May 19, 2009

John Wall to Kentucky

Big news out of Lexington today with John Wall committing to play for Kentucky next season. And by next season, I mean that literally since it's about 99% likely that he's a one and done type guy. Check out this recruiting class that Calipari has put together this year at Kentucky.

John Wall - Five star, #1 pg recruit, #1 overall recruit
Demarcus Cousins - Five star, #1 power forward, #2 overall recruit
Daniel Orton - Five star, #4 center, #22 overall recruit
Eric Bledsoe - Five star, #3 point guard, #23 overall recruit
Jon Hood - Four star, #11 shooting guard, #40 overall recruit
Darnell Dodson - Four star small forward

My god! Where does that rank among the all-time great recruiting classes?? Four five stars?? I need to look back and see if any school has ever recruited four five stars in one year. Gillespie deserves credit for originally landing Orton and Hood, but Calipari has added three five star players to the fold, including the #1 and #2 overall recruits.

On paper, Kentucky looks like they will have as much talent as anyone in America. Patrick Patterson will be back next year, and I'd imagine that Jodie Meeks will be back as well. Between Wall, Patterson, Meeks, Cousins, and Orton, they are trotting out NBA type talent at every position on the floor. You need at least 1-2 lottery pick type talents on your roster to win a title, and UK has it along with a slew of of other talented guys. Guess it will be interesting to see how they come together and what their chemistry is like. Very unusual situation for a first year coach to have a team this loaded. How much of a transition will there be for Calipari to get comfortable in the new environment??

Anyway, I'm interested to see what Kentucky looks like next year. A lot of college basketball people are already saying that Kentucky will be preseason #1 next year. I still think Kansas has the best and most experienced team coming back plus a big time recruiting class, but the talent in Lexington is going to be formidable. If they start to put it together before March, look out. I don't think anyone will have that much raw talent.

One mild concern about all these "one and dones" though. If they all leave after next year, then UK could be headed for a major rebuild in 2010. I've seen how that can kill a program up at Ohio State, so Calipari is probably going to want to make sure he builds some depth on his roster with some 3-4 year guys. That was a nice move to land Eric Bledsoe as a point guard to replace John Wall after next year. The other thing is that Calipari will probably be in on the best one and dones in 2010, so he can always replenish the roster next year.

What a great hire by Kentucky to get Calipari. This is what happens when you hire John Calipari. He gets things done. It's amazing how quickly he has already made them a major contender. Kentucky SHOULD have a coach like John Calipari. A guy who can get out there and recruit the very best talent, sell the program nationally, and deliver big wins and exciting teams. Kentucky has been pining for a rock star coach ever since Pitino left the Celtics, and now they have that guy. If he can sell Memphis to the top players in America, think about what he's going to do at a place like Kentucky that could conceivably be on national tv every weekend next year. Bottom line, Calipari is just getting started, and he is about to turn UK into a recruiting monster.

I'm also happy for the Kentucky fans. They have taken a ton of grief from the national commentators and Dick Vitales of the world for running Tubby Smith out of town (the racial undertones were also completely unfair...sound familiar??), and yet they were 100% right!! Kentucky fans understood the value of their program, and they knew that Tubby Smith wasn't taking advantage of all the brand name and all the resources available at Kentucky to get the best talent in America. When Tubby is out there bringing in two stars and projects, fans aren't going to put up with it.

What these commentators don't understand is that fans of big time programs sometimes feel a responsibility for their programs. When you are a fan of a historic program like ND football and UK basketball and UNC basketball, sometimes you have to act as a steward to protect the legacy of that program. Believe it or not, fans are not as dumb as administrators and commentators make them out to be. Many fans know as much about their programs as the people running them. I think that's why I am such a hawk about football scheduling. ND created its legacy on scheduling the best in the land, and I want to help protect that legacy for many years into the future. If you are a Kentucky fan who sees all those banners in the rafters and the seven national titles, you feel a responsibility to protect UK's legacy for basketball excellence. It's not about "being unrealistic" or being an "internet crazy" to quote John Heisler. It's about speaking up when you think the program has gotten off track. That's part of the reason why programs like UK and ND have been so successful for so many years. The fans demand accountability.

