Chat with Brian Bennett
Bennett joined ESPN.com in August 2008 after nine years at The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Ky., where he covered college sports and the University of Louisville beat. He lives in Louisville.
Send your questions now and join Bennett in The Show at 5 p.m. ET Wednesday!
Buzzmaster (4:56 PM)
Brian Bennett will be by at 5 p.m. ET to take your questions on John Calipari going to Kentucky!
Brian Bennett (5:01 PM)
Hello, everybody. Big day in Wildcat land. I was there for the Coach Cal debut. Now I'm here to chat about it with you
We all know Calipari had a rivalry with Rick Pitino before. How much will that rivalry increase now that Calipari's at Pitino's old school AND they'll be so close geographically now?
Brian Bennett (5:02 PM)
I think it's going to be fantastic. They have a rich history, they're both extremely competitive and quotable, and they both will win big. Throw in Tom Crean at Indiana, and you've got the makings of some fascinating rivalries.
Cal comes across very charismatic at his press conference. Is that what makes him such a good coach?
Brian Bennett (5:03 PM)
I think he's very good at relating to kids and especially at recruiting. Then he gives his kids freedom to play. And as we've seen with the dribble-drive-motion, he's not afraid to innovate.
Is this a bad precedent to set? That if you can pay enough, you can get a coach to leave a really good job?
Brian Bennett (5:03 PM)
That precedent was set about, oh, a million years ago.
Kyle (Grand Rapids, MI)
How many of Coach Cal's Memphis recruits will follow him if any do? Also, how do you think the Kentucky lineup will shape up for next year?
Brian Bennett (5:05 PM)
It's impossible to say for sure, but I would be surprised if he doesn't bring at least one or two along. He said today that the ones who have signed with Memphis should go to Memphis, but they can also get out of their LOI and become fair game. Calipari has a lot of roster shuffling to do since Kentucky had only one senior and has three signees of its own. But there's also a lot of dead weight on that roster.
It's obvious everyone loves Calipari. Is that why it seems like no one is ripping him as much as other coaches who bolted? Guys like Saban, Petrino, etc?
Brian Bennett (5:06 PM)
Give Calipari credit for being relatively honest about this job. Yeah, he said at the tourney that he was happy at Memphis, but everybody says that. He was upfront with his team early on about his interest once Kentucky made actual contact. Some of these other guys have publicly and vehemently denied interest then skirted off in the middle of the night. Calipari didn't do that.
I heard him say several times that this isn't going to happen overnight. That things will take some time. Was he trying to get a jump on all the second guessers out there if he gets off to a slow starT?
Brian Bennett (5:08 PM)
A little bit. Remember that he has to install a completely different system with players who might not have the talent to run the DDM. This was an NIT team, after all, and who knows if Patterson and Meeks come back or if Cal can bring in any of his recruits from Memphis? There are still a lot of holes on this roster right now, so it's fair to say this is a rebuilding job until we know more.
Does he have the players on his roster to implement his new system?
Brian Bennett (5:09 PM)
Meeks, Darius Miller and Kevin Galloway, I think, could run this, while Patterson can play in any system. Guys like Porter, Harris, Stewart, Harrelson would seem to be bad fits. UK was a terrible ball-handling team this season, so it's hard to imagine how they're going to beat defenders off the dribble without losing the ball repeatedly.
Gina (Fort Mitchell, KY)
Will the recruits signed before Calipari still come to Kentucky?
Brian Bennett (5:11 PM)
It's going to be interesting to see. Calipari said today that he would talk to each guy and evaluate what's best for them. He'll definitely want Orton to still come. Hood may or may not be a good fit.
Will Kentucky and its fans give him time to rebuild? With the first so-so loss, will they start calling for his dismissal like they did with Gillispie?
Brian Bennett (5:15 PM)
I think so. Honestly, I didn't think the fan base was really all that outraged and calling for Gillispie's head because of his record as much as the administration simply couldn't stand him any more. With that said, though, expectations are sky high.
While Calipari was at Memphis, there seemed to be some talk about Memphis leaving C-USA, maybe for the Big East. Now that he's gone, will that talk die down?
Brian Bennett (5:16 PM)
I would expect Memphis to try and make a splash with their hire. There's a lot of money down there and good facilities. But where are they going to go? There are no obvious openings in BCS leagues right now for the Tigers
Do you think Calipari left Memphis because he had reached the ceiling with them? He had his shot at the national title last year and lost. This year, they lost in the Sweet 16. Maybe he thought it wasn't going to get any better there. At KEntucky, he could be in contention every year.
