Paul Ulane

Coach Cal Takes the Money and Runs

  • Hoophead
  • Paul Ulane
  • March 31, 2009, 11:57 AM

So the ink hasn’t even dried on my NCAA Tournament brackets yet and Memphis head coach John Calipari is already worried about ditching his players for a new job. To be perfectly blunt, that is a really stinky thing for Coach Cal to do. Like, stinkier than a three week old burrito.

Reports are that Calipari will take the vacant head coaching position with the storied basketball program at the University of Kentucky. After nine years building up Memphis hoops, Calipari wants to cash in on his success. The key word there is cash, because that’s probably what’s driving his decision.
Unfortunately, what’s good for Coach Calipari’s bank account isn’t good for the kids around him.

For starters, what about the players on the Memphis team? Sure superstar Tyreke Evans is a one-and-done talent who will no doubt head to the NBA now, but the rest of the roster is hung out to dry. Returning rotation players like Shawn Taggart, Roburt Sallie, and Doneal Mack figured they could rely on top-notch coaching from Calipari during their careers in Memphis. Now, they’re wondering who will be drawing up the X’s and O’s during timeouts next year.
And it’s not just the current players. Calipari spent plenty of time tracking down the best recruits in the nation and convincing them to sign with Memphis. Xavier Henry, a highly touted shooting guard, already signed on to play in Memphis when he graduates high school. Now, he’ll have to jump through some hoops to get out of his commitment. That could involve sitting out a year of basketball before transferring to UK to follow his coach.
So a youngster who made a commitment to a coach will be held accountable for his actions. Meanwhile, the coach doesn’t have any accountability. Keep in mind, Calipari is under contract with the Tigers for the next four years at over $2 million per year. Now here he is throwing that contract out the window as soon as he sees an opportunity to make over $4 million a season at Kentucky. Yes, Kentucky is a legendary program with a great history, but you can’t tell me those dollar signs aren’t making this decision a little easier.
Obviously this is nothing new in college basketball, big-time coaches have jumped ship before and they’ll jump ship in the future. I’m not sure what the solution is. Maybe the NCAA should make coaches sit out for a year between school switches the same way the players have to. Either way, I think moves like this set a bad example for the players on the court and the fans of those programs.
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