The Big Blue Lowdown

Insight, Analysis and Expertise on All Things Kentucky Basketball

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Who Is John Calipari?

The BBL must admit we’re excited heading into the 2009-10 season. But we find it hard to imagine we’d be this excited if John Calipari hadn’t been named head coach in April.

Though his career rise has been well-documented, Calipari remains a bit of a mystery. His teams have consistently won everywhere he’s been. But thanks to questionable tactics and a trail of NCAA infractions, Calipari’s reputation casts a long shadow.

The Questionable
Calipari’s detractors question his character and true intentions. The accusations and suspicions surrounding him are mythic in scope. The Marcus Camby gifts scandal, Dajuan Wagner’s unorthodox recruitment, shady connections to “Worldwide Wes” and the Derrick Rose SAT saga are just a few of the sordid story lines that haunt the Calipari legacy.

And of course, some continue to question his coaching ability, tagging Coach Cal as a product of the ridiculous talent he has surrounded himself with. Despite a couple of Final Four appearances, he has yet to win a national title, and the manner in which his Memphis team lost in overtime of the 2007-08 championship game left doubts about his big game performance.

The Indisputable
The BBL would like to point out that Calipari has not only never been caught breaking an NCAA rule, he has never even been accused of a violation by a school, conference or the NCAA. Each “scandal” has centered on peripheral parties not directly linked to Calipari.

Moreover, Coach Cal has built solid relationships throughout the high school, collegiate and pro basketball ranks, and continues to command respect and admiration from his peers, the local communities he’s served, as well as many former coaches and players. In in his limited time in the Commonwealth, he has used passion, energy and an enormously popular Twitter account to win over a great many big blue hearts and minds.

The Lowdown
Without a body of work at Kentucky, nor one at any big conference school, it’s tough to get a truly accurate read on Calipari. The myriad questions certainly merit caution and concern.

But Calipari’s hard work, love for the game and dedication to promoting the UK program as a global brand are worthy of more than a little optimism. And of course, the fact that the man has assembled one of the most talented rosters in Kentucky history has us willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Make no mistake about it: all eyes will be on Calipari both on and off the court. And should his actions provide cause for criticism or commentary, the BBL will be all over it. Until then, we’ll reserve judgment.

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