John Calipari is one of seven active college coaches in the Hall of Fame. He’s gone at the head of three of them this offseason.
Just another summer in the Bluegrass, I guess.
The Kentucky head coach went on Mike Lupica’s podcast yesterday, and while he made sure to get in plugs for the stuff that he’s decided to push for this offseason — changing the process behind conference tournaments and how they effect the NCAA tournament bracket, letting college players get loans from the NBA, etc. — he made sure to get in a subtle dig at Rick Pitino and Roy Williams.
Lupica asked Cal about NCAA violations and whether coaches should be held accountable for what happens under their watch.
“Well, it depends on who that coach is,” Cal said. “You know, there will be some coaches where everybody will say there is no way he knew. There will be other coaches that (they) would say, ‘Well, he knew what he knew that that happened with that family in eighth grade. He knew. You know he knew. He knew.’ It’s all what people are going to say.”
“All I can tell you is this: If it happens on your campus, and it happens with your assistants and those people, you probably have a pretty good idea of what’s going on. If it happens back in their hometown, it happens back with their family or other ways, there’s no way you can know. You just don’t know. So all I would say is most coaches have an idea if it happened on their campus. You might not be the first to know about it, but you eventually hear about it.”
“It’s unfortunate. You wish there was more consistency about how they do things in the NCAA. There’s a belief out there of selective enforcement in the NCAA. Some people will call right to Emmert and say, ‘Get these people off of me,’ and it changes. It’s selective.”
There’s a lot to untangle here.
But what’s clear as day is that Cal, like he did with Duke and head coach Mike Krzyzewski back in May, is taking a shot at Pitino and Williams and the scandals currently engulfing their programs. Williams is trying to distance himself and the basketball team from the fraudulent classes that his players took advantage of; the Tar Heels have received their Notice of Allegations from the NCAA, and it seems likely that Williams and his program will avoid major sanctions. That may not be the case with Louisville and the allegations that Pitino staffers bribed recruits with hookers, but like Williams, Pitino is trying to save himself by claiming plausible deniability; essentially, Andre McGee went rogue, according to the Louisville coach.
Cal doesn’t say it explicitly, but he doesn’t have to. We can all see through it.
And that’s not even the best part.
The best part is that Cal claims that it’s impossible for anyone to know about what happens in a players hometown, that something like — oh, I don’t know — a player getting ruled ineligible because of an SAT taken in Detroit (ahem, Derrick Rose) or a player receiving cash, clothes and jewelry from wanna-be agents in his hometown of Hartford (hi, Marcus Camby) should be out of a coach’s jurisdiction, so to speak.
So not only is Cal throwing shade two of UK’s biggest rivals, he’s doing so while explaining how the two biggest black marks on his coaching résumé shouldn’t be considered black marks.
Cal is the best at this. He takes shots without directly naming names, he feigns innocence when called on it and he revels in the amount of media coverage his quotes get. Earlier in the interview he said, “I came up with an idea in our league meetings that caught fire and everybody went crazy about it.” He wants this to happen, because it lets him make the claim that Kentucky is the only program in the country that is always talked about. Who else routinely makes headlines in June?
He knows exactly what he’s doing. He’s playing us like a fiddle. And yet, here I am writing about it because it’s just too damn good to leave alone. We’re watching a master at work.