Welcome to BracketRacket, your one-stop shopping for all things NCAA on tournament game days. We’ll have what our first guest ordered: the presidential breakfast.
Lots of people have a beef with John Calipari.
Some don’t like the Kentucky coach just because he wins too much, others because he wins too much AND he’s been photographed at the scene of two NCAA crimes without being charged in either. Still others don’t like Calipari because he wins too much AND because he looks too, well, slick. That’s where one of his publishable nicknames, “Teflon John,” comes in.
Some coaches don’t like Calipari because they think he wins too much AND cuts corners recruiting, specializing in getting kids who are already NBA-caliber athletes and will never be students, the so-called “one-and-done.” Other coaches think Calipari is smug, or don’t like the way he works refs during a game, which was ostensibly the reason Temple coach John Chaney stormed into Calipari’s news conference after a close loss in 1994, then rushed the podium and threatened to kill him. Watch it here: http://youtu.be/51-4sJTf7iQ
Once order was restored, Calipari made his way back to the microphone and said, “Some things never cease to amaze me.” That probably made Chaney _ who later apologized, sort of _ want to kill him again.
We could go on this way for a long time, but you get the point.
Calipari and his Wildcats could beat Baylor to reach the Final Four, then Louisville in the semifinal next week, then whoever shows up for the April 2 title game from the other side of the bracket _ and most of those same people would still say he’s a lousy coach and a cheat. He gets that.
He hears the jokes about recording all his wins in invisible ink and how any championship banners he wins at Kentucky should be put up with scotch tape, so that when the NCAA orders them yanked from the rafters _ as it did at Calipari’s last two schools, UMass and Memphis _ there will be less of a mess to clean up.
Calipari even told one of those jokes on himself a few months back, on the occasion of his 53rd birthday. Right after he let everybody know about the “presidential” breakfast _ “oatmeal, coffee, two Splenda and cream and a napkin” _ that was brought to him in bed.
“Two years got vacated,” he deadpanned, “so I’m 51.”
One thing Calipari doesn’t make is apologies _ for any of it.
He signed an eight-year, perks-laden, $32-million deal in 2009 that made him the highest-paid coach in the land. And such is the state of the college game that what happened to Calipari at his last two stops could happen to anybody.
Not the part about the stratospheric pay package, because only a handful of his coaches could demand that kind of money with a straight face. Instead, we’re talking about kids getting petty cash and favors under the table from agents (Marcus Camby at UMass) or having a pal take their SAT exams (Derrick Rose at Memphis) without too many people being any the wiser.
But just like more than a few of the kids that cycle through his program, they came out on the other side set up for life.