Is John Calipari Really Just NOT a Very Good Coach?

  • I know its not fair to kick a man when he is up (Cal went 38-1 this season), but I am increasingly intrigued with the notion that Cal may not be a very good game coach, after all.

    He has a good W&L statement at UK (.833 in 6 seasons, though he has only won two conference titles in those six seasons) that is comparable to Self’s and at .733 overall in his career he is comparable to Self also.

    So: he’s as good or better than Self, right?

    Well, let’s look closer than the W&Ls and vacated seasons.

    Could Cal have taken over Bo’s Badgers and beaten the UK team coached by Bo Ryan?

    Um, no. If a guy can’t beat a 2 draft choice team with a 10 draft choice team, how is he going to beat a 10 draft choice team with a 2 draft choice team?

    What about last season? Cal reputedly had more future draft choices on his team last season than any other team, but he did not win the ring. Was he a great coach last season? Um, no.

    Let’s go back to Cal’s Nerlen Noel’s team. It was considered the most talented team of that season. It to was reputedly certain to win it all. But then Nerlen went out because of injury. Of course, we shouldn’t expect a team to win a ring without its star center, right? But we should expect a coach to do at least what Self does when he loses his star center to injury and the NBA right? Self won 26 games and a conference title and a 2 seed in the Madness. He even made it one round with a patchwork front court with his best player injured and his one draft choice–Oubre gimpy on a right knee owie.

    What did Cal do when Noels went out? Cal didn’t win a title in a weak SEC and he lost in the first round of the NIT? Is Cal a good coach when injury hits? Um, no.

    What about 2012 with his ring team–the one that we are supposed to believe means he is a very good coach? Surely that proves he’s top notch, right? Well, with the first 5-stack, or was it six, Cal won a ring, but do you recall who he beat for the ring? Let me refresh your memory. It was KU without a single McDAA on the squad–with Conner Teahan as its 6th man. And after jumping out to a big lead, KU came back to within striking distance of winning. How good of a coach cannot blow out a team with no McDAAs and two injured starters with a team with 5-6 healthy McDDAAs? Was Cal a great coach when he won his ring? Or did he just have a ton more talent? Um, maybe the latter.

    What about his Memphis team without all the ringers he did not know about? The one with the great Derek Rose. He won a ring with THAT team, didn’t he? Um, no. He lost to KU and had a vacated season.

    What about his team with Marcus Camby, maybe the best center in basketball that season? He won a ring that season, right? Um, no. He got to the Final Four, though, before having a partially vacated season. Hmm. Dick Harp, reputedly one of KU’s worst coaches made it to the NCAA Finals with the best center one season. Maybe Cal is comparable to Dick Harp? I apologize, Coach Harp. You didn’t have a single vacated season.

    The point is: where is the case for Cal being an exceptional coach, when you take away overwhelming talent as his edge? Even when he has overwhelming talent?

    Self won a ring when he coached against Cal and a bunch of ringers including Derek Rose.

    Self almost beat Cal with sharply less talent in 2012.

    Ryan did beat Cal with sharply less talent than Cal.

    Question: could Cal ever beat you’rn with his’n and his’n with you’rn?

  • Just saw on espn ticker that Calipari is being elected to Hall of Fame?! How strange is that? When? And why now? Strange…

  • @ralster How many of the people who voted for him thought he would lose yesterday?

  • @ralster

    Search me.

  • @jaybate-1.0 Give it up guy–you obviously have too much time on your hands.

  • is Self not a very good coach for losing in the 2nd round 2 years in a row?

    Can’t wait til the threads are bantering back about KU instead of the other…

  • Love the Bryant reference. Tied in perfectly!

  • I don’t find Cal to be a good x’s and o’s coach. He is the best recruiter. The coach has to to both well to be successfull.

    Coach Webber can do well with others recruits (success at Illinois and KSU), but fails to recruit his own quality players. Therefore he is a good x’s and o’s coach (beat KU with far less talent), but a terrible recruiter. Making him a poor overall coach.

    Cal’s recruiting is second to none. He hires quality assistants to help coach the x’s and o’s to help with his deficiencies. Due to his adequate coaching and excellent recruiting I’d say he qualifies as a top 10 coach. Doesn’t mean I like him or respect his style though.

    Bill Self is an above average x’s and o’s coach (Top 20). Listen to him talk after the game it is truly incredible the amount of information he can tell you about each and every play. He can tell you where all 5 players where and where they should’ve been on any play of the game.

    Bill is also the 2-3rd best recruiter. Add it up and Bill’s a top 5 coach.