Kentucky fans knew that the program could be better, and that's why they wanted Tubby out. They aren't racists. They don't have "unrealistic expectations." That's a bunch of nonsense. And yet they got killed by the Dick Vitales of the world for "forcing Tubby out." Tubby put in 10 good years at Kentucky, but he had worn out his welcome. Tubby Smith is a good coach, but he's not a superstar coach. UK fans wanted a superstar coach. Kentucky fans thought they could do better, and they were right.

Now what do I see from Dick Vitale on his site on An article singing the praises of John Calipari. Vitale is now saying what a great hire Calipari was and how he's going to brink that program back to championship basketball. Are you kidding me?? I thought Vitale was ranting and raving for the last five years about how Kentucky fans were unrealistic and how Tubby was doing as good of a job as any coach in America could have done?? I thought Kentucky fans were "unrealistic"?? But now you're back on the bandwagon when you were proven wrong that Kentucky could do better and that they could recruit MUCH better players than Tubby was pulling in?? Give me a break. Vitale said UK was wrong for forcing Tubby out, UK lands Calipari, and now he's saying what a great hire it was?? That makes absolutely no sense. If getting rid of Tubby was such a bad move, then how is he proclaiming now that Calipari will "bring Kentucky back" when it was Tubby who ran them into the ground??

I hope UK fans continue to boo the living daylights out of Vitale when he comes back there next year for a game or College Gameday. If I was a UK fan, Vitale would be dead to me for all the UK bashing he has done in the last 4-5 years. The equivalent of John Saunders for ND fans.


Mike said...

Nice post.

The familiar talking heads also derided Alabama fans for their "unreasonable expectations" regarding the football program. I seem to recall that several media commentators smugly opined that Alabama fans needed to accept that there was nothing special about Alabama football anymore, tradition notwithstanding. Thanks to the fans' and administrators' stubborn refusal to accept mediocrity, however, the Tide have quickly ascended back to the college football world.

This is a telling example for Notre Dame alumni and administrators who seem content to make excuses and avoid taking actions to restore the football program to its rightful place. If Weis fails this year, which is almost a fait accompli, he must be replaced with a big name replacement, regardless of the cost. There is no other option.

Doug said...


I was always skeptical about the "big name" hire since I didn't think it was realistic, but I'm coming around to this line of thinking. If we do our homework and really offer the right package, I think we will have an opportunity to get an outstanding head coach (assuming of course that Weis does not have the type of success that we want to see this year).

If you look at what Kentucky did and what Alabama did and what UNC did a few years ago to get Roy Williams, the key to these coaching searches is that you pursue your top guy with absolute laser-like focus and determination. Kentucky zeroed in on Calipari even before they fired Gillespie, and then went LARGE to get himm.

This is where we failed with Urban Meyer in 2005. That "search" was an absolute circus. It was everything that was wrong with the Kevin White era. Totally haphazard, unorganized, chaotic, no plan at all. We sort of made this half-baked play for him, and he blew us off. Who could blame the guy.

Think back to that entire 2004 season and how badly Kevin White blew that whole thing. Why was Kevin White not thinking about and talking to possible replacements as soon as we lost to BYU in the opener?? Or how about when we lost to Purdue by 30 at home?? Or how about when we lost AT HOME to BC and Pitt?? I don't think you could have botched that whole situation more than Kevin White did in 2004.

I don't expect to see ND making a coaching change after the 2009 season, but if we lose to Nevada or even Michigan, Swarbrick better get cracking. If he has to make a new hire for 2010, that hire will be the defining moment of his career. If Swarbrick waffles like Kevin White and can't make up his mind about Weis until the last game of the year, the coaching search will be another disaster.

Swarbrick needs to tune out all the lackeys in the ND administration and make up his mind for himself. Is Charlie the guy?? If we lose to Nevada in the opener or start out 2-3 or something like that, he better be ready to make a move.

I think we'll have a good year this year, so the question is moot in my eyes. But as the AD, Swarbrick doesn't have the luxury of waiting around to see what happens.