At some point, John Calipari will no longer be the head coach of the University of Kentucky Men’s Basketball Team. Whether it’s next year, the year after or when he’s 80, there will come a time when UK will need to replace Coach Cal and keep the tradition of Kentucky Basketball going. Calipari calls it the “best job in the country” and even former head man Rick Pitino refers to his days in Lexington as “Camelot.” In college basketball, there’s not a more demanding or higher profile job that coaching the Commonwealth’s Cats and it certainly isn’t for everybody.
Calipari has not performed well on the court, but he has really upgraded the “brand” of Kentucky Basketball. He’s made Kentucky hip. He’s made Kentucky cool. And by continuously being visible both in and out of season, he’s found a way to keep Kentucky fresh in people’s mind. There has rarely been a marriage of coach and fan base like Calipari and the Big Blue Nation. Both Coach and fans demand the spotlight and get miffed with anyone else dares to share it. With another stellar recruiting class and his returning guys, the 2014-15 season is shaping up to be another “Look at Us” team of Wildcats that will once again stay in the national spotlight. Certainly, John Calipari has a great thing going.
And we all know that all good things, and even great things must come to an end. The joy of being a Kentucky Wildcat basketball fan is knowing that while coaches come and coaches go, the Cats keep on winning. No other program can boast of five different coaches leading their teams to national titles. And twice, UK has replaced one championship winning coach with another (Rupp to Hall and Pitino to Smith). Each championship winning coach has done so in his own unique way, proving there’s more than one set way to win a title. Calipari is different from Smith who was different from Pitino who was different from Hall who was different from Rupp.
When the day comes that Calipari says goodbye to Lexington, it shouldn’t be about finding the “next Cal.” It will be about finding the right man for the job. A great recruiter. A great developer of talent. A great motivator and Xs and Os coach. A man willing to be an ambassador of the university and the Commonwealth of Kentucky. The next coach doesn’t need to worry about being the next John Calipari, the title of “Head Men’s Basketball Coach at the University of Kentucky” comes with big enough shoes to fill.