John Calipari: ‘The Program Almost Got Hijacked’
In 2013, it’s no longer a word you can use in a joke. And, trust me, I don’t think Kentucky coach John Calipari was joking. I don’t think anything could make him laugh right now.
Or maybe the season was just such a colossal train wreck that you have to laugh just to try to make yourself feel better. In any event, after Kentucky’s ignominious (word of the day) defeat at the hands of the Robert Morris Colonials in their 3000-plus seat gym in tiny Moon Township, Pennsylvania on the first day of the dreaded NIT, Coach Cal said, “The stuff I accepted from this team, the program almost got hijacked.”
Here’s the game of college basketball’s level-best recruiter and one of its best coaches admitting that he let loose of the reigns while the horse and carriage were speeding around a dirt-and-gravel covered mountain road. That he handed over the keys to the convertible to a driver who likes to go 80 down spiral parking garage tunnels. That he put an alligator in charge of the poodles.
I’m not surprised that Cal is waving the white flag of mea culpa, because that’s what he does. But, it’s wild to hear it, just the same. It’s the most candid admission I’ve ever heard from a coach about his team. And he didn’t hold back on the name-naming, either.
He called out Alex Poythress, Archie Goodwin, and Kyle Wiltjer, but did so in a way that indicates that he was concerned for their progress. He said he kept coaching them in the hope that they would come around, for lack of a better term. Hardly a ringing endorsement.
And when he was asked if Morehead State head coach Sean Woods might have been correct early in the season when he said that some of these UK players weren’t Kentucky material, Cal said, “Maybe.”
The brilliant Louisville Courier-Journal and Yahoo! Sports writer Pat Forde has called this season “the dark side of one-and-done.” I couldn’t agree more. I’m betting Big Blue Nation would be on board with that one, as well.
I would venture to guess, too, that they are not interested in any further Tales from the Dark Side, either. And neither is John Calipari. He also said in the post-game presser that next year will be a diametric opposite of this one and that the team will be tougher. He said that he can’t “sit through that.”
As for the 2013-2014 Kentucky Wildcats, I believe they now have their mission statement.