  • @jaybate-1.0 Thats proof enough for me. Of course I strongly dislike the guy and I am more than willing to kick him when he is down. Here comes the kick.

    I watched that game against Wisconsin. I also watched another game, maybe the one two games before it against ND.

    He was not running anything that my untrained eye could not keep up with. All he was having his players do in the half court was set some high ball screens/ pick and roll, saw some baseline cuts, some double curls with his guards coming back up to trey line and a bit of pick and pop. Thats it. Most every time down the court, thats all I saw.

    He was just relying on his teams vastly superior size, athleticism and length to get the W.

    It didnt work once he got far enough in the madness to where he had to match up with a team (Wisconsin) and a coach ( Bo Ryan ) that could beat him.

    Then he showed what he is really made of. He showed he has no control over his players in terms of character building and integrity. More than a few of them walked off, they walked off the court before the hand shake line. And, before the post game interview he didnt bother to make sure his players emotions were in check.

    I wouldnt say bad coach, I would say terrible coach.

    Regarding recruiting, he clearly has a very big edge there. But it is one that I still believe could be less than legal.

  • @jaybate-1.0

    I don’t think Cal is the greatest (or even good) on Xs and Os.

    But I wonder if he doesn’t have an advanced issue that we have at Kansas. You start getting some McDs AAs on your team then the guys don’t ever develop a chip. You end up having a problem motivating these guys. It is much easier to motivate guys that are carrying a chip because they aren’t quite at the top in prestige.

    Even though he has lost his last 2 championship games… he has been in the championship game 3 of the last 4 years. Pretty amazing stat. If you look back at the game footage on Saturday you won’t find many Wildcat players crying after their loss. As I said in another post, I believe their were more Badger players crying out of happiness and relief.

    I’m starting to see more and more of these McDs AAs as “fool’s gold.” They come out and play hard… but they don’t have that extra edge that really makes the difference in championship games. Kentucky didn’t need that extra edge all year, but they did Saturday, and when it became crunch time they didn’t have anything extra to give. Wisconsin bumped it up a notch.

    Another reason why Wisconsin won was they have played them before and lost by 1. That not only developed an extra chip in them but they already knew they could play with Kentucky. Kentucky won most of their games this year by just intimidating their opponents. Most of the teams they played didn’t believe they get beat Kentucky. Those games were already won by UK.

    @Lulufulu "He was not running anything that my untrained eye could not keep up with. All he was having his players do in the half court was set some high ball screens/ pick and roll, saw some baseline cuts, some double curls with his guards coming back up to trey line and a bit of pick and pop. Thats it. Most every time down the court, thats all I saw.

    He was just relying on his teams vastly superior size, athleticism and length to get the W.

    It didnt work once he got far enough in the madness to where he had to match up with a team (Wisconsin) and a coach ( Bo Ryan ) that could beat him."

    You are exactly right. But maybe it is the issue above once again. Maybe these kids aren’t hungry enough to learn. You think these guys like to go to school, too? Let’s face it, most of these kids are dumb. I hate to give dirt bag Cal a break on anything, but most of his guys don’t look smart enough to learn too much. But look at Duke. The Rat not only recruits a team full of McDs AAs, he also picks out the ones with the brains. Look how effective his freshmen are this year. Because they have good basketball IQ.

    I don’t want to slam Cal on this one because I don’t think we were any more complex on offense than Cal, and in many ways LESS COMPLEX.

  • @drgnslayr Yes, that is exactly what happened when we played them. I think Self was a little intimidated as well.

  • I hate Coach Cal as much as the next guy but does it really matter if he is a good coach or not? He has been to a ton of Final 4’s very recently and has won it all just 3 years ago. He is obviously a snake oil salesman but he is doing something right. I doubt the UK fan base is questioning him.

  • Really, this whole OAD drama should be put to rest after Wisconsin won. Give me 3 and 4star recruits that stay in school and want to improve instead of prima donnas.

  • @joeloveshawks

    I think the question is, “how does Kansas move forward?”

    Are we going to follow in Cal’s footsteps and collect 9 or 10 McDs AAs on a team? I believe it would be very frustrating basketball and we’ll start developing a lot of the same mass hatred for our program that Kentucky has.

    I sure hope we don’t go this direction… but with our new luxury suites I wonder…

    If we want to mimic a strategy regarding collecting a bunch of McDs AAs can we at least make it intelligent players? I know there are fewer players and we’ll have to fight with Duke for them, but a big part of what turned me off on Kentucky this year was looking at many of their guys collected and trying to convince myself these are STUDENT-athletes. I’m not going to blast all the UK guys. The Harrison brothers and Booker has some brains.

