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Like him or not, Calipari gets results

Posted on Mar. 30th, 2014
Kentucky Coach John Calipari. (Image courtesy of
The accusations and arguments are the same for all of John Calipari’s detractors: vacated Final Fours, does not develop players, bad for college basketball, relies too much on player talent and not on his own coaching ability, etc. A smaller group will complain about his slick backed hair and say he is too brash.

Those same detractors will neglect to mention how heavily recruited Derrick Rose and Marcus Camby—the players at the center of the vacated Final Fours—were by other schools. Also worth noting is that, while those incidents carried stiff penalties for the program, neither resulted in so much as a suspension for Calipari himself.

There is one other detail many of those critics might conveniently leave out: John Calipari’s methods have worked for the entirety of his college coaching career and his success at Massachusetts and Memphis has only been amplified in his time at Kentucky.

In 26 years coaching college basketball, Calipari has amassed a 553-172 record and has coached in at least one Final Four at all three of his coaching stops. He has already made two Final Fours in his first five years at Kentucky and will be trying for another one on Sunday afternoon against Michigan. Big Blue Nation has seen their team make the Elite Eight in all four of Calipari’s NCAA Tournament appearances at Kentucky.

Calipari has not been the only one reaping the benefits of his coaching abilities during his career. Six of his assistants have gone on to take head coaching jobs, four of which have led their programs to at least one NCAA Tournament appearance.

And it is easy to see why highly ranked recruits continue to sign up to play for the smooth talking Pennsylvania native. 28 Calipari players have been drafted by NBA teams, 19 of which were picked in the first round. By comparison, Mike Krzyzewski has had 27 players go on to play in the NBA in his tenure at Duke; a tenure which has lasted six years longer than Calipari’s entire college coaching career.

Despite being known by many as a guy who seems more concerned with churning out NBA talent than winning basketball games, he is one of only two coaches in the history of college basketball to take three different teams to a Final Four.

Four Calipari-coached teams have gone undefeated in conference play in the last eight years alone. No other coach has achieved that feat more than once since 2000. At one point, Calipari won 30 games in a season six out of seven years. In the one season he fell short of 30 victories he won 29 games and made it to the Final Four.

He has taken Kentucky—one of the most historic programs in the sport—to back-to-back Final Fours for the first time since the late 1990’s while maintaining a winning percentage of over .800. That includes an absurd NCAA Tournament record of 16-2. In a results-driven business, he has delivered year after year.

When Kentucky takes the floor against Michigan on Sunday afternoon in Indianapolis, they will be led by a man who has been a lightning rod of controversy. However, regardless of anybody’s take on the man or his methods, nobody can deny his ability to win.