Pot shots at Calipari undeserved

Since John Calipari became the Kentucky coach less than 24 hours ago many news outlets have written and reported many positives. However, ESPN's Pat Forde, formerly of the Courier-Journal and an uncredited editorial in the Herald-Leader have tossed out undeserved potshots at the Kentucky coach.

Prior to hiring John Calipari to leads its basketball program the University of Kentucky vetted his relationship with William Wesley with the NCAA, and the NCAA raised no red flags, according to UK AD Mitch Barnhart.

Yet, an uncredited editorial in the Herald Leader and ESPN's Pat Forde are making accusations about gray area recruiting by the Kentucky coach.

During Calipari's seventeen years as a college coach he has not been named in any NCAA infractions. While in his last season at UMass center Marcus Camby did cause the program to run afoul of the NCAA when Camby took money from an agent, Calipari was not found to have played any role in the incident.

Calipari said of Wesley, "William Wesley knows what he's allowed to do and what he's not allowed to do. He will never represent the University of Kentucky or me in any kind of recruiting."

The recruiting world is full of William Wesley types, guys that form relationships with players with a lot of potential for a variety of reasons. Some get to know kids in hopes that the relationships will one day pay dividends when the player becomes a pro. Some of these individuals want to help guide players through a process that can be somewhat daunting, especially those who have families and coaches who are unfamiliar with the recruiting process.

Recruiting is also about networking, which in large part is the fault of the NCAA's rules limiting school initiated contact between players and coaches. Coaches can tell people that have relationships with kids that they are interested in the players, but the NCAA rules prohibit the coaches from calling the kids and telling them they are interested.

In choosing to report the negative, Forde and the Herald-Leader have failed to consider the positive work that John Calipari has done within the Memphis community. They have chosen to ignore his taking a school with a 0% graduation rate and elevating the focus on academics to the point where 17 of Calipari's last 22 players, who completed their four-years of eligibility, left the school with their degree in hand.

Pointing fingers does not indicate guilt, the Roy Williams accusations levied at Billy Donovan is an excellent example.

About a decade ago Roy Williams, then the Kansas coach, was calling out Billy Donovan over his friendship with Bret Bearup, now an executive with the Denver Nuggets, and accusing Donovan of cheating by having Bearup steer players to Florida.

Keep in mind that Bearup has relationships throughout major college basketball, and has cultivated those relationships since he was a high profile recruit and a prep All-American; and played for Kentucky. There probably isn't a high major division 1 staff that does not contain someone who has a relationship with Bearup, and most of those relationships began years ago. Donovan was an assistant at Kentucky and Bearup is a former Kentucky player, a relationship between the two is a natural, especially considering the high major player and coach fraternity is relatively small.

Donovan has yet to come under fire by the NCAA, despite the finger pointing a decade ago by Roy Williams and fellow Dean Smith disciple Eddie Fogler, then coaching South Carolina.

Roy Williams, on the other hand, played a major role in the 2008 Kansas national championship team winning its title while under the cloud of an NCAA probation that will not end until October of this year. Williams was aiding in providing gifts and cash to graduating players, which is in violation of NCAA rules, something Williams should have been aware.

It was Forde who wrote a lengthy article on the NCAA placing Kansas probation. Ironically, the major infractions committed by Williams come at the end of the article, and are extremely brief, and excsuse laden. Forde wrote, "Under former (Kansas) men's basketball coach Roy Williams, 'three representatives of the University's athletic interests' provided cash and clothing to graduating players who had exhausted their eligibility under former men's basketball coach Roy Williams."

Apparently, Forde feels real violations levied against Williams are far less important than allegations and accusations made against Calipari.

Forde and the Herald-Leader have apparently made it their self-appointed duty to throw barbs at any major athletics hirings by the University of Kentucky in the revenue generating sports. Once again they have lived down to the lowly expectations this writer has of them.

However, I must give Forde his due. He was credited with his comments on ESPN. The editorial in the Herald-Leader hurled its accusations, and the accuser didn't bother to take credit for the work.

Many UK fans could easily have predicted these comments before the hiring of Calipari. It would not have mattered who the University of Kentucky would have hired to replace Billy Gillispie, the Herald-Leader and Forde would have been digging for something negative to say about the hiring.

When Kentucky one day replaces John Calipari the duo will once again be seeking out the negative to report, we can predict this as accurately as we can predict the sun rising in the east and setting in the west.


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