UPDATED: 3/30/2010; 11:37 am: Click here to see my new post in response to some of the attention my original post (below) received on the UK message boards
Regular readers know that I don't care much for John Calipari. He's a know-it-all, cheating, attention-hound, bully of a man who -- quite frankly -- couldn't coach his way out of wet paper sack.
Don't get me wrong. The guy is a great recruiter. And a great motivator. But he's awful with the X's and O's. He has no vision or ability to put a plan together to beat a good team/coach, or to make any useful in-game adjustments whatsoever. Coming down the stretch last night in the West Virginia game, he looked totally lost and out of his league. It was the exact same look on his face in the last 2 minutes of the National Championship game against Kansas where he blew a 9 point lead while coaching at Memphis.
Players sense that panic. They sense the fear and desperation -- the I'm-not-sure-what-to-do-next look -- and they react accordingly. I mean, can you imagine? Here's a guy who yells, screams, bullies, and micromanages each and every aspect of the game from the sideline 99.9% of the season up to that point. In fact, he does it so much that his players often end up yelling back at him in the huddle out in front of God and everybody.
But as the clock wound down last night on the most important minutes of the most important game, Cal had.....nothing. It was as if suddenly he went mute. Indeed, if you watched closely, there were significant moments when the always-standing, always-shouting Cal was sitting down -- yes, sitting! -- while the game played out. He bailed on his players. Although, mind you, it wasn't intentional -- he just didn't know what to do. He was lost.
The guy can't figure out a zone? He's a college coach for goodness sakes. He gets paid millions of dollars, and best of all he gets to attack a zone with 4 guys who are projected in the top 15 picks of this year's NBA Draft! Are you kidding me?! How do you not win the National Championship with that team, much less not even make the Final Four?
The guy apparently doesn't know that a guy should flash to the high post and/or the short corner, which are the most vulnerable parts of a zone defense. Or to overload one side. Or to send cutters through to make the defense shift. He apparently also didn't think to try to simply avoid the zone altogether by turning on the full-court pressure defense to generate some easy buckets, force tempo, and prevent the number of times WVU had the opportunity to even set up their halfcourt zone defense. Which is crazy given the horses he has (or rather had) on that team.
Apparently Cal isn't very good at math, either. I mean, after your team gets to its 20th 3-point shot with no success, don't you think you call timeout and say something along the lines of: "Hey guys, this long-range shooting thing ain't working out so well today, so no more outside shots. We've got 3 huge post guys -- in fact, 2 of 'em are gonna get drafted in the top 10 in a couple of months -- so let's pound the rock down inside to those guys and get some rhythm going."
But even apart from Cal the coach is Cal the man. I had the opportunity to watch the guy up close for years while he was at Memphis, and basically, he's a fraud. He holds himself out as this wonderful, selfless saint of a man, and lots of folks buy it. Including most of the national media types. He's good. But where the rubber meets the road on a day to day basis, he's nothing more than an arrogant, selfish bully -- to the fans, to the local media, and to anyone else (i.e. the "miserables" as he calls them) who dare to disagree or question him.
The way he left Memphis is unconscionable -- not that he left, but the way he left. I'll never forget the image of him holed up at home for the weekend "struggling" with his decision while Memphians -- ironically, looking back -- fawned all over him, begging him to stay while giving him just enough time to shore up his position with recruits before bolting out of town with them. Unconscionable.
All in all, the the UK debacle from last night couldn't have happened to a better guy. I could go on and on but here are some links to a few articles that say it better than I ever could:
- Slate.com -- The Sleaziest Coach in a Sleazy Game (favorite quote regarding Calipari's mafia-don-like ability to leave destruction in his wake while managing to escape unscathed personally: "[T]he man is a master at walking between the raindrops."]
- CBSSports.com - Spring Clean: Somehow, Dirt Doesn't Stick to Calipari
- Commercial Appeal: Memphis' Rooting Interest: Anybody But You-Know-Who