Calapari is getting entirely too much credit. These guys played as a team because they are good kids. The fact that he rounded up a group of top players and they all just happened to be high character guys I would attribute to luck more than skill. Stay tuned
When John Calipari was hired to lead Kentucky’s basketball program three years ago, many of us in the media believed the marriage made for a dangerous blend.
Calipari had had a Final Four trip at UMass vacated. His reputation ranked somewhere between the Prince of Darkness and scurvy in most circles, fair or not. Within months of arriving at UK, that reputation took another hit when he had a second Final Four trip — this one while at Memphis — also vacated and stripped from the history books. (In neither instance was Calipari found guilty of anything… other than being the captain of the boat that struck the iceberg.)
At Kentucky, Calipari would be taking over a program that had wound up in the NCAA hoosegow a number of times over a number of decades. From a point-shaving scandal and impermissible financial aid troubles in the early-50s to an opened Emery Air Freight container — en route to a recruit — filled with cash in the late-80′s, UK had earned a reputation for often skirting the law.
For those reasons, many of us expected Cal + Cats to equal another “Kentucky’s Shame” Sports Illustrated cover at some point.
But not so fast.
Instead, UK has made the SI cover as national champions. And in just three short years. Calipari has turned Lexington back into the basketball capital of the world and despite the fact that everyone and his brother is dying to dig up dirt on the coach and his program, no one has.
Oh, there were questions about Eric Bledsoe’s grades in high school, but nothing came of them. The Chicago Sun-Times ran with a rumor regarding Anthony Davis being paid by UK boosters, but again, nothing came of the speculation.
To date, there’s been a lot more diamond than dirt when it comes to UK and Calipari. As far as dangerous blends go, a Maker’s Mark bottle bearing the coach’s name and likeness is about all that comes to mind.
Rival fans will taunt, heckle and, yes, pray that somebody in blue has broken some kind of rule somewhere. But for now, Wildcat fans are reveling in their new Sports Illustrated cover. And it sure beats the heck out of that cover from nearly 23 years ago.