Q: Is Calipari coming?
A: I still say you don’t let it get to this point unless you’re coming. It looks as if some snags have come up in discussions, but count me as one who still believes that Calipari and UK will come to an agreement sometime today. And that, now that word is out that the two are talking, Calipari will get whatever he wants. If UK’s leadership doesn’t close this deal, you wonder if it will get a chance to make another one.
Q: What do you think of Calipari?
A: Well, I went to some length on that in a blog post below, but I’ll give you the short version here. Like everybody else, I’m concerned about his image, some of his past and some of the kinds of players he’s used. The worst deal was Jeremy Hunt beating his girlfriend pretty severely and winding back up on the team some time later. You just can’t do that at Kentucky. But that’s something you have to consider. You can’t do that at Kentucky. And presumably, Calipari wouldn’t have to. I think the guy can really coach. I said in an appearanrce on Laclan Mclean’s show on WHAS Radio last night that people should remember that it did take five years for Calipari to get things rolling at Memphis, and that he did not dominate Conference USA while Pitino, Huggins and Crean were still in it. But I think he’s a fantastic coach, would win at Kentucky and coaches one of the most attractive styles in the game right now. His dribble-drive offense is better suited to today’s player than almost anything else being done by anyone. As I concluded that piece, I said that I’ve come to appreciate him more over the past two seasons, that his NCAA Tournament success has stamped him as a legitimate big-time coach in my book, and that I think given a chance at a major college, he would have major success.
Q: Do you think Kentucky should hire him?
A: Yes. I don’t know if I would have said that before yesterday. But the past 24 hours have been perhaps the most excited I’ve seen the UK fan base since the 1998 national championship. That’s reason No. 1. Reason No. 2 is that I think he can win big, and win quickly at UK. Reason No. 3 is that just the speculation that he’s coming to UK has immediately changed the conversation regarding the school in the national media. Reason No. 4 is that not to do it now leaves UK looking extremely shaky.
Q: Why does the media seem to want to torpedo this?
A: First, I don’t think the media can do this. Second, I know that nobody wants to. But the job, especially of a columnist, is to give an honest opinion, regardless of whether it’s popular or not. UK fans ought to appreciate this better than anyone, given that they jumped down the throats of anyone who would dare question the wisdom of the Gillispie hire, only to find out over the course of two years that those who were raising questions were right. One of the most instructive episodes in life has come through the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme. Even when presented with information that showed that returns shouldn’t possibly be what Madoff was reporting, those who had money with him refused to believe it. They would rather have believed their bogus statements, and why? Because they said what people wanted them to say. We’re coming to the point that people want to read only what they want to believe, nothing else. But honest journalists cannot do that. We have an obligation to ask questions and bring up thorny issues. Fans may not like it. They didn’t like it when people doubted Gillispie. They didn’t like it up in Bloomington at the time when Rick Bozich absolutely savaged the hire of Kelvin Sampson. Just because someone writes something you don’t want to hear doesn’t mean they’re wrong. You don’t have to agree. But there are questions that must be asked.
So here’s what will have to happen. Calipari will have to answer those questions if he takes this job. And if he doesn’t like that, he’s much better of not taking the job. But there’s another side to it. As a journalist, I feel it’s my responsibility to look at both sides. To consider the good with the bad. And if you step back and assess the playing field right now for UK, the good would seem to outweigh the bad in this move, considerably.