I don’t like it, either. Saying such treason, spewing that much venom felt like giving birth to a twenty pound Little Drew or Little Drewetta. In fact, my skin grew cold writing that headline, like the ghost of The Laettner Shot just double-dribbled over my grave then dunked on my face.
It is what it is. Prepare for the inevitable, Big Blue Nation. The man who has taken Kentucky to the top of the college basketball mountain won’t be at Kentucky forever. We can hope. We can pray. We can call up Mitch Barnhart, demanding more money to keep Cal on Rupp Arena’s sideline until he is doing 35 miles per hour in a motorized cart, yelling at referees from the sidelines. Come on, Mitchey Poo, what’s another cool $10 million? We can bargain. We can get all medieval, start chanting weird words while we’re naked eating Cheetos, and offer up some kind of weird sacrifice. Nothing is off the table.
These are nice ideas, all of them. We will get an “E” for effort, and probably some bewildered looks from Coach Cal himself about how crazy UK fans are.
We are crazy, all certifiably cuckoo—cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs when it comes to Kentucky basketball. It is endearing yet maddening. When we have a gentleman like John Calipari running our beloved program, our passion intensifies. We don’t want this run to ever end. We will fight, scrape, claw, smack talk, beg, borrow, and steal to keep this dream alive. The thing about that, though, is this isn’t up to us.
It’s up to Coach Cal. When the Kentucky blue curtain finally falls on his Hall of Fame tenure, and a banner has hung in Rupp Arena’s rafters, a standing ovation awaits. We know it is coming. Now, we have to face that reality.
Everybody has a limit, a threshold that screams “enough is enough”, even when things are going spectacularly well. Being the head coach for the University of Kentucky’s basketball team is a 24/7 grind, consisting of recruiting, doing public relations, dealing with Big Blue Nation, television contracts, Nike contracts, taking care of twelve teenagers away from home for the first time, and ACTUALLY coaching basketball. Coach Cal’s chosen profession isn’t unique. Every head coach at the Division One level lives in that same grind. Being at Kentucky? That’s another animal all together.
Coach Cal has a life, at least, I assume he does. It is hard to tell when he lives every second of his life in the Lexington fish bowl. He has a family. Maybe he wants to start having barbeques. I’ll bring the potato salad. He has made enough money for his great grandchildren to be taken care of for the rest of their lives. As a fellow human being, I am sure there are plenty of things out there he wants to try. Not being Kentucky’s head coach is probably one of them.
Will he return to the NBA? Of course, I get all hot and bothered when the annual “my best friend’s girlfriend’s uncle works with a guy whose daughter’s best friend saw Coach Cal hanging out with Anthony Davis in New Orleans last night” John Calipari-is-going-back-to-professional basketball rumor. It’s a summer rite of passage for BBN. I don’t see it happening, though. Coach Cal already has the best job in basketball. Ask him yourself.
So what happens when he does leave for greener pastures, leaving a trail of NBA All-Stars and broken hearts in Kentucky? How does Kentucky basketball move on? That’s simple. No coach—even one as perfect as John Calipari—is bigger than the program, especially at a university like Kentucky. We had the tradition before he was here. We had it while he was here. And, guess what, we’ll have it when he leaves. Think I am being a bit too boisterous? Ask Coach Cal. I guarantee you he would say the exact same thing. Names like Brad Stevens (currently the head coach for the Boston Celtics), Shaka Smart (the former VCU coach now at Texas), or even current Kentucky assistant coach Kenny Payne will all be mentioned as candidates. The travelling carnival show known as Kentucky basketball never ends. The carousel never stops. It keeps going and going and going…
I don’t believe this day is coming soon. I absolutely do believe it is on the horizon. It is going to happen, BBN. My advice? Prepare yourself.