Coach Cal’s Cop-Out

From Kentucky Coach John Calipiri via Twitter before the game with Robert Morris…


An urgent dispatch from the desk of J. Frank Parnell:

After Robert Morris University drove a stake through the Kentucky Wildcats Tuesday night, we heard gushing about Coach Cal’s “gracious” post-game comments.

Gushing from the ESPN gurus. Gushing from local radio hosts. Even gushing from several sports columnists who should know better.

Was anybody listening?

I’ll crawl back in my hole if I’m wrong, but I didn’t hear Coach Cal even consider that a solid chunk of the Wildcats’ season of funk may have rolled out of HIS restroom stall.

Not once, but three times during Tuesday’s broadcast, Coach Cal dragged up Nerlens Noel’s busted knee, an injury that’s more than a month old. The ‘Cats, he said, couldn’t recover from that. Then he brought up the ugly Vanderbilt loss in the SEC Tournament. He didn’t think his all-stars had recovered from that, either.

Gosh, if it weren’t for bad luck, the ‘Cats would have no luck at all. Then again, maybe he’s right; no team has ever lost an important player and continued to win.

Tyus Edney.

Does anybody remember his heroics during the 1995 NCAA Tournament? Those last-second, point-blank and long-range swishes?

Missouri remembers.

Edney was UCLA’s trigger-man point guard who was ineffective during the championship game against the Arkansas Razorbacks because of an injured wrist, but – stay with me here – UCLA won that game without its general.

Any sports fan knows there are buckets of other examples like that, too.

So Coach Cal’s players, the guys he recruited, are so weak, so lame, that they can’t be expected to pick up the slack when one guy goes down, especially in such a top-to-bottom tough conference like the SEC?

How about changing strategy and using all that talent to find a way to win?

Maybe that’s not his job. His guys are supposed to show up and win; just change the parts of the machine.

And there’s this self-incriminating, puzzling quote from the postgame session: “They haven’t had any discipline all year,” Coach Cal said. “We ended on a note we’ve been talking about (all year). We can’t really play (disciplined).”

Big Blue Nation better hope discipline magically manifests itself before next season. It’s clear that Coach Cal isn’t going to introduce it to practice. Ask Archie Goodwin, who, by the way, at least put up a fight down the stretch Tuesday night.

Then again, after an overtime win against Missouri in late February, Coach Cal actually said, “I’m proud of these guys.”

That pride turned to shame and threats Tuesday night.

From an article on Coach Cal’s website after the Robert Morris loss: “The way Coach Cal explained it, he had no choice but to play people who wouldn’t accept change, which meant the team had to ‘surrender to certain guys on how they wanted to play. Never in my career have I surrendered in any way to any team, and I did at times this year to try to save guys, to try to help guys, and it never works.'”

In other words, “I’m God’s own coach but these guys are punks. Man, I tried to help but they wouldn’t listen – you saw it.”

Coach Cal’s supporters believe he’s an elite coach, up there with the finest, but we wouldn’t hear those quotes or mean-spirited insinuations from Coach K or Roy Williams or Tom Izzo in similar situations. Those guys would be more concerned about making their players better.

Which could be what Coach Cal is shooting for. He claims there will be “unbelievable competition at every spot” next year.

Translation: Some of these losers won’t be around Lexington much longer.

Coach Cal promises the ‘Cats will be “a tough, hard-nosed, fighting team next year.”

Maybe they could learn from Robert Morris about bouncing back from a tough break. The Colonials won the Northeastern Conference but lost to Mount St. Mary’s in the conference tournament. Hence, no Big Dance.

But somehow, some way, they pulled it together after a few days to whip the winningest college basketball program in history, witnessed by 3,444 in a sweatbox.

And maybe Coach Cal could pick up a few tips from Colonials coach Andy Toole, wiser than his 32 years, who said after the game, “It’s probably the greatest consolation prize you can possibly have.”


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