Special to the Tribune-Star
If I’ve heard it once I’ve heard it a hundred times or more, John Calipari is a great basketball coach. Well, greatness hit a bit of a bump this year when most likely the player who would have been chosen by the NBA was hurt and missed much of the season at Kentucky.
Now, this is where greatness comes in. That is, you rise above a bad situation and make it better. Let’s see how Coach Calipari did: 1) They did not make the NCAA Tournament. 2) They were beaten in the first round of the NIT by, excuse me, Robert Morris University out of Pittsburgh. Robert Morris! So much for greatness.
John Wooden, who knew something of coaching collegiate basketball and playing college basketball, said in his book “Coach,” “The best coaches are the ones with the best players.” If there ever was a quote coming from a person, that certainly sounds like John Wooden of Martinsville, Ind.
When you watched the NCAA Tournament, players came from every corner of the globe. Recruiting is the treasure trove. It’s like kneeling at a creek bed, putting the sand in a pie pan and letting the water run through and shaking it out hoping to find a big hunk of rock that’s pure gold. Sometimes the recruiting works. Sometimes it doesn’t. But the guys who do it best get the reputation of being great coaches because with the best players, they certainly appear to be the best coaches.
For most Division I schools, the term “student athlete” is the funniest line since Bob Hope. Some schools brag about their graduation rates but the truth is they would rather brag about NCAA championships. Every so often some school you never heard of rises to the top like cream in your coffee. Wichita State certainly comes to mind.
But, again, the guys in the Wichita State uniforms came from all over. Except for the blonde-headed shooter from Scott, Kansas, Wichita State could have been a school from anywhere.
So it’s no big surprise the term great is applied to the coach who can bring the greatest players to his college or university. The man at Kentucky, the great John Calipari, has already signed six players out of the top 100 recruits, according to sporting sources. I don’t suppose there’s a Master’s degree or Ph.D. on the horizon for any of these newly recruited student-athletes. One and done. The feeder system to keep the NBA filled with recruits is alive and well … and it’s a joke.
Ronn Mott, a longtime radio personality in Terre Haute, writes commentaries for the Tribune-Star. His pieces are published online Tuesday and Thursday on Tribstar.com, and in the print and online editions on Saturday.