Tag Archives: John Calipari

Recruiting Pitches: Guessing What Coaches Say

Gary Parrish of CBS Sports recently sat down with UCLA coach Ben Howland and discussed the misleading negative pitches that opposing coaches use on recruits. Howland makes them play defense. His offense isn’t fun. He’s not easy to play for. Coaches trying to steer potential players away from Pauley Pavillion probably use any or all of these anti-UCLA pitches. Howland just points to the 9 former Bruins in the league and how they haven’t all been Top-10 recruits like Kevin Love who would make the league (see: Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Ryan Hollins, Darren Collison).

This got me to thinking – If those are the attacks that Howland has to defend, what negative pitches do other coaches have to deal with and what are their counter-pitches?

John Calipari, Kentucky

What they say: “Coach Cal will be looking for your replacement before you arrive on campus and will be booting you off campus before the tournament ends. He’ll act like he’s your best friend and really cares about you, but he only cares about one person: John Calipari. He’s put two schools on probation and had their Final Fours vacated before he sneaked out-of-town. You’ll be lucky if he’s there when you arrive on campus. P.S. – he’s never won the big game.”

Please come to Kentucky now...I may have to leave by 2012.

What he fires back : “I win. Period. Everywhere I have gone, I have resurrected floundering programs. But enough about me. Let’s talk about you. What’s been your dream since you were in middle school? Play in the NBA? That’s what I thought. I can make your dream a reality. Derrick Rose, John Wall, Tyreke Evans, Marcus Camby…I can go on. I’ve had five players drafted in the first round in one individual draft. FIVE. You want to get paid to play? Play for me…I mean the NBA obviously.”

Mike Krzyzewski, Duke

What they say: “How many of Coach K’s players get drafted in the lottery? How many become stars in the NBA? Sure there’s a few, but not all that many. Coach K is worried about his legacy and his program–not your future. He’ll make you do it his way or you won’t play. Plus, it’s Duke–a small private school known for smart kids. How much fun are you going to have there?”

He fires back: “Ask any player I’ve ever coached whether they regret playing at Duke. Whether they were one of the few to leave after their first season or two (William Avery, Elton Brand, Kyrie Irving, etc.), whether they were a star on a championship team, or whether they rode the bench. I guarantee you they will look back on their experience here as some of the best years of their lives. Duke is a family, and once you’re part of the family, you’ll always be part of it. And if you’re good enough to go pro, I will support you every step of the way. Just ask Kyrie Irving. And, by the way, basketball players are gods here. Trust me, there is no better place to play.”

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Does Calipari Want His Guys to Stay or Go?

There was an article by the AP about how John Calipari is more-or-less pushing star freshmen Terrence Jones and Brandon Knight to at least enter the draft without hiring an agent. It got me thinking: is this true altruism from Calipari, where he cares more about his players than his program? Or, is this the model that he’s created, and would it almost be better for him for these guys to leave?

It is no secret how Calipari has constructed his program for the past six or seven years, at both Memphis and Kentucky. He targets high school stars that are more than likely to leave after one year, basically telling them that their best option to showcase their skills for one year is with him. Then, he sends them on their way, and reloads with the next class. Ethics aside–this is not an article about whether or not Calipari is following NCAA rules–this is an article about how Calipari has built his programs and has had obvious success (on-the-court) doing so.

So, this made me wonder, does Calipari actually want these guys to come back? Who of his freshman stars in the past five years has ever decided to return for their sophomore year? Not Derrick Rose, not Tyreke Evans, not John Wall, not DeMarcus Cousins, not Eric Bledsoe. He’s even had very average contributors as freshmen, like Daniel Orton last year, take off early. He’s never distraught over their departures. Is it because he just wants the best for them and understands that this is their chance to get paid? I’m sure that has something to do with it. Say what you want about Calipari, but you can tell that he does care about these kids when you watch him coach. But, could there be something else driving him?

It seems like coach Cal has a system in place, and that system would, in a way, have its balance upset if his freshman stars started returning for their sophomore campaigns. I daresay his program would almost resemble a legitimate college basketball atmosphere of old. Well, like I said, almost. I have to imagine, then, that when he continually reloads his team with McDonald’s All-Americans, an aspect of his recruiting pitch has to be: “You’re going to play right away, and you’re going to be a star right away. I’m one of the only coaches who will play four or five freshman together for extended minutes. If you want to go to the league after one year, you need to play for me.” Well, what happens when that promised playing time gets cut because guys he assumed would be gone are back?

At the end of the day, this is not a bad problem to have if you are Calipari, but it still makes me wonder. Four of Kentucky’s 2011 signees are in the ESPNU 100 top 18 players in the country. Would a point guard like Marquis Teague have signed with Kentucky if he knew incumbent Brandon Knight would be coming back? Would the trio of 6’10” Anthony Davis (#1 in ESPNU 100), 6’7″ Michael Gilchrist (#3 in ESPNU 100), or 6’9″ Kyle Wiltjer (#18 in ESPNU 100) have decided to come to Lexington if they knew that Terrence Jones was going to be  back in the mix as well? It doesn’t seem natural to talk about John Calipari and credibility in the same sentence, but does he lose credibility with these guys and with future recruits if this starts happening more often? Obviously, there is going to be a lockout in the NBA, and that doesn’t happen every year, but it still begs the question: does Calipari really want his freshman stars to stay for another year? Or, is his one-and-done system just the way he likes it?

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