John Calipari is not the dirtiest coach or the worst person to ever to walk the face of the earth, or even Massachusetts — even if former Temple coach John Chaney did not once scream at him from across the room: “I’ll kill you — you remember that!” But in the case of Kentucky: Should there be much of a difference between not being the dirtiest coach or the worst person in the world — and being uncomfortable close enough? Kentucky should know better.
Kentucky basketball suffered through one of the worst scandals in the history of college sports, which covers a lot of history. The program was put on three years probation and banned from the post-season and television for two years. Eddie Sutton was fired after admitting, yeah, players getting Emery envelopes full of cash from boosters probably fell under his responsibility. Rick Pitino then performed one of the great clean-up and coaching jobs we will ever witness, as Rick Pitino would be the first to tell you. But now Kentucky basketball is just mediocre again. And school officials, blinded by the need to win, may be going back to that same dirty well again.
All indications are that Calipari is finalizing a ridiculously lucrative contract with the Wildcats, who fired Billy Gillispie (a good coach but a bad fit in Lexington). It always has been about winning at Kentucky, sometimes at all costs. But you’d think they could find somebody with a cleaner resume. Calipari has managed to stay out of trouble at Memphis. Either he has reformed, or he’s just more careful now. But it’s a dangerous marriage. We’re talking about a coach with a checkered past possibly heading a high-profile program with a loud and demanding fan base — the kind that makes coaches do strange things. Calipari coached UMass to the Final Four in 1996, but all accomplishments from that year were vacated when Marcus Camby admitted taking cash, clothes and, well, the company of independent contractors wearing fish-net stockings — all courtesy of agents. Calipari probably should have known something was wrong when Camby was seen walking around campus with half of the Shane Co. warehouse around his neck.
Calipari had a reputation as a less than upstanding recruiter when he was an assistant at Pittsburgh. He also was known to take academic shortcuts at UMass. In 1994, the Boston Globe quoted an AAU official in Connecticut as saying “Another coach says to a kid, ‘If you qualify, we want you.’ Calipari says, ‘If you qualify, we want you. If you don’t, we still want you.’” Now, people do change. So maybe Calipari has changed. If the NCAA doesn’t unearth something at Memphis, we’ll have to assume he now has, you know, morals and stuff. But a question: If you’re Kentucky, and if you’ve walked down the probation Green Mile before, why would you bring in somebody who reminds you of not only his past but your’s?
There’s a lot of concern in Athens because the potential opening at Memphis means there’s one more top basketball program competing for a coach against Georgia. That might be true. But aren’t the perceived top two candidates — Jeff Capel (Oklahoma) and Mike Anderson (Missouri) — still on the board? I’ll hold off judging Damon Evans until we see how this plays out. UPDATE: There is one report that Anderson has been offered the Georgia job. UPDATE II: And here’s Chip Towers’ story, somewhat dousing the ESPN story.
It wouldn’t be the worst thing if Kentucky started winning again. If Ashley Judd’s happy, everybody’s happy.
Michael Vick’s attorneys get paid to put the best spin on things. But they’re deluded if they really believe that Vick is going to make $10 million a year when he starts playing again. He is not a marketing bonanza right now. Nobody will touch him for an endorsement deal for at least a year after he returns to the NFL, and maybe longer. Secondly, there will not be enough teams in the NFL vying for his services to mandate any semblance of a bidding war. That likely means his salary will be close to the NFL minimum and heavy on incentives. Attorney Daniel Marchum said, “There is no person with his talent in that position in all the league.” And then there’s the other 95 percent of the story, which he somehow left out.
Hope springs eternal, unless you’re standing in a sportsbook. Oddsmakers are not driving the Braves’ bandwagon and project them to finish third in the National League East, behind Philadelphia and New York. BetUS.com has listed the Braves sixth among potential World Series winners from the National League at 30-1, behind the Mets (8-1), Cubs (8-1), Phillies (14-1), Dodgers (15-1) and Diamondbacks (18-1). Bodog also has them sixth overall in the National League. The Mets and Cubs are 3-1 to win the pennant, followed by Philadelphia (11-2), Arizona (13-2), Los Angeles (17-2) and the Braves (10-1). Apparently, they didn’t get the memo on Kenshin Kawakami.
Atlanta’s four general managers are tied going into the Countdown’s inaugural Final Four GM Pool. All have two of the four teams. Three of the four have a potential final matchup: Thrashers general manager Don Waddell has potential finalists North Carolina and Michigan State (he lost Memphis and Pitt in his pool). The Hawks’ Rick Sund has a potential North Carolina-Connecticut final (he lost Pitt and Wake Forest). The two Philips Arena tenants are ahead of the other two. The Falcons’ Thomas Dimitroff has North Carolina and Villanova remaining, but UNC defeating Louisville in the title game. The Braves’ Frank Wren has UNC and UConn remaining in his pool. But his title matchup? Louisville over Florida State. Oops. UPDATE: At least Wren had the foresight to re-sign Chipper.
ESPN reported that John Calipari was still “sleeping” on Kentucky’s offer. Wow. A potential $5 million a year to coach Kentucky and he still can’t decide? Maybe he has changed.
Jeff Schultz, fighting to stay relevant with peeps under 40, can be reached via email (email@example.com), Facebook, Tweeter (SchultzAJC) or carrier pigeon (make a right off 400).