(Hopefully) good sports essays and observations for good sports by a guy who tries (and can sometimes fail) to be a good sport.


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Friday, May 14, 2010

Can John Calipari Bring a National Championship to Kentucky?

I don't think so.

And it's not because of speculation that he'll become LeBron James' hand-picked coach, wherever LeBron ends up.

The reason I don't think that Calipari won't win a championship at Kentucky is, ironically, because he's great at recruiting the best players to whatever school that he coaches. That may cause you to scratch your head, but when you combine that ability with the NBA's "one and done" rule (that requires HS grads to go to college for one year or play overseas for a year before they are eligible for the NBA draft) combine to create problems for Calipari. Why? Because the best kids want to go to the NBA as soon as possible, so if they go to play at Kentucky they might only stay for a year. Get 2-3 kids a year who only stay for a year, and they won't have a chance to come together as a team. Also, it's hard to win it all with freshmen, no matter how talented they are.

So, get 2-3 of the top 20 players each year, and suppose you lose 2-3 of them each year after their freshman year. Then what? The returning players are role players (and perhaps fourth and fifth options), but your nucleus will change every year. Which means that it will be hard to win a title.

Unless. . .

some of them stay for 2-3 years, instead of the obligatory one. Change the "one and done" rule to a more baseball-like "3 and done" rule, and Calipari could win 5 titles in a row and build the next best dynasty after John Wooden's UCLA teams.

But with the rules the way they are now, the Kentucky faithful might get great players, but they might not get the titles they seek.

And their patience will Coach Calipari, for whom they opened the vaults, could run thin. For the money they're paying, the fans won't be happy with regional final or Final Four appearances. They'll want titles.

And the irony is that the players they get might be, of all things, too good to deliver.


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