Wednesday, August 4, 2010

No Shame at UK

With the University of Kentucky waist deep in NCAA trouble in the 1980s, Sports Illustrated published a famous cover. It featured a supposed Kentucky basketball player with his head hung low under the headline “Kentucky’s Shame.”

The same headline couldn’t be published today. Under John Calipari, Kentucky clearly has no shame. Let me give you a couple of examples:

2011 recruiting: Anthony Davis, perhaps the top prospect in the nation in his class, has yet to sign with Kentucky, but there has already been a report of a rumor that he was paid $200,000 to do so.

2010: recruiting: Terrence Jones, a top prospect on the West Coast, called a press conference announcing his decision to go to the University of Washington, only to change his mind following a talk with Calipari.

2009 recruiting: Questions abound about the signing of Kentucky’s Eric Bledsoe, including the remarkable resurrection of his grades and allegations that his high school coach paid for his rent.

2009 recruiting: Big Blue deity John Wall was suspended for a couple games and ordered to pay back $800 given to him by an agent.

I don’t even want to talk about Marcus Teague.

The point is Calipari always works the margins. Where other coaches see trouble, he sees opportunities. When Tyreke Evans was implicated in a drive-by shooting, other coaches backed off. Calipari sped ahead. When Wall was cited for breaking and entering, others retreated. Calipari charged in.These kinds of shenanigans have resulted in Calipari-coached teams vacating NCAA Final Four appearances at both UMass and Memphis. He probably would have had to do the same thing at Kentucky, if only he had made the Final Four.

If any of us got a speeding ticket, we’d probably slow down … at least for a few days. That’s not the case with Calipari. He’s been warned and all but handcuffed, but he’s still flying past all the warning signs.

Let’s sum it up another way:

  • If Kentucky were BP, it would be drilling new wells in the Gulf of Mexico.

  • If Kentucky were a prisoner, it would be stealing from its cellmate.

  • If Kentucky were Bill Clinton, it would be celebrating its impeachment acquittal at dinner with Monica Lewinsky.

  • If Kentucky were a basketball team, it would be, well, Kentucky.
No shame.

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