No matter what who wins tonight, the 2012-13 basketball season is officially over. To the victors go the spoils, but for all the other division one teams, it is officially “next season”. So while Michigan or Louisville celebrate, prepare for an influx of preseason prognostications for NEXT YEAR. And in one that was released even before tonight’s big game, guess who is picked to be atop the land next year at this time?
Kentucky: The Wildcats have the most talent by far, and the most NBA potential, by far. The only question is time. Can John Calipari teach such a wide array of talent to play together in one year? In three of his four years, John Calipari has managed to get the Wildcats to play elite defense. The model hedges its bets and says the defense might not come together that quickly. (The fact that defense-lacking Kyle Witjer is still going to play meaningful minutes is also a concern.) But with all those Top 20 recruits, and all those highly ranked returning sophomores, it is very hard to predict anything other than a special offensive team.
Some familiar faces are in the top five of this calculation as well. Michigan State is #2, and North Carolina, Louisville, and Florida are 3-5. Interestingly enough, there were no who, who Hoosiers in the Top 25.
Maybe I knew this and it totally slipped my mind, but I totally did not recall that Pitino had taken the Michigan job briefly. Maybe it was just locked away in my mind as insignificant, but now I find this totally fascinating. Of course, Pitino talked about it recently:
“It was kind of a funny story because I agreed to be the Michigan coach,” Pitino recalled. “I lived in Boston – we visited Las Vegas. I love Las Vegas, but my wife doesn’t like Las Vegas. We had young children at the time and she said, ‘Look, if we were all ‘let’s go,’ we have young kids. I just don’t want to go out west. I don’t want to go to a different time zone. I want to stay near our family.’
“So I took the Michigan job. That morning I agreed, and I forget what the name was – I think it was ‘Outright’ – which when I called the Michigan A.D. [Bill Martin], he didn’t want me to use my real name to get through to him. My wife came up and I’m on the third floor, putting together all the things together with the Michigan contract.
“She had a book. There was an expression in the book that read, ‘I’d rather live one day as a lion than a thousand as a lamb.’ My wife doesn’t swear. She didn’t want to go to Michigan because I’ve never visited there, I didn’t know anybody there. She wanted to go back to Kentucky where she saw the family so happy for eight years. I said to her, ‘you don’t understand. The Kentucky coach can’t coach at Louisville. You’re just not getting it.’ She said, ‘It’s one game every year, and every other year you have to visit. What’s the big deal?’”
“I said, ‘It’s a big deal. We don’t want to do that. We’ll be miserable. You don’t want to put yourself in that situation.’ She said, ‘You know what, that line you’re always using, I’d rather live one day as a lion than a thousand as a lamb. You’re an F‑ing Lamb!’ Then she walked downstairs. I said, ‘Think about it. There’s half a million Kentucky fans in our town. It’s not like living in Lexington where if you wear red, you get shot. It doesn’t work that way.’
I find this stuff fascinating. And of course, it sets the stage for Pitino’s
son mentor Billy Donovan and his taking jobs and leaving them at Orlando and even Kentucky. The Kentucky job is still a topic of debate, but I have four very solid contacts in the media in Orlando that tell me it happened.
The big job for John Calipari right now is finalizing the 2013-14 roster. One of those pieces seem to be Dominique Hawkins. Hawkins called into a show called “The Sports Buzz” recently and talked about Kentucky. In the interview, Hawkins said that he is basically waiting on an offer from Kentucky and that the Wildcats are his number one choice. Here is the interview, so check it out, if only to see the three most randomly dressed people ever to appear on a sports set together: