Calipari quickly leaving his mark on recruiting front

By: Steve Moss
By: Steve Moss

"To whom much is given, much is expected." Former UK coach Tubby Smith used to toss that phrase out often, explaining the expectations that Wildcat fans have of their basketball heroes and coach. It's one of the reasons UK's bench boss is among the highest paid in the country.

"To whom much is given, much is expected."

Former UK coach Tubby Smith used to toss that phrase out often, explaining the expectations that Wildcat fans have of their basketball heroes and coach.  It's one of the reasons UK's bench boss is among the highest paid in the country.

John Calipari is college basketball's $32 million man.  UK will pay coach Cal $31.65 million over eight years to resurrect the Wildcats' program.  In becoming the highest-paid coach in the country, UK fans will demand results on their investment.

Calipari was introduced as the school's 22nd men's coach in a morning news conference inside the Joe Craft Center.  Former players, including Richie Farmer, Scott Padgett and Bobby Perry hung on every word when Calipari spoke.  Perry called it a "day of hope," for his alma mater.  Padgett said the former Memphis coach "has the temperament and personality to handle the fans and the media."

Farmer, currently Kentucky's Commissioner of Agriculture, played against one of Calipari's UMass team.  Farmer likened Calipari to his old coach, Rick Pitino, in that he is fully aware of what awaits him, thus embracing it. 

"He understands it.  He gets it.  You can see today, just by the way he handled things and the way he carries himself," Farmer said.


Home run hire

Nearly everyone agrees that Mitch Barnhart had to hit a "home run" with whomever he hired.  By most accounts, that meant someone like a Billy Donovan or Rick Pitino had to take the job.

Donovan turned down Barnhart twice, but Calipari, who indicated he wanted the job when Gillispie was hired, didn't say no.  Nearly every "expert" agrees the hire was a grand slam. 

Calipari then used his introductory press conference as his own batting practice.  Time and again, the new UK coach likened himself as a shepherd of the program.  Calipari said the Wildcats program belonged to the people of the Commonwealth.

Coach Cal took to the national airwaves on Thursday, appearing on ESPN's The Jim Rome Show.  Calipari said he took the UK job because it affords him the BEST opportunity to win a national championship.  "You go to Kentucky because you want to build THE elite program."


Wasting no time; already evaluating talent

It hasn't taken the new UK coach long to get down to the business of evaluating talent, both the Wildcat players coming back and future recruits who have given verbal commitments.

Unfortunately, Calipari's style of play has forced nearly all of the recruits to re-open the process.  One of the incoming players, G.J. Vilarino, is seeking a release from his Letter of Intent.  Vilarino's father, Gerry, told 27 SportsFirst that his son doesn't fit into Calipari's plans.

Mr. Basketball, Jon Hood, has spoken to Calipari and says he will be a Wildcat next season.  Big man Daniel Orton, another signee for 2009, visited with Calipari on Wednesday.  Orton's father, Larry, says the meeting went well and a decision on Daniel's future would be made over the weekend.

Texas JUCO guard Konner Tucker, who committed to Billy Gillispie a few weeks ago, says he no longer wants to attend UK.

Gillispie's Class of 2010 has lost nearly all of its members.  Dakotah Euton and K.C. Ross-Miller have re-opened their recruitment.  Dominique Ferguson, out of Indianapolis, is still deciding, presumably waiting to hear from the new coach.

No word yet on Clark Co.'s Vinny Zollo.  Michael Avery, who committed to UK as an 8th grader, has re-opened his recruitment.

Calipari will meet with his returning players on Thursday night.  Sources tell 27 SportsFirst that the coach will fly back into Lexington and practice his team at the Joe Craft Center.  Coaches have until the Final Four games to practice their teams (ie., Pat Summitt)and it appears the new coach has begun the process of evaluating his own team. 


Chasing Gillispie

I'm proud to say I WAS NOT involved in that fiasco involving reporters chasing Billy Gillispie down the hallway at the Joe Craft Center.  It was despicable and a new low for Lexington media. 

Some involved wear that type of method as a badge of honor, but despite what you think of Gillispie, it sent a terrible message to the rest of the country, who saw it on youtube, ESPN and other media outlets. 

After a whirlwind couple of weeks, those are the highlights... Stay tuned.

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