Brian Bennett (5:17 PM)
He could still compete for titles at Memphis, but the fact is this is Kentucky. It's one of the premier jobs in basketball and you simply have more resources and attention there than almost anywhere else. Calipari has never had one of these jobs before and I think he wanted one badly.
Isn't this a dead period for recruiting? If so, what players is Cal allowed to talk to?
Brian Bennett (5:18 PM)
I believe he can talk to the players Kentucky has already signed. But maybe the NCAA police will correct me if I'm wrong, He made a point to say today that he could not talk to any kids who have signed with Memphis once he signed a contract with Kentucky.
Gina (Fort Mitchell, KY)
Will Calipari bring his assistant coaches from Memphis with him?
Brian Bennett (5:19 PM)
Almost assuredly. He couldn't say for sure today because Kentucky has to post the jobs and go through a formal hiring process, but he wants to bring his guys with him.
I think you make a good point. Calipari coached UMass and Memphis. Heck, when he went to the NBA, he only coached the Nets. This is, by far, his first "marquee" job. Who wouldn't jump at that chance. Now, we can all see what he can do with the resources and name power that he really hasn't had in his career. Does that sound about right?
Brian Bennett (5:19 PM)
Agreed completely. And let's be honest: he's a guy who likes the attention. Memphis basically disappeared off the national stage during C-USA league play.
PLEASE ANSWER! Frank: (midwest city, ok) [via mobile]
With the departure and arrival of cal from memphis and to kentucky, what is the news on the commitments of both daniel orton for uk and xavier henry for memphis? Where is john wall seeming to jean towards? I hear DO might look at ou. Input?
Brian Bennett (5:20 PM)
It's still too soon to say, but I wouldn't be surprised if Wall ended up at Duke or Kansas. Xavier Henry is reconsidering, and it wouldn't be a huge surprise if he joined Orton in Lexington
TJ (Austin, TX)
How does this impact the rest of the SEC?
Brian Bennett (5:22 PM)
I think if Calipari gets it going, Kentucky will again be the class of the league. But there will be some fun rivalries between he and Billy Donovan, and the Bruce Pearl rivalry just kicked up a notch. And don't forget Anthony Grant now at Alabama, The SEC is about to start rolling in the dough with its new TV deal, so look for schools to spend more on hoops.
What's the sentiment from Kentucky? Do they feel like Calipari's going to become a Coach K, Roy Williams, Jim Calhoun, etc. - in that this will be his last job?
Brian Bennett (5:23 PM)
I can tell you that people here are about as excited as they've been since the '98 NCAA title, although there are some reservations still about just how clean a program Calipari will run. He's 50, so he's got a lot of coaching left in him. But this is definitely one of those destination jobs.
This move puts Memphis back, doesn't it? I'm sure they'd like to make a splash, but they're not going to be able to throw money at a coach and get them like Kentucky did. Not sure who they'll be able to get.
Brian Bennett (5:24 PM)
It does depend on the hire. Someone can come in there and use the facilities and the money to keep the program strong. But no doubt Calipari had that thing humming, so it's hard not to imagine at least a little dropoff at first.
Just how significant of a move is this? How high is Calipari up on the "prestige" level of coaches?
Brian Bennett (5:25 PM)
He's won more games than anybody the past two years and has won a national coach of the year award in each of the past two seasons. I'd say that of the guys who were realistically available and still relatively young, he was the biggest name out there.
Did Kentucky not care about Calipari's UMass days where their Final Four spot was taken away because of Marcus Camby and the shady things going on there? Is there any thought to any risk they're taking on?
Brian Bennett (5:27 PM)
There has been a lot of talk about that and some other issues Calipari had at Memphis. AD Mitch Barnhart said he did thorough background checks and talked with the NCAA and Cal's former ADs to make sure there were no problems. But, yeah, it's a risk, and it makes you wonder why Barnhart didn't even consider Calipari two years ago. Is he just more desperate to win now and is ignoring the potential red flags? That's a legitimate question that bears serious scrutiny.
Is it common practice now for schools to allow a clause in the letter of intent that allows players to walk if they do? Seems like Memphis put themselves in a really tough spot with that one.
Brian Bennett (5:31 PM)
It's not that common, that I know of. But I think it's really smart by the kids, so they don't get caught in the gears of the coaching carousel. More players should insist on that clause.
Brian Bennett (5:32 PM)
OK, guys, I've got to run. Thanks for all the good questions.
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