By Ryan Lemond


I love the UK fanbase. Big Blue Nation is the best! We are loud, and we are proud! There is truly no better fanbase in the solar system quite like Big Blue Nation. If the Cats are playing in Alaska, we are there. If the Cats are playing in the Bahamas, we are in the house. If the Cats are playing in Monkey’s Eyebrow, we’re gonna pack the place! That’s just who we are.
But sometimes I get so frustrated at our own fan base. It’s not all of the fans, but there are a few out there that sometimes make my head nearly explode!
For example, how many times have any of you heard one of our own fans say something like, “Calipari is a great recruiter, but he just can’t coach.”? We’ve heard it. Some of you may have even said it yourself. I say, “Shame on you!”
I don’t think the majority of the fans who say this about Cal–or even think it about Cal–honestly know how difficult it is each season to basically start from scratch. Each year, the Cats lose anywhere from 5-8 players to the NBA or due to graduation. And keep in mind, all of these players that leave are the “main” players on the team. There are rarely any “holdovers” from last season of players who actually play “quality” minutes.
So Calipari doesn’t have the same luxury as all the other coaches in the country of relying on returning players to build around. Calipari has to completely rebuild.... each and every year. Are you thinking that might be an easy thing to do? Here’s the answer: it’s extremely hard to pull off.
Coach Cal has to take a bunch of super talented 18 and 19-year-olds right outta high school and within a few months, mold them into a team that’s ready to compete for a championship. If not, most of our fan base isn’t going to be happy.
Let’s give the man some credit.
My dad was a high school basketball coach for over 20 years in Indiana. Every coach will tell you that most of their job is done in practice. Have you ever seen Coach Cal in practice? All he does is coach. The entire 2 hours is basically just Cal coaching and coaching and coaching… teaching… instructing... every single day. Most of our fan base never sees this, but just ask anybody who has ever gone to a UK practice. Cal is involved in every last aspect of the game with his team.
I think another aspect that a lot of fans don’t see–or in some cases refuse to see–is how Coach Cal adapts to the team he has. If he’s got a perimeter-oriented team like he did this past season, that’s where the emphasis is. If he has a stronger interior team, like the Julius Randle and Karl Anthony Towns teams, then that’s where the emphasis is.
Every year is a new challenge because it’s a new team. And we’re good, every single year.
Calipari often says, “I like my team.” I love it when he says that because I understand the coaching that has already happened to get to that point when he can say to all of us, “I like my team.”
99% of our fan base is the best. Big Blue Nation is the best. I just wish the negative 1% would just be able to sit back, relax, and enjoy this great run UK basketball has been on since Cal got here.
He’s not going to be here forever. We better enjoy it while we can.