Posted: 7:00 p.m. Friday, Dec. 27, 2013
By Glenn Logan
John Calipari has always been about players first, and finding out he's not kidding can be unexpected.
Comes now Reid Forgrave of Fox Sports with an article about John Calipari and his former one-and-done players. I can see you now, dear reader, rolling your eyes with visions of Thayer Evans dancing in your head (what ever happened to him, by the way?), expecting another defenestration of Coach Cal as the huckster head of a basketball factory. And yes, there is some of that, but then again, there is so much more:
I spoke with a handful of recent Kentucky basketball products in the NBA who played under Coach Cal. I was wondering: In the age of one-and-done – the system Cal has exploited better than any other college coach, unafraid to go after as many top talents as possible this year and reload with more prospects next year – how much of a bond does he actually form with his players, many of whom spend less than a year under his tutelage?
"He’s still coaching me to this day, giving me advice, telling me things I need to do on the floor, off the floor," Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins, who played one season under Cal at Kentucky, told reporters at a Team USA minicamp this summer. "The main thing he’s telling me to do is just to get that smile back and have fun like I used to. … That’s how he is with all his players. People have this perception where he just uses us, gets wins, kicks us out. It’s not like that. We’re a family, and we act like a family."
This is a worthy read, and even though there is nothing at all to surprise the Kentucky fan who reads this site or any one of several others like it, the response from Calipari's former players seems to surprise the author a bit. I think he went into this expecting negative feedback from them — in particular the mercurial Cousins.
Forgrave talks to four former UK players including Patrick Patterson, Josh Harrellson, Brandon Knight and the aforementioned Big Cuz. He universally gets the same answer or implication — not only was John Calipari their coach at Kentucky, he still is, and is more like family than anything else.
Forgrave correctly points out that the players he talked to universally enjoyed success at Kentucky and were in the NBA, so I think it's fair to say that his sample may be biased toward Calipari. I'm not sure you'd get the same answer from Darnell Dodson or Stacey Poole, but you might.
That's about the highest praise any coach can get, and every uncommitted recruit on Calipari's radar should get a framed copy of this piece. What comes to mind is a kind of Jerry Maguire moment, only without all the drama in between.