Insane Theories That Might Just Happen* John Calipari

Theory: John Calipari is masterminding his own exit.

DISCLAIMER: A theory isn’t a fact, so I’m not claiming the following is fact. Just an idea.

AP Photo/ Mary Ann Chastain

AP Photo/ Mary Ann Chastain

The rumors of Cal to the NBA have been rampant since he arrived in Kentucky in 2009. I, myself, have never bought into them. Then again, I never would have thought that the Wildcats would get swept by Arkansas, be down 20 at one point to a South Carolina team who lost to Manhattan earlier this season, or be one Julius Randle put back from dropping 3 straight games. So here we are. The crazies of Big Blue Nation, not the good crazies that we are proud of, but the loud 5% who give us the bad rep have already began screaming that Cal has “ruined the Kentucky tradition with his system” (the same people who cheered him on for adding an 8th National Championship to that tradition).  Before we go any further let me add this: I love John Calipari, I think he is a great coach and handles this program and its fan base better than anyone else in college basketball.

All that being said, what if, instead of in a loud rumor purported by ESPN, Cal leaves Kentucky quietly in a move that has been planned for months.  Since taking over at Kentucky, Calipari has embraced his role in the program and the program’s role, not only in the landscape of college basketball, but also the lives of Kentucky fans. It’s been said time and time again how passionate Kentucky fans are about their Wildcats but it’s not that cut and dry. Unless you’ve experienced it first hand, it won’t make any sense to you. Kentucky fans don’t just watch every game, they watch previous game’s tape, and they study each move. They don’t just know the current crop of players; they can tell you how many points a high school junior in Chicago being recruited by Kentucky scored on a given night. It’s not a passion, it’s their life blood. And Cal knows that, and he loves it (most of the time).

Calipari has embraced fans in past and welcomed their lifestyle. Yet, something seems different this year. It may have something to do with the fact that last season his highly touted freshmen got bounced in the first round of the NIT (a burden which he has since shouldered himself) combined with the fact that a team once touted at 40-0 are now looking at 8 losses with two regular season games left, the last of which goes through Gainesville. If that is the case and Cal is looking inward, telling his team not to get their heads down, all the while quietly hanging his own head in private, then maybe the pressure has got to him a bit (the man won us a national championship just two years ago, he should get a little slack for a bad year). It could be a number of things, but the first sign of potential problem I have noticed is Cal seems to be stand-offish with fans for the first time since 2009.

Whatever you believe about John Calipari there is no denying that he is among, if not, the best hype men in college basketball. He knows exactly what to say to get the fans going, he doesn’t back down to the media, and he recruits like an ice salesman in Alaska. Cal knows how over the top Kentucky basketball is and he has fully embraced it. I know personally, anytime Coach Cal smiles and says his famous line, “You people are crazy” I feel good about myself and the fan base. However, something else I’ve noticed is that as this season has progressed Cal seems more and more recluse. He has missed more call-in shows than I think I ever remember a coach previously missing, and at times has skipped out on post-game interviews and his post-game radio show. He again seems to be distancing himself, delegating certain responsibilities to others.

Now, let me remind you, I am 100% a John Calipari supporter, I hope he retires at Kentucky. I have also scoffed at almost all NBA rumors…until last night. Last night in Columbia, South Carolina things felt bad from the get go and worse when Coach Cal got his first technical. You knew almost certainly that he would be ejected if things continued down that path. He jumped, and screamed frantically. When he left the locker room at the start of the second half he came out with a smile, not a happy, my kids are motivated smile, but a kind of smile you get when you say things like of course, why not? Finally the moment came halfway through the second half, Cal got ejected, said maybe two words, and turned and left, and that was it. His body language all game looked bad, but that wasn’t the most unsettling thing about last night.

Cal’s running motto all season, really his whole time at UK, is player’s first. We are a player centered program. But this season especially he has said on multiple occasions, we want to be a player centered, not coach centered, team. He tries to take any focus directed at him and place it on the players. Then comes his post-game quote released via UK, “I wish I didn’t get thrown out of the game, so that I could fight with our team…I feel bad I got thrown out of the game, but to be honest we were better when I wasn’t out there.” That last sentence is what has finally led me to this place. I had never bought into Calipari to Knicks, Calipari to Cleavland, Cal Coaches Chicago, but now there is at least a shred of doubt in my mind.

