American Pharoah’s hold on media headlines had gone on long enough. Having put asunder Kentucky Derby and Preakness contenders and now within mileand a-half of being first triple crown winner since 1978 (Affirmed), Pharoah was forced out as media darling last week when the University of Kentucky issued a news release.
Perfect, I thought, for a little pop quiz. Did the release say …
A. Record number of graduates will do advanced studies at Oxford and Cambridge Universities.
B. Anonymous donor writes into his will $100 million for cancer research.
C. UK is now a Top 20 rated university.
D. University sets new record for players sent to the NBA.
E. Ball coach is secured through 2022.
If you marked anything not E, then you must write Christian Laettner a thank you note.
Pharoah be danged! Two weeks of headlines without Kentucky’s coach’s name was too much.
So, John Calipari made it last week. Twice. v First, a flirtation with the New Orleans Pelicans, real or rumor, hastened UK to announce a new $54 million grip on its golden calf. v Thus empowered and ego massaged, Calipari turned feisty.
• Dangerously, he forgot the consequences — “every time you open your mouth to talk, your mind walks out and parades up and down the words.” (Mark Twain)
• He rejected also, “It is best to engage one’s brain, before popping the clutch, one’s mouth.”
“Last year we started the season with a goal,” Calipari told Jeff Eisenberg (The Dagger). “You may think it was to win a national title or win all the games, (but) it was to get eight players drafted.”
“Uhh, say what?”
Big Blue Nation must have done a collective gulp. Is this the fellow who said, “At Kentucky we ARE basketball!”? … And last spring, said he would as soon skip the SEC Tournament. “At Kentucky, we play for national championships.”
Calipari new spin? “… how can you be about your team if you’re worried about getting players drafted? We kind of work it the other way. What are your dreams? What are you looking for? What are you trying to get out of life? How can we help you with that?”
Awfully humanitarian, isn’t it? But let’s be real, the man’s dream machine applies only if one is 18 years old, 6-feet-5 or taller and can play ball.
“… the mission for me,” he said, “is to be a vehicle to help others reach their dreams, to be the stone that creates the ripple in their lives that goes on and on and on.”
A stone … a vehicle to the stars. Such prose when John Calipari is in character as Johnny Appleseed.
Good place to stop, right? Wrong.
“Now in our state, they want my mission to be, win national titles,’ he said. “(But) my mission is bigger than that.”
Getting in line for a Nobel Prize? A visit from Pope Francis? Or maybe suffering a Jesus Complex.
Whatever, Calipari’s latest spasm of arrogance does these things. v Big Blue Nation have it on paper, NCAA titles are farther down their coach’s priority list than they thought.
A ball coach in-your-face tweet: “I hate to drive you (UK) traditionalists crazy, but I’ll say it again: our goal at the beginning of the season was to have eight players drafted.” v Brazen boasts demonstrate anew how solidly he has hijacked a college basketball program and chained it to the NBA. v Finally, his rant takes attention away from elephant in the room — Kentucky’s stunning loss to Wisconsin and oh-for-spring recruiting, has the heat of blame squarely on the coach and it’s making him testy.
Epilogue. Gone from UK’s basketball world is anything to compare to a Frank Kaminsky message to University of Wisconsin: “…thank you for having me. You have no idea how much you have changed my life. … I was born and raised in Illinois, but I am proud to say that Wisconsin has turned me into the man I am today.”
CHEERS & JEERS
CHEERS. For fans, Eastern Kentucky and Western Ken- tucky men’s teams will play basketball the next four years. Having played 155 times 1927- 1982, think of all the money each school did not make from the series in 33 seasons. Kudos to directors of athletics Steve Lochmueller and Todd Stewart. Now, about a football series.
CHEERS. Damien Harris, fivestar freshman at Alabama and all-stater at Madison Southern, is being projected as number two RB on Crimson Tide depth chart.
CHEERS. Among rule change recommendations, reducing timeouts and taking away coach called timeouts to interrupt play late in second half.
CHEERS. Kentucky’s non-SEC basketball schedule. Teams worthy of college basketball’s gold standard.
CHEERS. Duke-Kentucky, November 17, national television. Pinnacle game for college hoops. Wildcats lead series 11-9 overall, Blue Devils have won last three.
CHEERS. Ex-Florida assistant coach John Pelphrey is looking for work. Meanwhile, Billy Donovan made sure the Paintsville native was paid through end of his contract. Pelphrey’s last payment was a pro-rated $32,500 on his $390,000 annual contract, according to GatorSports.com.
WORTH REPEATING DEPT.
On player development and not, ESPN’s Mahatma Jay Bilas said: “college coaches (like) Calipari or Mike Krzyzewski of Duke or Roy Williams of North Carolina should take limited credit. That’s especially true of players who play only one season of college basketball. They had the guy seven months. What did they do to develop them? That’s so meaningless. That’s more about talent than anything.”
And so it goes.