Did "John Calipari the Recruiter" hurt "John Calipari the Coach"?

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Dec 1, 2012; Lexington , KY, USA; Kentucky Wildcats head coach John Calipari talks with guard Ryan Harrow (12) during a time out against the Baylor Bears at Rupp Arena. Baylor defeated Kentucky 64-55. Mandatory Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

All it takes is a couple of November losses to unranked teams and the buzzards are circling the Kentucky Wildcat basketball team decrying John Calipari and leaving the Cats for dead. Or rather the  Bozich seems to be circling the Wildcats:


But don’t leave this item off the list: Pilot error.

A coach who thrives on attacking with the best point guard in the nation doesn’t have one of the Top 20 point guards in the nation. Calipari the recruiter hurt Calipari the coach.

“Don’t be mean with the guys,” Calipari said on his post-game radio show. “If you want to say Cal doesn’t know what he’s doing, that’s fine with me.”

Cal knows what he’s doing. Always has. You can’t say that he doesn’t. But you can say this:

For the first time in four seasons, Calipari hasn’t done a good job of putting together a team. Calipari’s first three teams started 7-0, 5-2 and 7-0. This one is 4-3 with a pair of losses to unranked teams.

Kentucky is at least one piece shy of the ferocious groups we have watched the last three seasons. It might be two parts. Time will tell. The Wildcats lack another ball-handler and a shooter. There are a few guys who could have filled both roles, but it might have taken two players.


To be honest, for Bozich to suggest that Calipari has done a bad job of recruiting this team is ludicrous.  Let’s call it overreacting over a close loss to Duke, a loss at one of the best home teams in the country, and a mystifying loss when they outplayed Baylor and shot a head scratching 29%.  You can argue that Kentucky and not the other teams are beating themselves.

If you want to blame anyone, blame “John Calipari” the scheduler as Cal could have gone the Tom Crean method of scheduling.  And every coach in the country will take this team in March.


Nov 29, 2012; South Bend, IN, USA; Kentucky Wildcats head coach John Calipari reacts in the second half against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at the Purcell Pavilion. Notre Dame won 64-50. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Despite the talent on the team, it is obvious that the team is not where John Calipari wants it. But blame execution, rather than the makeup of the team:


“We’ve just got a ways to go with this team,” he said after Baylor won at UK 64-55 Saturday. “And I think everybody now understands, you know, that you don’t just put a collection of players together.”

By “everybody,” Calipari meant to include UK players, who had just suffered the program’s most-lopsided home loss since Feb. 3, 2009 (66-57 to Mississippi State).

“It’s more than just our fans and everybody understanding,” he said. “It’s our team understanding. Are you willing to do what it takes?”

Freshman Willie Cauley-Stein suggested the UK players needed a comeuppance.

“I feel we came in here thinking we were that team,” he said. “We’re not that team.”


Andrew Wiggins offered tons of Kentucky fans a possible glimpse at the Marshall County Hoopfest this past weekend. Aside from wowwing the Kentucky fans, Wiggins made quite an impact on what could be his future teammates at UK:


“Andrew would be great to come to Kentucky,” (Andrew) Harrison said. “I would be very happy about that.”

Harrison and his twin brother, Aaron, also a UK signee, were seeing Wiggins play for the first time in person.

“He’s probably one of the most athletic people I’ve ever seen in my life,” Aaron said.

Derek Willis, another UK signee watching Wiggins for the first time Friday, took it a step further.

“He’s a freak. He’s probably the best player I’ve seen in my entire life,” Willis said.


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