John Calipari will not be denied. The Kentucky Wildcat coach won’t be overlooked, discredited, or have his sizeable talents taken for granted.
As if a national title, ironclad control of one of the country’s most storied programs, and the distinct honor of having possibly been the Cleveland Cavaliers’ first choice to coach and lead LeBron James in his return to his roots weren’t validation enough of his standing and abilities, Calipari saw fit to sing his own praises during a recent WFAN radio show where host Mike Francesa dared to rehash all the previously advanced demerits Calipari thought he had already absolved himself of.
Surely you’ve heard and are familiar with them all, in particular the one that goes most anyone could have won as much as Calipari has given his recent rostrum of talent, including the likes of Anthony Davis, Derrick Rose, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and Julius Randle. Ever want to see John Calipari swarm and his team whimper, simply engage him in a battle where in-game decision making and the level of X’s and O’s strategizing that truly make coaching the profession that it is are part of the mix.
Calipari has heard enough of it and, friend or not, he wasn’t about to allow Franseca to get away with it any longer, at least not without being required to defend his position.
“This is John in Kentucky,” said a WFAN show caller, who later proved to be Calipari. “I’m a bad coach?” he challenged Francesa. “Are you saying I’m a bad coach? They call me Cal the magician.”
And with good reason. Few have proven capable of even conceiving the kind of game-planning Calipari has come to master. Say what you will about him, but the 55-year-old scrappy, never-give-an-inch former point guard sells hope and fosters unity at levels few others can imagine. Seemingly everyone who’s ever crossed his path, from Rose to Davis to LeBron James, still swears by him and counts him among their most trusted, unofficial advisors.
Beyond that, how else can you explain or overlook 19 20-win seasons in 22-years as a collegiate coach, and eight with at least 30 victories? Yes, Calipari has often had as much talent as anyone in the nation, particularly in recent times, but that alone does not always a victor make.
“I’d always fight that,” CBSSports.com columnist Gary Parrish, who covered Calipari for four seasons while he was still coach at Memphis, recently told The Lexington Herald of the notion Calipari somehow falls short as a game-time strategist. “When people would say he can’t coach. ‘Dude, yes he can. I watch practice every day. He knows what he’s doing.’”
In short, John Calipari has beaten the system by becoming a legend simply by being John Calipari. “He spent most of his career fighting the perception that he wasn’t this or he wasn’t that,” added Parrish. “Or is this or is that. He got so used to fighting those things that he hasn’t learned how not to fight them yet. His instincts are to keep fighting every time there’s a little fight without recognizing it’s not really a fight anymore. Nobody informed doesn’t think that Calipari isn’t awesome at what he does.”
And he’s got a history and a one hell of a distinguished record to prove it.