John Calipari is a college basketball scientist. He’s arguably the best in his field, too. That’s why the University of Kentucky chose to extend their current contract with him on Thursday. They aren’t necessarily paying for Calipari’s end product, though, but rather the process that gets there. The 7-year, $52 million extension Calipari received is laced with incentives for staying, not winning. Sure, they want Calipari, but they want his method even more.
That method is what makes Calipari, well, Calipari. He recruits talent to create a system rather than building a system for specific talent. He opened up the floor for the likes of Derrick Rose (at Memphis) and John Wall with an ever-changing dribble-drive motion offense, letting their supreme athleticism fuel his successful teams. From there, the talent on his rosters began shifting closer to the paint and began growing. In 2012, he all but scrapped the dribble-drive offense in exchange for a more steady diet of pick-and-rolls and, at times, an inside-out style of play. Anthony Davis, Terrence Jones and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist used it to win a National Title.
In 2014, Calipari once again changed the shape of Kentucky’s offense. For the first time with the Wildcats, he had players who were at their best on the block with their backs to the basket (Julius Randle, Dakari Johnson). The bigs were no longer crashing the rim after setting screens, but rather rolling into a post-up opportunity. From there they would play on the offensive glass — “bully ball” as some will call it. Calipari even introduced a cryptic, mysterious “tweak” that the ‘Cats somewhat surprisingly road to a Championship game on.
Tweak, adjust, alter… adapt. That’s what Calipari is exceptional at. Ever since arriving at Kentucky, he’s been performing his own basketball experiments. And, arguably, next season will be the most interesting, most fascinating to date.
Big Blue Nation might’ve learned their lesson last year with the “40-0″ claims. Like all other college basketball fan bases, they want wins. Regular season wins, conference tournament wins, and yes, an April win. But next season Calipari will likely be doing what he does best (experimenting) and it might cost the super talented ‘Cats some November wins in the process. However, that shouldn’t matter to Kentucky’s fans — the man in charge has proven that true over and over again.