    I don’t like Duke and Rat Face, but I like watching them play. Okafor, Jones and Winslow… I hope to see them LOSE tonight!


    I recall just a few years ago when Self was blasted for not landing the top shelf recruits. And I’m not sure Kansas fans have the patience any longer to go through the 4 to 5 year process it takes to get guys up to speed. If we go back, there will be some down years, especially in our league. Are we ready to do that? And will we accept a loss in the Championship game to a team like Kentucky full of OADs beating our team of guys that worked hard for 4 or 5 years to get to that magic moment?

    We can’t just say we aren’t going to take the top shelf players… but we can have a strategy of not JUST taking top shelf players.

    We have to take the players that will give us the best chance to win, not only this year, but thinking ahead for the next few years.

    I’m pretty sure that formula involves a few players that could be OAD or for sure TAD or so. I’m more focused on getting top shelf guys to stay more than one year. Where Cal really scored was landing the twins. Those guys are probably going to be there for 4 years. 4 years of super height and athleticism on the perimeter and they are still improving every year. Those players are the players I want to recruit. And they will have had 4 years of starting basketball. Next year, come March, they will already have two championship games from their past to draw experience from. If they do stay all 4 years, how deadly will Kentucky be next year and the year after that?

    I would like to see us have 2 to 3 top shelf players every year, but mixed in with junior and senior players. So we don’t count on the freshmen saving our necks every single game. Even had we kept a healthy JoJo last year, chances are we were going to get beat in the tournament because everyone was young. At some point you want to draw on some junior and senior leadership.

    My fear is that Self is going to recruit over some of our guys, like Frank and Devonte, who will be totally invaluable to our program in their senior years. Perry is going to be a stud next year!

  • @drgnslayr This may be blind optimism on my part but I truly don’t think the 9-10 McD’s rosters are sustainable and I feel there will be a shift very soon. Too many kids like Marcus Lee and Dakari Johnson are going to see that they could play at another school and actually see the floor. Yes, Johnson is being mentioned as a potential late first round pick even though he was a backup all year but I think that is an anomaly as well.

    Duke and UK have a large majority of the McD’s All Americans in the entire country just between the 2 schools. This has to be difficult to maintain. Most of the elite recruits have waited around this year and are waiting to see where they can “get minutes”. If UK only loses 4-6 kids there are only going to be so many minutes to give. Is this platoon BS going to work again? I doubt it. Will kids that are looking to play at Duke going to be willing to play behind superior talent year in and year out?

    I feel that the talent is going to begin to spread across the country and that less kids are going to want to be a part of recruiting classes with 3-4 other blue chip players. This is just a theory and can probably be debunked very easily but this is my gut feeling.

  • @joeloveshawks

    I hope you are right… but Kentucky has already signed two or three of the very top prospects for next year. They will probably be a better team next year.

    It makes no sense for guys like Johnson and Lee to waste their time on the Kentucky bench. And now they don’t even get the facade championship ring they were wanting. Those guys are going to remain in their same roles next year because Kentucky has already recruited over them.

    I think Duke has the more sustainable program. They try to recruit the more-intelligent 5-star recruits and they are developing that reputation. The have “smart leverage” moving forward. They can walk into the house of a smart recruit and point to their record on recruits and make the connection that they are the “smart choice.” Even to the point where 5-star guys ride the bench because they will be coached up better than at any other school (so the sales pitch goes).

    Calipari has to pull out every crazy sales pitch technique he can come up with. He lets players know they will be bumping elbows with Drake and Ashley Judd. Woopee! Kentucky is a basketball circus. Duke is a basketball school.

    So Kansas (and Self) is busy refining who we are. I’m curious who we will become because it seems obvious we are in transition. We are new on the scene for the OAD-type players.

    I think, if we are smart, we will play for more of the intelligent players. Our offer will be that we aren’t stocked with OAD talent. We have only a few spaces for OADs and the rest of the team is seasoned junior and seniors. If I was an OAD player I’d go for that scenario.

    But there are so many other areas we have to address and transition into if we really want to get serious about maintaining 3 or so OAD level players. First… our offense! Second… development! Even if it is for just one year, can’t we impact a player’s development? What is the best way to develop them for the next level? I would say first that our strength and conditioning program is the best in the country. I know we all think it is… but is it? I think it is one of the better programs, but can’t we improve it? Is it all about pumping big iron? I’ve been looking at some pretty awesome equipment that is new on the scene and it focuses more on burst performance… fast twitch. There is a limit on heavy weights when trying to develop fast twitch.

