BOZICH | What Colin Cowherd got right -- and wrong -- about John Calipari, UK
Colin Cowherd questioned the impact that John Calipari's former Kentucky players have had in the NBA, but you could question the performance of players from most programs.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – I think Mike Krzyzewski is terrific, a more accomplished coach than John Wooden, Bob Knight, Dean Smith or anybody who has ruled the college game.
But when I roll highlights of Coach K’s guys, this is what I think of his NBA products:
Bust, bust, mostly a bust, nothing spectacular, with several very goods and some incompletes sprinkled in.
No Tim Duncans. No Steph Currys. No Magic Johnsons. No Kevin Durants.
Coach K has been winning at Duke for more than three decades. Have any of his guys roared into The League and been responsible for multiple championships?
I’ll hang up and listen.
Kyrie Irving, who played 11 games at Duke, helped LeBron James and the Cavaliers win a ring last season. Shane Battier was character actor on two LeBron/Dwyane Wade Miami teams.
But Bobby Hurley, Christian Laettner, Elton Brand. J.J. Redick, Austin Rivers, Corey Maggette, Danny Ferry, Johnny Dawkins and even Grant Hill have not been responsible for championship rings.
I start with the record of Coach K’s Duke players in the NBA because it is similar to what Colin Cowherd of Fox Sports said about the “underwhelming” NBA record of John Calipari’s former players in the pros – first on Friday and again on Monday.
Allow me to share this secret: You can make the underwhelming argument about nearly every coach and program. Cowherd wasn’t wrong. He just forgot to expand his rant beyond Calipari.
In case you missed it, this is part of what he said:
“If you line up his players, they fall into two food groups: Really talented guys, but really immature: [DeMarcus] Cousins, [John] Wall and Derrick Rose.
“And then really talented guys who are underwhelming in the NBA: Nerlens Noel. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is a number two pick. Derrick Rose (Memphis), number one pick. John Wall, number one pick, never got past the second round in the East. Marcus Camby (UMass), number two pick, six different teams.
"Anthony Davis, gonna be the next big thing, never won a playoff game. Julius Randle, fourth-best Laker. Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota won’t make the playoffs. Go look at the Phoenix Suns. Every guard on their roster went to Kentucky: Eric Bledsoe, Devin Booker, Brandon Knight, Tyler Ulis. That’s the second-worst team in the league. Yeah, they’re 15th in the Western Conference.”
Cowherd isn’t wrong. Starting in 2010 with Wall, Cousins, Bledsoe, Patrick Patterson and Daniel Orton, Calipari’s guys have not transformed their NBA teams into instant championship contenders – and this is year seven for the Big Three of Wall, Cousins and Bledsoe.
The Kentucky guys were non-factors in the 2016 NBA playoffs, mostly going, going, gone before the serious basketball was played.
This season is slightly better. Wall has positioned the Wizards for a playoff push. Washington has advanced to third in the Eastern Conference.
Trey Lyles (Utah), Andrew Harrison (Memphis) and Patterson (Toronto) are contributing to likely playoff teams. Maybe Cousins, Anthony Davis and Terrence Jones unite to make New Orleans a playoff story this spring. Stay tuned.
But nobody has turned the NBA upside down.
Ditto for the one-and-done Duke guys – like Rivers, Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones, Justise Winslow and Jabari Parker (who has been injured).
And the Bill Self NBA picks at Kansas. Start with Andrew Wiggins as well as Kelly Oubre, Ben McLemore, Thomas Robinson, Xavier Henry and the Morris Twins. Are all those guys still in the league?
Or the Sean Miller guys – Stanley Johnson, Aaron Gordon, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Derrick Williams – at Arizona.
I’d argue the two college coaches who have done the best job of sending high-impact players to the NBA were also fired:
Rick Barnes of Texas. His resume sparkles with Kevin Durant, LaMarcus Aldridge and Tristan Thompson.
Ben Howland of UCLA. Give Howland credit for Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love and Jrue Holiday.
Barnes went to one Final Four – and lost. Howland went to three consecutive Final Fours without earning a title.
If you see a direct connection from college to NBA success, please connect the dots for me. I’m struggling to find a coach who developed a long string of guys who have ruled the NBA.
Here’s my list of the players who have ruled the NBA at championship time over the last seven or so seasons:
James, Irving, Curry, Klay, Thompson, Durant, Westbrook, Duncan, Kawhi Leonard, Wade, Chris Bosh, Dirk Nowitzki, Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol.
One Duke. One Davidson. One Washington State. One Texas. One UCLA. One Wake Forest. One San Diego State. One Marquette. One Georgia Tech. Two guys who skipped college. Two guys who grew up overseas.
Cowherd is right. Calipari’s guys have not turned the NBA upside down. But neither have the guys from Duke, Kansas, Arizona or most other programs.
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