What if, Cal is ready to go to the NBA? He’s a competitor and as such I’m sure at least somewhere in his mind he wants to make up for the Nets debacle.  What if the pressure of having a bad year followed by huge hype and another (at least at this moment) disappointing season has gotten to him? Here is the thinking behind this theory; as with any Calipari NBA rumors, you start with: there are going to be multiple big market NBA jobs open in the offseason. Now building off that you look at what I said earlier, he seems more drawn back, distancing himself from his team. But Cal doesn’t want to leave Kentucky high and dry, he does love it here, and he wants to be remembered fondly. So he leaves a talented roster, in most draft projections Kentucky may only lose Randle, Young, and Cauley-Stein, combined with multi-year players like Tyler Ullis and Devon Booker, and you see a team that the right coach could come in and win with immediately. PLUS if Cal does go to the NBA before another bad season then it wouldn’t “be his fault”.  What if, not from the beginning of this year, but at least the last few months Calipari has been creating an exit plan? What if he’s seen the writing on the wall, and much like Batman, has decided to “die a hero” rather than “living long enough to become the villain”? Personally, I don’t know what I believe. I want Cal to stay, I love Coach Cal. But, what if?

 

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Now Hiring: Alabama?

Late night posts on boring nights at work, might be my new favorite.

Coming to a Texas sideline soon?

Coming to a Texas sideline soon?

We are inching closer and closer to potentially one of the biggest coaching carousels we have seen in a long time, I’m writing this late on Thursday night, and all week we’ve been waiting to get the word from Texas and Mack Brown. Word as of now is the Mack Brown plans to step down at the end of this week (even though coach Brown has said multiple times he isn’t leaving). Brown is set to meet with Texas’ Athletic Director and the University’s president tomorrow, which happens to also be the date of the Texas football banquet, which also happens to be the end of the week… Mack Brown has been under fire all season despite Texas’ decent season; it would seem however the Longhorn faithful has grown tired of “decent seasons”. There are multiple questions that arise from the whole situation but none bigger than the possible replacement for Mack Brown. In case you’ve been under a rock all season, or don’t follow college football (if you don’t, why are you here?), the drama surrounding Texas’ next hire has landed in a very unexpected place, Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

To say Nick Saban has built a dynasty at Alabama is an understatement. In fact rumor was that if NCAA Football 15 was made by EA Sports they were changing it to Saban mode. But where do you go from the top? Nick Saban left LSU (another SEC powerhouse) for the NFL, didn’t do too hot and landed the most demanding, most powerful job in college football. Alabama’s football coach is just like Kentucky’s basketball coach, the Yankees manager, or whatever it is Ryan Seacrest does now. Nick Saban has taken Alabama to multiple championships (both SEC and National flavored), he’s sent most of the NFL to the NFL, and they’ve already erected a statue in his honor. He still is both alive and working in a job that gave him a statue. If I showed up to my hotel and a bronze statue of me sitting at a desk on twitter was there it’d be hard to quit. However, not impossible. Like I just said, Alabama’s head coach is a stressful job. There fans are crazy…really crazy, like a girl murdered someone for not being upset about losing to Auburn crazy. Texas may be crazy as well (have you seen Friday Night Lights?) but at least it’s in a major city, I can’t think Tuscaloosa is too much fun.

No, not that Friday Night Lights!

No, not that Friday Night Lights!

You add into the fact that Texas has a huge fan base, its own TV network, and they’re in rebuilding, and you might just find the right equation to pull Nick Saban away. Texas rebuilding would be less pressure you’d feel than from the Roll Tide yelling, empty student section having, murdering fan base who missed out on a SEC and National Championship, which at this point Alabama fans liken to running to Walmart. But there are some other things we aren’t quite considering here. Mack Brown, who has told the media multiple times he isn’t leaving Texas, even said Tuesday, “Why am I in Florida recruiting if I’m not going to be here next year?” Coach makes a good point here, except, he will probably be in Texas next year. Mack Brown’s contract states that IF HE STEPS DOWN, then Texas has to find him another position in the athletic department. So if Mack Brown becomes Director of Football operations, then yes he would have a vested interest in the recruiting process still. Second, Alabama has said they’d pay what they need to keep Nick Saban happy in crimson and white and even offered him a new contract last Friday. But why is it still sitting on Saban’s desk unsigned? Third, Saban’s QB and arguably BFF and favorite person in the world AJ McCarron has said that Coach Saban told him he’s staying in Alabama, which leads me to my favorite part of this article.

