lowly SEC is not success. These so called "successes" worth heaps of praise from this helpless fanbase are fool's gold. And these poor fans think they've struck it rich. Because Calipari's team won 35 games, and made the tournament, and ran fast and jumped high until West Virginia sent them home, and was comprised of 18 year olds now interviewing agents, and dominated an again depleted SEC; because of these accomplishments, Calipari would have you believe that the season was a success.
Why wouldn't he? His job depends on his fanbase, regardless of where he is coaching, recognizing success in these forms. It can't be in the form of trips to the Final Four. The NCAA will tell you Calipari has never been to one. It can't be in the form of a National Championship. Calipari's brand of basketball has never reached that pinnacle. It can't be in the form of players who establish long term relationships with the University they attended and represented. Most of the talent Calipari recruits will never stay at the school long enough to truly endear themselves to the fanbase. Instead, Calipari will replace the outgoing talent with new incoming talent. And he'll convince the fanbase that the players came to their school. But the students don't come to Kentucky; they come to Calipari. And they don't come to Calipari to get to the Final Four; they come to Calipari to get to the NBA.
I implore the current victims of this con artist, the "beneficiaries" of this new outlook and perspective on accomplishment and success, to understand three things: others have been where you are, they got through it, and you will get through it too. You won't get through it with national championships or without impending controversy, but you will get through it. And when you do, your University will be $4 million per year poorer than when you started, but the beauty of this man's con is that you will be so happy that he is gone, the money won't matter.