Near the beginning of the season, I asked if Calipari needed a national title to ensure a Hall of Fame career and took a look at some other active coaches that were currently enshrined in the HOF. What separated them from Calipari? A National Title. And even with the miraculous season Kentucky and Calipari are having this year, it still appears that it is going to take a trophy to make people recognize Calipari is a great coach. But is a title really necessary to recognize Calipari’s greatness?
Gregg Doyel of CBS Sports, made friends with all of the BBN recently when he wrote an article on this subject and said that Calipari’s greatness was not measured by the lack of a national title. Doyel is a rarity among sportswriters however and he strays away from the cliches of a typical hoops writer. Doyel actually uses his brain and does not care what you think so in his article he addressed all the Calipari critics who just obsess on the vacated Final Fours and can’t see the forest for the trees:
And if you want to hold those two lost seasons against Calipari, do it. I’m not here to argue that opinion. A reasonable person could look at the forest and see two Final Fours vacated by the same coach and deduce that, well, the coach is at fault. Another reasonable person could look at the individual trees there and deduce that, just because someone off-campus got to Camby and Rose, it shouldn’t reflect on Calipari. I know where lots of you stand. And lots of you can probably figure out where I stand. But again, that’s not the issue here.
The issue is Calipari’s coaching acumen, and whether he needs a national title to get everyone off his back, and it’s another forest-or-trees argument. The forest shows one great player at UMass in 1996, several at Memphis in 2008, several more at Kentucky since ’09 — and no national title for the coach who had them. The forest says Calipari is a great recruiter, isn’t a great coach. That’s one way to see it.
Another way is to consider Calipari in comparison to Boeheim, Self and Roy Williams, great coaches whether they won titles or not. And there are numbers that say Calipari ranks right with them. Only Williams has won games at a faster clip, but he has spent all of his 24 years at royalty — Kansas and UNC — while Calipari (77.9 percent) has spent 17 of his 20 years at UMass and Memphis. Big difference.
Unfortunately, Doyel is in the minority of the basketball experts who refuse to acknowledge greatness until the nets are cut down. And they are entitled to their opinion. And so are the sheep that follow them blindly are re-tweet anything they say, regardless of context. Fact is, John Calipari has proven himself to be a great coach every season at Kentucky, and his brilliance has been on display during this 28-1 season.