We all should know about Kentucky head coach John Calipari’s “Players First” mantra, and it’s once again come to the forefront of the discussion.
Cal spoke at Rupp Arena attended by some 3,000 executives after he received a humanitarian award this week, and he said the following, apparently with a straight face:
“Last year we started the season with a goal. You may think it was to win a national title or win all the games, [but] it was to get eight players drafted. Well, how can you be about your team if you’re worried about getting players drafted? We kind of work it the other way. What are your dreams? What are you looking for? What are you trying to get out of life? How can we help you with that?
“For me, the mission for me is to be a vehicle to help others reach their dreams, to be the stone that creates the ripple in their lives that goes on and on and on. Now in our state, they want my mission to be, ‘win national titles, win national titles.’ My mission is bigger than that.”
Spin, spin, spin.
Sell, sell, sell.
This is nothing but a recruiting tactic. Cal’s not stupid. He knows that the biggest reason he’s been to four Final Fours in his six seasons at Kentucky is that he’s turned it into a draft factory. He knows that his ability to convince elite recruits to spend their seven months of basketball purgatory in Lexington is the engine driving his Kentucky program. And he knows that one of the biggest reasons he’s able to continually land players like Karl Towns and DeMarcus Cousins, John Wall and Skal Labissiere is that he makes it very clear he’s going to shove them off to the NBA as quickly as possible.
He knows how to market. He understands his program’s ‘brand’. And you’ll never, ever catch him saying otherwise.
I believe Cal when he says that he wants to get eight players drafted in a single season, I really do. I don’t think there is a coach in the country that wants anything less than the best for his players, and getting drafted by the NBA is as good as it gets. There’s no question Cal wants his guys to succeed.
But if you think truly believe that he would sacrifice winning — national titles, 40 games in a season, the SEC, etc. — for the individual success of his players, than my uncle is a prince in a foreign country, and if you send me your bank account info, I’ll transfer you millions of dollars.
Because his success rate in landing elite talent would not be what it is if he wasn’t winning with them at the college level.