    Why don’t we get at least one famous development guy as an assistant coach? Everyone knows my pick… but there are surely other guys out there we could land. This guy needs to have a plan for what he can do for guys in just one year or maybe two. That is a different plan than a 4 or 5 yr player. Development ideas could be formalized and written up and shown to recruits. How impressive would that be? So we go into a recruit with his parents and we have a complete outline of how we can make him better in 12 months. Not just BS words from a salesman coach.

    What I really dislike about Cal is he has made D1 a game based on used car salesmanship. The game deserves better and so do the players, but they have to be given the options. Bring the right material in when recruiting and we will attract the smart kids. Those are the kids I want at Kansas!

  • Most every other ranking by publications that make a living following sports usually have Cal ranked a one of the to 5 coaches, so obviously he is a good coach. I don’t agree with his approach to hoard talent that will be in college 1 year and move one as it makes a mockery of the the term student-athlete…but then, that train left the station a while back and Cal is just making the most of that situation.

    In many ways and as @drgnslayr said, it might be more difficult to coach a team with so much talent that is not forced to develop chemistry or a chip-on-the shoulder attitude because they can overwhelm most everybody else with talent alone. The real test will be when HS players are allowed to go straight to the NBA and he no longer get the OAD since they will be headed to the League and he has to make do with lesser talent. He has won everywhere he has coached before so he will probably be OK; I don’t hate Cal, I hate what he has done to the sport.

  • Hopefully those declaring will declare sooner rather than later so we can start getting an idea of where all the non commits will end up.

    5-7 UK Players likely gone per Squid

  • I personally think Calipari is an excellent coach. But like all coaches, he has some strengths and weaknesses. He obviously takes young players and blends them well. That is a challenge with OADs, individual agendas, etc. More so than a normal team. High talent, big egos, means a bigger timebomb. He got guys to buy into less PT this season. No issues with guys playing hard. He makes decent adjustments, notably going zone at a crucial time vs. UConn in last year’s title game. He gets his kids ready to play each and every game. And he took a team last season that needed a bit of time and go them playing at their peak when it counted.

    Cal is an amazing coach. I just wouldn’t want him coaching at Kansas. No thanks. I just don’t like him personally. I don’t like his smugness, nor the trail of vacated FF’s. And I don’t like the whole OAD sideshow that he engineered. Never once will you hear me complain that we could or should do what UK has done.

  • @Kip_McSmithers he can continually gag me!

  • What? I’m still figurin’ his’n and you’rn.

  • @Kip_McSmithers

    Interesting, Pretty close to what I posted on different thread. I don’t believe the twins will move to first round and I am not sure Ulis makes it to the NBA, at 5’-9" he is just too small for the League and he is not the next Spud Webb or Tinny Archibald either.

  • Is Cal a good coach, @jaybate-1.0 asks?

    Well, you can’t just cherry pick the years. Let’s throw out the UK years because he has so much talent. Let’s look at what he did at Memphis without Derrick Rose.

    I had to look this up because I didn’t know:

    Calipari was at Memphis for 9 years. In that time he went 214-67. Throw out his last two years (with Rose and then Tyreke Evans) when he went 71-6 (yeah, 71-6, that’s insane) and he went 143-61 (.700 winning percentage). His two years before Rose came to Memphis he went 66-8 (not quite 71-6, but still crazy good) and went to a pair of Elite Eights. So his last 4 years at Memphis he won 137 games and lost just 14. That’s almost a 91% clip, 89% before Rose, 95% with Rose, 89% after Rose. Not just good, but darn consistent.

    At UMass he went 30-5 in 1992. I think the best player on that team was Lou Roe because that name sort of rings a bell. I don’t remember a single thing about that team and honestly, I’m surprised they were a 30 win team that I literally remember nothing about.

    Those seasons led to him landing his big time players. Going 33-4 in back to back seasons is impressive. Going 30-5 with a cast of characters that probably no one outside New England remembers is impressive. It also suggests that he can coach, but he coaches better when he has talent, like most other guys.

    In the last decade he has gone to just one Sweet 16. But he has also gone to three Elite Eights, two Final Fours, two title games and won a championship. In eight of the last 10 years, Calipari’s team was one of the last eight standing. If it’s truly all about matchups, Cal has gotten his team in position to win a title in all but two years in the last decade.

    I wish Bill Self could say he had done that.

  • @justanotherfan

    …even more impressive that he did all that while staying one step ahead of the law…:)

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