John Calipari, William Wesley, Kentucky, Oh My!


Although it seems there is still nothing official, of course you have all seen the reports that John Calipari may be leaving the University of Memphis for Kentucky.

That surprises me none. Kentucky is one of the winningest teams in history but has had something of a lull. Calipari is one of the winningest coaches in college basketball history, a recruiter of elite talent and the leader of an exciting offense that has been heavily replicated. He's also one of the coaches who has been most supportive of talented players moving on to the NBA, which has been a key factor in luring top recruits like Derrick Rose and Tyreke Evans.

But the e-mail I have gotten from TrueHoop readers about this potential move has mostly been along the lines of: Why would Kentucky stoop to such a level?

I guess the idea is that Calipari -- who is closely associated with one of basketball's most powerful behind-the-scenes operators in William Wesley -- is somehow beneath the traditions of a place like Kentucky.

And my knee-jerk reaction to that is: There are clean college programs? Are you sure about that?

Having talked about college recruiting with people who have lived it first hand, I'm not under the impression that there are major college programs who really want to get righteous about this kind of stuff. Of course there must be exceptions -- and everyone I have asked about Bob Knight seems to single him out for being legit in this regard, but he's no longer coaching.

Yahoo was able to get their hands on the cell phone records of the University of Connecticut coaching staff, and found some rather damning evidence. That made them one for one. It's early in the game, but they're shooting 100% plowing through detailed phone records and finding something.

Here's my challenge to literally any top basketball school: If you want to prove you're clean, share your phone records with reporters.

Any school that hands over the full and complete phone records of every phone their coaches routinely use has a nice chance here to exonerate themselves.

But until that kind of thing happens (and I'm not holding my breath) I'm not ready to buy that anyone in college basketball could really sully anybody else. The rules as they are written are outdated and seldom enforced, and to the extent there are unwritten rules, they allow for way more than ever normally makes it into the papers.

Let me be clear: I'm no champion of NCAA rules. In fact, I think the whole thing works a lot more tidily in Europe and in baseball, where many of the best teenagers develop out of the spotlight in the minor leagues while making reasonable salaries.

As for the idea that there are a few bad actors in college basketball, and everybody else is chaste ... I'm not buying it.