I admit I’m probably in the minority on that. John Calipari, who has managed to have two Final Four seasons with two different teams thrown out of the record books, wins basketball games. For most fans — and clearly for the Wildcats — that’s all that matters.
It shouldn’t be. Other teams win championships without leaving a trail of slime behind them. Other coaches recruit great players who are also capable of signing their own names on an SAT test. Other coaches — most of them — go their entire careers without having to forfeit a single game, let alone two entire seasons.
Kentucky should find one of those coaches and hire him. Tell Calipari to go keep Jerry Tarkanian company in college basketball’s Hall of Shame. Tell him he doesn’t represent the high standards to which the school says it aspires.
But, the Calipari enablers reply, Coach C was never implicated in any of the bad things that happened at Memphis and UMass. It was people underneath him, people with the morals of a loan shark, who caused the trouble. Calipari knew nothing about any of it. It’s not his fault.
Nonsense. Calipari is no longer one of the greatest coaches in college basketball history. He’s one of the game’s biggest frauds. It’s time to quit making excuses for him and recognize him for what he is: A man who doesn’t care how he wins, as long as he wins. That's his legacy.
The NCAA forced Memphis to vacate the 38 wins from its 2007-2008 season under Calipari because of violations related to someone taking an SAT exam for an unnamed player, assumed to be Derrick Rose.
Calipari's 1996 Massachusetts team was stripped of its wins and Final Four berth, too after Marcus Camby was ruled ineligible for accepting $28,000, jewelry and prostitutes from sports agents in 1996.
His culpability in what happened to Memphis and UMass is real, even if he never personally told anyone to do anything specifically against the rules. I’ve no doubt that Calipari never told anyone to do anything underhanded. He’s not that crass.
All he probably does is say, “Get me that kid,” in the same way that Madonna says, “Get me those shoes.” If you work for someone like that, all you know is that if you don’t get the desired item, you’re going to be on the unemployment line.
So Calipari can plead innocence from now until the sun goes supernova, but it won’t change the fact that he’s the only man in the long and seamy history of skullduggery in the NCAA to ever have two Final Four teams vacate all their wins.
If this singular dishonor were mere coincidence, we’d have seen it happen several times before. But even with all the cheaters who prowled the sidelines for countless teams, no one had managed to do it before Calipari.
He may be technically innocent, but that doesn’t mean you’re not going to reach for the Purell after shaking his hand.
CBT: Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski made it official that he'll be coaching Team USA at the 2016 Rio Olympics, and he'll also be with Duke at least that long, too.
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Aug. 20: John Calipari didn't want to discuss Memphis losing its 38-win season before it was official.
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