Posted by Matt Jones
If there is one consistent in college basketball, it is that if a controversial issue exists, John Calipari will be part of the discussion. Thanks to his four freshman drafted in the first round of last year's NBA draft and the recent decision by two current UK freshman, Terrence Jones and Brandon Knight, to enter this year's draft, Calipari has become the physical embodiment of people's opinions about "one and done" college players. First came the now infamous Bob Knight statement in which he suggested that Calipari's "one and done" players did not attend class. That statement was later shown to have no factual basis and Knight was then forced to apologize. Then today, Louisville Courier Journal columnist Rick Bozich, wrote that Calipari would upset UK fans by allegedly valuing NBA draft picks over college wins, an article that seemed somewhat odd coming on the heels of a Wildcat Final Four trip.
On the heels of the Bozich article, Calipari decided today to address these issues in a manifesto of his "player's first program" philosophy on his Coachcal.com website. Calipari stated that when recruiting players, he doesn't make "outlandish promises" about playing time or starting positions, but instead tells them that they will need to perform at the highest level. But he also stated that when a season ends, Calipari believes his job is to help players "make the best decisions, with the best information." The coach says he sees his job not to "convince them to come back if that's not in their best interest," nor is it to try and "shove anybody out the door."
Calipari then rejected the dichotomy laid out in the Bozich piece and said that it was a "lie" to suggest that "it's impossible to win championships with that type of young, elite talent." He goes further to suggest that it is a "ludicrous statement" to argue that a program can't win championships with players who seek to leave for their NBA dreams early.
The coach's latest set of statements is his attempt at chiming in on a greater debate taking place in the state of Kentucky, as to what his role should be in the decisions of players looking at the NBA. With the return of Harrison Barnes, Jared Sullinger and Perry Jones to college, a few Kentucky fans and a lot of media members believing themselves to be spokesmen for UK fans, have questioned why UK's duo of Brandon Knight and Terrence Jones would not make a similar decision. The argument has been made, most notably in the Bozich piece, that Calipari's focus on sending his players to the NBA runs counter to his role as basketball coach for the program at Kentucky. Calipari has said numerous times that he sees his role as being one of an advocate for the players' best interest, and his statement today was likely designed to reinforce that belief.
At the Final Four in April, Calipari told the media that he was against the "one and done" rule currently in place, but so long as it existed, he would use it to try and build the best basketball program possible. Even if he is against the rule in theory, as the person who is most obviously exploiting it for his program's gain, those against the rule make him their number one target. Calipari believes he can win championships and at the same time, do right by players by sending them to the league early as well. Time will tell whether he ends up continuing to be correct.