CRAWFORD | College Hoops Notebook: Calipari reboots recruiting, - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | College Hoops Notebook: Calipari reboots recruiting, revolution is coming, and more

Posted: Updated:

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — It's been a little while since you saw the words “recruiting” and “loser” used together where University of Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari are concerned.

Don't kill the messenger. The ‘Book didn't link them. This is a concoction of Sports Illustrated, which this past week listed “Winners and Losers from the Spring Recruiting Period,” and squarely among the “losers” placed UK.

(For the record, the winners were Cal, Duke, Kansas, Mississippi State, Purdue, UNLV and Indiana. The losers were Arizona, Kentucky, Michigan State, North Carolina and VCU. In a twist on that, Seth Davis put together ten winners and losers from the early offseason, and had Florida and Kentucky 1-2 on his list of “losers.”)

This spring, Kentucky has lost out on Adam Zimmerman (UNLV), Jaylen Brown (Cal), Cheick Diallo (Kansas), Malik Newman (Mississippi State) and Brandon Ingram (Duke). Most recently, it got involved after big man Caleb Swanigan de-committed from Michigan State and re-opened his commitment, but wound up choosing Purdue after taking a look at Kentucky.

Calipari knows that recruiting is momentum. Nobody gets his message out in college basketball better than Calipari. In fact, his marketing is so effective that it may have worked against him at times this spring. He moved quickly to try to re-brand his program in the wake of his “platoon” campaign from last season, realizing that it didn't appeal to today's elite players.

But on the same day Calipari came out saying he hoped he'd never have to platoon again and looking to set the record straight on how he prefers to coach and how he expects to take a more traditional approach moving forward, I happened to be in a sporting goods store getting some baseball gear for my son. As I checked out, I looked up, and hanging in a prime location were UK T-shirts bearing the phrases “Blue Platoon” and “White Platoon.” Sometimes, it's easier to get marketing going than to change it.

But Calipari again this past week put out a major message geared at recruiting. He went back to the “Players' First” well and reiterated his long-held contention that his main goal is to get players in the NBA Draft, and that any individual honors or program achievements that come are going to be the by-products of that.

Coming off a bitterly disappointing Final Four loss to Wisconsin, that's a tough message to hear for some. And Calipari has been roundly criticized for the sentiment. But in fact, the widespread reaction is something Calipari needed.

Unlike the Platoon message, which helped for a season, Calipari's “players' first” approach is a powerful message for recruits, and it is proven.

The difference this time was Calipari's assertion that he wants “to be the stone that creates a ripple that goes on and on in their lives.”

That's laying it on a bit thick. Even longtime Calipari supporters had to shake their heads at the notion.

ESPN's Mike Wilbon, on Pardon the Interruption, is a major Cal supporter, but said, “Let me go back for a second. Did you attribute that to Cal or Martin Luther King? Who said that? Anybody who watches this show knows how much we love Cal. We do. We've known him for a long time. We love having him on the show. We love interacting with him when he's not on the show. But you know, here's what happens when you become a god in a place like Kentucky, which values that basketball program above everything else, and yes even their horses. It's a god complex. You think you can say anything, and people will believe it, and you will believe it. I'm not buying a single word of any of that. . . . Getting drafted is the by-product of being good, not the other way around.”

Kornheiser said, in part: “When you use a phrase like, ‘My mission is bigger than (winning a championship),' that is deliberately antagonistic to the Commonwealth of Kentucky, is it not?”

Calipari might not like what the guys at PTI have to say, but he needed a strong reaction from his comments, and he got it.

This is a particularly challenging recruiting reboot he's undertaking right now, because his marketing campaign of the last season was so effective. And Calipari knows the value of momentum in something like recruiting. Teenagers act in packs. If one cool kid passes on Kentucky to go elsewhere, then another, pretty soon they all are wondering what is up, and you have a problem.

Calipari doesn't have a problem yet. He has one of the best recruiting classes in the nation coming in. But he realizes the need to change the message, and quickly, lest what happens this spring spreads to the summer and fall.

When he talks about draft picks and stones rippling the water, he isn't talking to the Kentucky fan base, or PTI, or anyone in the media. He's talking to elite recruits. We'll see if they're listening.


Simmons College in Louisville is firing up its basketball programs again, and this past week tabbed a couple of former University of Louisville greats to lead their programs. Jerry Eaves was named the men's coach, and Butch Beard the women's coach.

Eaves also was named athletic director at Simmons, and vowed a new-look game when the team makes its debut — though if you're looking for details, you'll just have to wait.

“I've been thinking about this for a while,” Eaves said. “People are doing it all wrong. We're going to revolutionize the game. But you're just going to have to buy a ticket and come see it to find out.”

On his radio show — which he will keep along with his coaching duties — Eaves said he plans to keep his ideas to himself, but promised a brand of basketball that fans would enjoy.


The ‘Book recognizes class acts in college sports when we see them, and Billy Donovan was nothing but a class act at Florida — and in the days since his departure to coach the NBA's Oklahoma City Thunder.

Donovan returned to Gainesville for a farewell news conference several days after his Oklahoma City announcement, saying he felt he owed it to the people who covered him and his program for all those years. Suffice it to say, there aren't many coaches who would do that. (I was always impressed that Billy Gillespie met with a throng of media after being fired at Kentucky.)

