John Calipari Gives Epic Rant on Big Picture of College Basketball

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Kentucky Wildcats Head Coach John Calipari was asked about his new contract extension, and to hear him tell it, he’s coach for life (or at least wants to be). If Coach Cal has his way, then Lexington will be the final stop for him before he retires.

It would make sense, given all the success he has had at Kentucky, and is expected to continue having. Kentucky is one of those programs that is a national title contender every year. New betting offers every March madness have the Wildcats, along with Duke, North Carolina, Kansas, Michigan State, Gonzaga and Villanova, as the top contenders to win it all. So UK is as high profile as it gets.

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When wording of the question also set it up so that Calipari was easily able to provide his take on numerous big picture issues surrounding college basketball. And Cal indeed held court, covering a very large number of topics. Some of what he said was spot on, other stuff he needs to be challenged and questioned on. 

Then you have commentary and opinions that pertain to really complicated issues, and his answers are of course, multifarious. There is plenty of grey area to wade through as well.

However, I’ll just leave the quotes here for you the reader, and I’ll let the reader decide for themselves what to make of all of this. I’m an impressive and imposing block of text, so I’ll try to break it all down into more manageable chunks for you.

John Calipari:

The university talked to me most of the year. ‘We want you to be here the rest of your career. How do we do this? What do we do? Let’s sit down and talk.’ And that was ongoing. I get calls every year from different people. And you know why I’ll talk? At the end of the day, I may be able to help someone else.

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If I know that I can help somebody else who’s helping assistants, I do that, but I’ll listen to people talk to me. I mean, I owe that to the profession, to myself. To say I’ll never talk to somebody – some of these people that I talk to I’ve been on committees with. I know the guy really well or I know who this person is, so for me, everybody would say, ‘Why would he ever leave Kentucky for anywhere?’

You’re right. Why would I? What would lead me, a better situation more committed to basketball? Money? Staff? Tell me why I would do this? ‘He’s tired of being here. He’s tired of the fans.’

Really? This is, your whole career you’re trying to get to a point where you’re at a program where it really matters and fans are engaged, you never have to sell a ticket, your son does something small and it trends nationally. If I speak, it’s like what did I say that they went crazy about? I didn’t say … This is the place, and where else can you prepare young people for the rest of their lives the way we do here?

“I got a letter yesterday, and I’ll probably respond to it. A guy that says, ‘I can never be for one-and-done unless it was my son.’

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He didn’t say that. ‘But, I could never be for one-and-done because these kids should be in school for four years, and it should be about education.’ Let me just say this, the flip side of it: I just talked to Terrence Jones, who is coming back to campus to start academics.

He was here two years, so now what’s great, he’s going through this process of trying to get back into the NBA. You always have a backstop. You can come back. Your education is paid for. So, this guy says, ‘These kids don’t want to be in school.’

Not true. ‘They should just go right to the NBA or if not, G League or Europe or Y League, but they shouldn’t be on a college campus.’

Really? OK, so as ninth graders, eighth graders, 10th graders, you’re telling all of these kids forget about academics, just try and be an NBA player, so now we all of a sudden there’s 10,000 kids that start saying they’re not worried about academics because we’re discouraging education. We discourage it now, go play pro.

What’s the demographic look like that we’re saying it to? What’s that demographic look like? So, now we want to throw another thing on top of saying, ‘You’re getting arrested more, you’re getting more sentences, you’re doing this, you’re jobs, you’re this, you’re that.’

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And, we’re telling you, ‘Chase that NBA dream. Chase it.’ How many make it? One percent or less. ‘You can do it. You can be the one percent.’ What happens to the other 99 percent that don’t make it? Who’s taking care of them? We are.

Tell me what they’re going to do to make a living when you had them chasing a dream that’s outrageous. Now, they go to college and get a lifetime scholarship, they can leave after a year. What if they stay four years? What if they stay two years? What if they still chase their dreams, but they get that year under their belt to do it? To say none of them belong in college. Not true.

They could be going to the G League for the last 10 years. They could have gone to the G League. Why didn’t they go? Why didn’t they go to the G League? Now, they’re saying, ‘We’re going to build up the G League to make it what it is, so we can encourage kids not to go to school.’ All I’m saying is kids should be able to go directly out of high school to the NBA.

You know what, that’ll be seven, eight kids a year. They should go. Of that seven or eight, probably five will make it. The other three won’t, but they’ll be paid enough that they can … unless they throw their money away, they should be fine.

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The others? If you have no desire, they have kids going to Europe. I haven’t seen one make it yet that has gone that route that has truly made it or you go to college. What if they stay one year when they come with us? I’m fine. It’s not about me. It’s about these kids. It’s not about diminishing education.

You do if you tell them, ‘Don’t worry about education, go directly to the NBA and if you can’t make it there, go G League, and if you can’t make it there, go to Y, and then figure out the rest of your life on your own.’ You would want your son to be encouraged not to be educated and chase this professional dream? Your own son? Now, you got me (going).

When I read the letter, I’m not mad, but people get this thought of one-and-done. ‘They don’t go to class.’ Do our kids go to class (to sports information director Eric Lindsey)? (Lindsey: Yep, they’re in class at 8 in the morning the day after a late road game.)

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Our kids leave here in good academic standing. Every one of them except one, and the one was my first year.

Everyone that has left here has left in good standing so that they can come back. So, all of that stuff, ‘They don’t go the second term.’ You’re just saying stuff. You’re mad. You’re an angry person that just keeps saying stuff, but it’s not true. Now, on other campuses, do kids leave after they’re done? They may. They don’t here. We have a responsibility for these kids the rest of their life. Not just while they’re here. The rest of their life. Are we doing right by them? We’re trying.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, the author of “No,  I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” regularly appears on WGN CLTV and co-hosts the Let’s Get Weird, Sports” podcast on SB Nation

Banks, a former writer for NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com, also contributes to Chicago NowFollow him on Twitter and Instagram. The content of his cat’s Instagram account is unquestionably superior to his.

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