5 Reasons to continue to believe in John Calipari

Kentucky’s John Calipari looks on at practice Thursday afternoon at Greensboro Coliseum.March 16, 2023Practice 13
Kentucky’s John Calipari looks on at practice Thursday afternoon at Greensboro Coliseum.March 16, 2023Practice 13 /

It’s nothing new. “Should the Kentucky Wildcats move on from John Calipari,” has been a question posed by Big Blue Nation for years.

That will happen when you’re the coach of a program like Kentucky and haven’t made the Final Four since 2015. Eight years in between Final Four appearances would be a dream come true for schools like LSU and Georgia. It’s different at Kentucky.

But that doesn’t mean Coach Cal isn’t still the right man for the job. In fact, I’ll one-up you. There’s still no one out there better to coach the Kentucky Wildcats than John Calipari.

1. Don’t forget, it’s been worse. A LOT worse, Kentucky fans

Before we get too in-depth here, let’s provide a simple reminder about the lowest of lows at Kentucky.

Remember Eddie Sutton? He went 32-4 in year one in Lexington. That was quickly followed by the Emery Scandal, which quickly led to Sutton being forced to resign. He last four years, the last of which the Wildcats only went 13-19.

More recently, there was Billy Gillispie. That experiment only lasted two years and led to the hiring of John Calipari.

Have most coaches done extremely well at Kentucky? Yes, the bar is unbelievably high. That isn’t to say there haven’t been a few coaches who couldn’t live up to those expectations. For the most part, John Calipari has lived up to expectations. He’s won a national championship and brought the ‘Cats to four Final Fours. The drought might be longer than desired, but the bar hasn’t been lowered.

2. College basketball parity affects blue-bloods too

This leads me right to my next point. What if John Calipari wasn’t to blame for the Final Four drought? Can we imagine that for a second? It’s easy to blame the face in charge of it all, but in this day of age in college basketball, making the Final Four isn’t the same as what it used to be.

For the second time in three years, Kentucky, Kansas, Duke, and North Carolina ALL missed the Sweet Sixteen. This isn’t just a Kentucky problem. All of college basketball is feeling the adverse effects of NIL, the transfer portal, and improvements in the mid-major landscape.

While the 16 seed upsetting the 1 seed in improbable fashion takes the cake for ‘parity’, it isn’t just about David beating Goliath. The best of the best are also getting better. Long gone is the Big East from being dominated by UConn and Villanova. Did you see the seasons Marquette and Creighton had this year?

The Big 12 isn’t just Kansas now. Texas took the crown in 2023.

And in the SEC, Kentucky isn’t the only major player. Alabama, Tennessee, and Arkansas have all leveled up. Parity is as much as it’s ever been, so being a blue blood doesn’t mean guaranteed Final Fours every three years.

3. The grass isn’t always greener…

Let’s say I haven’t convinced you yet. You’re still stuck to your belief that Coach Cal needs to go.

Well, riddle me this: who are you hiring?

There were a lot of great coaches who left for other jobs this offseason. Ed Cooley left Providence for Georgetown. Rick Pitino (who has a history with UK) took the St. John’s job. Chris Beard was on the market and he chose to go to a different SEC school in Ole Miss.

While all of these names would have been intriguing options to replace Coach Cal, they ultimately are not possible anymore. That leaves Kentucky with two options: keep coach Calipari, or go get a B-list head coach.

I think we know the right choice.

4. Recruiting is still top-notch

The biggest plus for keeping John Calipari has always been his recruiting prowess. Sure, his tournament record could be better. His system of one-and-dones has its highs (2012) and its lows (2021).

But when it comes down to it, Kentucky continues to bring in the best classes in the country. After all, the Wildcats are ranked first in the 247Sports recruiting rankings for 2023. The same was true in 2020, 2015, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, and 2009.

When it’s not true, it’s almost true, as the Wildcats are pretty much in the top five every single year.

That level of recruiting is hard to keep up, even at Kentucky. It shouldn’t be overlooked.

5. Remember the last time Kentucky finished with a similar record?

I’m pulling this card out of my pocket alright.

In 2013, the year after winning the national championship, Kentucky went 21-12 and missed the NCAA Tournament.

Do you know what happened the next year?

That’s right, a 29-11 record and a team that made it all the way to the National Championship, losing to UConn.

This season, UK finished 22-12, certainly below the standards. But Kentucky fans should know that as long as John Calipari is in town, that will never stay the standard, and the Wildcats will thrive again. Usually, that happens the following year.

So while the NCAA Tournament success has been nonexistent for the past three March Madnesses, Kentucky still has every reason to believe that John Calipari will keep them in contention for championships.