 

Seriously...best pals, they need a reality show...

Seriously…best pals, they need a reality show…

AJ McCarron and Saban have been a great coach and QB duo since AJ has arrived, almost like Tom Brady and Bill Bellicheck…almost…. Nick Saban, who is a competitor in every sense of the word, can’t be happy with what turned out to basically be a failure in the NFL. AJ McCarron will be a QB in the NFL next year, is there a chance we see Saban spurn Alabama and Texas to take another stab at the next level, with his best buddy at QB? Some of you may say that is a crazy idea, but ask Andrew Luck where Pep Hamilton, former Stanford Offensive Coordinator, now works? (Pep Hamilton is the offensive coordinator for the Colts) But Saban, who is a competitor in every sense of the word, may not be happy with leaving Alabama on a bad note. (Or maybe he’ll cut out right before a worse note)

So say Saban leaves for Texas or where ever AJ McCarron lands in the NFL, its panic mode for Alabama right? No, probably not. If an opening becomes available at Alabama I’d almost bet my house the Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart will be handed the reins. Just look at Oregon, their HC leaves for the NFL (which I called) and who do they hire? Former Oregon OC Mark Helfirch and they didn’t miss a beat this season. Say Saban doesn’t leave for Texas, where do the Longhorns go from there? Well that’s a bit trickier with most other big names in coaching already signing. So could Texas lure a newly signed Kevin Sumlin? Or would they go after Louisville’s Charlie Strong? (I hope so) The most intriguing hire I’ve heard rumored is none other the Pittsburgh Steeler coach Mike Tomlin.

With all of this looming all eyes will be on Texas tomorrow. No one knows what will come from that meeting with Mack Brown tomorrow. Brown may play out his contract, which ends next year, but if he has another start like he had this year, he wouldn’t make it out of the season. Texas may put all their chips in for Saban, in turn, Saban may leave Alabama. It all starts tomorrow.

Going Out With A …

At least we have a cooler logo...

At least we have a cooler logo…

After an exciting night of conference championships on Saturday, the final BCS bowls were announced on Sunday. Most of the sports world waited with baited breath to find out how the BCS saga would close, would it go out like Walter White and Breaking Bad or would we be left confused, and spurned like the Sopranos finale?

College football the last couple of weeks has been outstanding: you had the highlighter Civil War of Oregon-Oregon State, a Michigan-Ohio State matchup that was one two point conversion from greatness, and of course The Iron Bowl. Not only could I write an article about that game,  I could probably co-author a book with just about anyone who watches ESPN, and I didn’t even watch the game, that’s how great it was!  (I was sitting in a freezing Commonwealth Stadium watching Tennessee start a new streak on my Wildcats) With all these fantastic games of late, including the conference championships, you would expect the final BCS Bowl Games to be awesome, a proper sendoff to an era of sports and yet…

 “But Josh” You say, “We already knew the BCS Championship after Saturday, how much could they really differ?” Calm down friend, I’ll explain. Yes, thanks to the Spartans of Michigan State everyone here in SEC country let out a sigh/cheer after they eliminated Ohio State’s championship hopes. We knew that Auburn would carry on the SEC streak of consecutive championship appearances, we knew they’d face Jameis Winston and the Seminoles in Pasadena, we even knew Michigan State would face Stanford in the Rose Bowl, and yet there were so many possibilities, so many opportunities left in the land of What If that actually only stabilized the argument of getting rid of the BCS.

Potential matchups were there, I know I know, “Josh UCF HAD to go to a BCS Bowl they had an AQ from the almighty American!” (You’re being very critical of me today; also thank goodness that joke of a conference won’t have an AQ anymore.) The main matchup we missed out on though, the one I’m most distraught about, is the potential Ohio State-Alabama battle. This game would have been the next best thing to Alabama playing in the National Championship. Alabama will steam roll Oklahoma; mark it down, by at least two touchdowns. Ohio State taking on Clemson looks good on paper, but really both teams in my book are way overrated and lost the only games they were challenged in. Bama vs the Buckeyes would have given everyone a chance at something they all want. Ohio State, who went undefeated last season but was held out of post-season play thanks to some tattoos, would finally get their shot at the mighty Alabama. Urban Meyer would get a chance to prove his “SEC of the North” idea could work. And Alabama and SEC fans, they get everything, a chance to quiet SEC bashers, Florida by extension gets a shot at revenge for Urban Meyer’s post-“retirement” gig, and Alabama and Nick Saban reminds everyone who’s the boss.