On Sunday, Donovan took out a full-page ad in the Gainesville Sun, headlined with the words “Goodbye is so difficult.” Chris Harry of the “Gator Zone” web site Tweeted the photo below:


Speaking of saying farewell to the home fans, two more missives to fan bases stick out to The ‘Book. Frank Kaminsky this past week published a long thank you note to Wisconsin fans on his blog, “The Moose Basketball.”

He began: “To be honest, I have been putting off writing this blog for a while now. Writing this blog means that my time at Wisconsin has come to an end, and I am now officially reflecting on the past. Thinking about what to write here is difficult because there is so much to say, but at the same time it makes me sad. First and foremost, I have never loved being a part of something as much as I loved being a student-athlete at the greatest university in the world. Thinking about the future is scary, but I know that I am now ready for it. However this is not a blog about my future. This is a blog to say thank you and goodbye to the best thing I have ever known.”

You can read the entire post (and it is lengthy) here.

Kaminsky was widely praised for the letter, as he should have been. But The ‘Book is still going to hand the award to best goodbye letter of the year to a guy who spent just one year at his school — Kentucky freshman Karl-Anthony Towns.

Towns earns the edge because his note was handwritten. He posted it on Instagram, but it took six pages. If you happened to miss it, you can read it here.

Class acts ought to be celebrated.


Get those Christmas dishes cleaned quickly and clean up all the boxes and wrapping paper, there won't be much recovery time after the holiday before jumping back into the state's most heated rivalry.

UK's non-conference schedule, released last week, shows that the Cats will host the Cardinals in Rupp Arena on Dec. 26, time and TV details haven't been set.

It'll be the earliest the teams have met since 2006 — but The ‘Book believes it's clearly preferable to impinging on the New Year's Eve holiday, especially with the new college football bowl setup.

Other details in UK's non-conference home schedule: National champion Duke in the third game of the season at the Champions Classic in the United Center in Chicago on Nov. 17. In all, the Wildcats will take on six NCAA Tournament teams, including UCLA, Ohio State and Kansas.

"Putting a schedule together, especially one like this, is fun," Calipari said. "Having to play those games is a different story. To understate it, this will obviously be a challenging schedule for a young team like ours, which lost more than 85 percent of its scoring and nearly 80 percent of its rebounding. We're excited for the challenge."


The sports book Bovada sent out their updated odds to win the 2016 NCAA championship this week, and turn back the clock to 2002, the Maryland Terrapins, Big Ten Edition, are favorites to win it all in the coming season. But Duke and UK are right behind them. The full list — for entertainment purposes only:

Maryland                       9/1
Duke                            10/1
Kentucky                      10/1
North Carolina               10/1
Kansas                         16/1
Michigan State              16/1
Arizona                         20/1
California                      20/1
Iowa State                     20/1
Virginia                         20/1
Gonzaga                       25/1
Indiana                          25/1
Villanova                       25/1
Wichita State                 25/1
Oklahoma                     28/1
Michigan                       33/1
Purdue                          33/1
Louisville                      40/1
LSU                              50/1
Notre Dame                  50/1
Ohio State                    50/1
Syracuse                      50/1
Texas                           50/1
Texas A&M                   50/1
UConn                          50/1
Utah                             50/1
Wisconsin                     50/1
Florida                          66/1
Miami FL                       66/1
SMU                             66/1
Baylor                           75/1
Butler                            75/1
NC State                       75/1
Auburn                          100/1
Cincinnati                      100/1
Dayton                         100/1
Florida State                 100/1
Georgetown                  100/1
Georgia                        100/1
Illinois                           100/1
Iowa                             100/1
Providence                   100/1
San Diego State            100/1
UCLA                            100/1
West Virginia                 100/1
Vanderbilt                     125/1
Arkansas                      150/1
Oregon                         150/1
Alabama                       200/1
Marquette                     200/1
Memphis                       200/1
Northern Iowa                200/1
Pittsburgh                     200/1
UNLV                            200/1
VCU                             200/1
Xavier                           200/1
Stanford                       250/1
BYU                             300/1
Colorado                      300/1
Colorado State              300/1
Creighton                      300/1
Minnesota                     300/1
Missouri                        300/1
Murray State                 300/1
Oklahoma State            300/1
Ole Miss                       300/1
South Carolina              300/1
St. John's                     300/1
Temple                         300/1
Washington                   300/1
Arizona State                500/1
Boston College             500/1
Clemson                       500/1
DePaul                         500/1
George Washington       500/1
Georgia Tech                500/1
Harvard                         500/1
Kansas State                500/1
LaSalle                         500/1
Nebraska                      500/1
New Mexico                  500/1
Penn State                    500/1
Richmond                     500/1
Seton Hall                     500/1
St. Joe's                       500/1
St. Louis                       500/1
Tennessee                    500/1
Texas Tech                   500/1
UMass                          500/1
USC                             500/1
Virginia Tech                 500/1
Wake Forest                 500/1

Copyright 2015 WDRB News. All Rights Reserved.  Follow Eric Crawford on Twitter @ericcrawford by clicking here.

  • Sign Up for the WDRB Sports Newsletter

    * denotes required fields

    Thank you for signing up! You will receive a confirmation email shortly.
Powered by Frankly
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2018 WDRB. All Rights Reserved. For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy, and Terms of Service, and Ad Choices.