From day one, Calipari's talk of "changing the culture" rubbed members of the organization the wrong way. Sure, he was right (after all, the Nets had won just 30 games in each of the previous two seasons), but the holdovers, who had essentially run the place like a mom-and-pop operation, took offense at the way the savvy young hotshot pooh-poohed their way of doing things. He was also demanding to the point of absurdity, driving secretaries and underlings crazy.
"He would ask you to do something that can't be done in three days and he'd want it done in three hours," said one former member of the organization who was there for Calipari's final season. "You'd tell him it can't be done, and he was like, 'Yeah, it [bleeping] can.'"
"I'm a regular guy, folks," Calipari said. "I do not walk on water; I do not have a magic wand."
He might need to find one. Kentucky fired Billy Gillispie on Friday after two seasons and he went 40-27, including losing 14 games this season and failing to lead the Wildcats into the NCAA tournament.
When Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear announced in February that his state was taking nearly $3 billion in federal stimulus cash, he described the decision as necessary to save jobs, preserve "quality of life" and a "strategic investment ... to position Kentucky for the future."
Little did Beshear know that two months later, as teachers, police and other municipal workers breathed a collective sigh of relief that their jobs had been saved — at least for now — the state's primary institution for higher learning would "invest" $32 million in a well-traveled but highly successful basketball coach.
John Calipari will make more in a single half at Kentucky than Kenya Crandell will make all year at Southern Utah.
But if you're looking for outrage at the $32 million Kentucky threw at Calipari this week, don't look to the coaches convention at the Final Four. It's just the price of business at Kentucky, most coaches said, a school that treasures its tradition-rich history and refuses to accept anything less in the future.