Everyone from sportswriters to broadcasters and even radio show hosts who have virtually zero listeners have lined up to take their shots at John Calipari, but the shots have intensified tremendously since his arrival in Lexington. Today is no different.
Rob Dauster over at NBCsports.com wrote an interesting article discussing which school, Kentucky (Calipari) or Kansas (Bill Self) was better at player development. In it, Rob says "John Calipari has built the Kentucky program into the HOV lane for high school prospects. To avoid the traffic jam that the one-and-done rule has turned college basketball into on their road to the NBA, those that are good enough simply take Coach Cal up on his offer. Spend one season in his hardcore, high-intensity training program disguised as two semesters as a “student-athlete” and you’ll be shaking David Stern’s hand in no time." If you're like me, you noticed a couple of things in this, the first paragraph of his article that told where this story was going to end up.
The first thing you may have noticed was the quotation marks around the term student-athlete. Every year there is someone that will try to use the tired old adage "his guys don't even go to class", but every year, when the final grades come out, it makes that statement look more foolish than the person saying it. 2010 was Kentucky's worst year under Calipari for team GPA, but since then, things have been somewhat impressive. Your 2012 National Champions had a team GPA of 3.12 with Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marquis Teague combining for GPA above 3.0 on their own. So the quotations around student-athletes is at this point getting boring.
The second thing you probably noticed was when Mr. Dauster used the phrase "training program disguised as two semesters as a "student-athlete". Yes, I know those two are linked together, but you can argue them separately. If he is eluding to the fact (and it sure seems like he is) that playing basketball at Kentucky isn't really an education type atmosphere then he needs to take a trip up to Lexington and visit these kids on campus while they ATTEND their classes. He will find that it is no different than any other school in America as far as how being a student-athlete and attending classes go.
But to get past that and to the meat of his story, Rob Dauster said Kansas' (Bill Self) player development is better than Kentucky's (Calipari). Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that Bill Self isn't a good coach, that would be insane, his record speaks for itself. But to make this comment "Kentucky has become a factory for first round picks because of the brand that they’ve built more than as a result of the program’s ability to develop talent. In other words, they’re the nation’s best NBA holding tank; they’re not the nation’s best NBA breeding grounds." makes me wonder if all this guy sees of Kentucky Basketball is on draft night because theres no way he watched them through the 2011-12 season or the 2010-11 season and didn't see the vast improvement from everyone on the roster throughout the course of the year.
The 2010-11 season speaks for itself when Calipari was able to use PLAYER DEVELOPMENT to get DeAndre Liggins and Josh Harrellson spots on NBA rosters. Liggins is still on the roster for the Oklahoma City Thunder and had no chance whatsoever of being drafted before John Calipari and as far as Josh Harrellson goes, yes he's playing overseas now, but not before being drafted in the second round by the Hornets, traded to the Knicks where he actually got quite a bit of playing time and then signed a free agent deal with the Miami Heat before being released after almost an entire season. Neither of these guys would be where they are today without John Calipari's ability to develop talent.
The 2011-12 championship team, there was only two surefire "one and done" type guys on that team, Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist who went 1 and 2 in the NBA draft, something that had never been done in the history of the draft. The other guys had to work to assure themselves a chance of hearing their name called on draft night all the while being DEVELOPED by John Calipari and his staff. As you can see and if you're a Kentucky fan, you already knew, John Calipari is in fact GREAT at developing talent, not just nursing it until draft night. I'd say it's safe to say that these two coaches are among the best in the country at developing and getting the best out of their players, NOT JUST THE ONE.