Speaking of Alabama, let’s play a game. The game is called Why Couldn’t the Playoffs Start This Year. For the most part college football fans have been patient with this “lame duck” year of the BCS. The end was in sight and that was good enough…until we got to the end. Until the last 3 weeks, when college football got awesome again. Teams we’re dropping like flies, hard fought battles were a regular occurrence. THE IRON BOWL! That’s when we could no longer be patient. There are many people out there who believe Alabama is still the best team in college football this year (most of them live in Alabama but I digress).  Imagine, if you will, a world where the College Football Playoff starts this year. Now we take the top 4 teams in the country, Florida State, Auburn, Alabama, and Ohio State, and we put them against each other! Tell me that’s not ending the season on a high note! You let Florida State run Urban and the Buckeyes out of the stadium (Ohio State is awful) but not only that (don’t get ahead of me) we get THE IRON BOWL REMATCH!

That’s right we take what someone is undoubtedly calling the greatest college football game ever on ESPN as we speak, and we play it again. Now we have Iron Bowl II of the season but it’s not just any Iron Bowl, no this is the Iron Bowl to decide who plays for a National Championship! Nick Saban on a sunny day surrounded by puppies and children jumping rope is a scary dude, but think of Saban playing a revenge game, against his team’s biggest rival, who also happened to knock him out of an SEC Championship. (I just wet myself a little) Alabama gets a chance to prove that the improbable return of a field goal for a touchdown was a fluke and Auburn gets to show it wasn’t. Not to take away from the amazing turn around Auburn has pulled off because it was outstanding, but Alabama also gets a shot to prove they are the best team in America. So much on the line, so much to prove, against your greatest rival, on a neutral field, in a rematch of one of the greatest games I’ve ever seen highlights of on SportsCenter (remember, freezing, lost, fun night!) you can’t write that kind of post-season drama.

And yet, instead, we’re left with Alabama-Oklahoma, Ohio State-Clemson, and once again as every year in the world of BCS we’re left wonder what could have been.  And sure bowl season is a new beast and I could be entirely wrong…but then again…

  Don't Stop..no, really, don't..

 

Here We Go Again!

It's like a full circleI started the last one with this photo, think it’s my good luck charm. Also, there are way too many songs about coming back, returning, even some about being back in the saddle. I wanted to open this post with lyrics or even post the song but seriously, way too many to choose from. Even so, yes Josh Wilson has returned to the world of blogging! The vacancy I left in the middle of the pack, struggling to get noticed needed to be filled once again, plus I sitting in a tiny windowless office under florencent lighting can only be exciting and entertaining for so long… So what are we doing here you may ask? I’m glad you did! Truthfully since the closing of 4FanSports.com I’ve had so many potential topics to discuss and yet no outlet for them. (They really need to come up with a place online for opionions to be aired, a place for photos to be shared, and videos to be watched while we should all be working, someone look into that.)

But seriously, what ARE we doing here?

When Tyler Hobbs, Nick Rapier, Ryan Potter, and myself started 4FanSports.com we really had no idea what we were getting into. We had the idea back in 2009 in our journalism class, and like most things we didn’t follow through until 3 years later. 4FS was a blast, I got to talk and write about sports with 3 of my best friends, it was a dream come true. Now 4FS didn’t really go anywhere except it got Potter a few baseball writing jobs and launched him into a potential career, and it also got us banned in Germany, I don’t even begin to know why, but yeah, we’re banned in Germany. When we finally stepped away from 4FS for multiple reasons, I was sad, and felt unfinished.

So here we are, Welcome to the next Josh Wilson blog, Words with Wilson. Naturally I would say most of the writitng I do here will be about sports, but the new atmosphere here will allow me to post about anything really, unless you guys hate it (I’ll do just about anything for readers, kidding! No I’m not). Words will be the most random of places, articles, reactions, maybe even a podcast! If you’re still unsure check out the about page. But none of it is possible without you all, comment, share, you are the people that read and care what I have to say, you people rock! So here we go, call me Kotter, cause I’m back.

P.S. I went with Welcome Back, Kotter! kinda, I don’t know why.