Refuse to Lose (or how John Calipari was ‘One and Done’ before it was a Thing

ESPN’s new 30 for 30 documentary focuses on John Calipari and his rise to coaching success at the University of Kentucky, success due in large part to his acceptance of the controversial One and Done rule in the National Basketball League. But Calipari’s past is marred with scandals at the University of Massachusetts and the University of Memphis, which coupled with his success with One and Done would have some calling him a villain of college basketball. But Calipari is the exact opposite of a villain in college basketball; he’s the smartest guy to ever coach college basketball.

What makes Calipari so successful throughout his career is his ability to not only recruit the best of the best (kudos to knowing the right people to form allies with) but he knows when to let them go. What’s the point of holding a guy back for another year when he has the chance to go in the first round and earn enough money to take care of his family and himself? The whole point of anyone going to college is to get the experience necessary to get a job and earn a living, for some that might only take a year of experience on the court.

Yes there is the argument that the ‘One and Done’ rule is actually hurting the sport that is college basketball, but if you really take a step back and think about it that’s not the case. What Calipari is doing at Kentucky and what he did at Memphis, is realize that for every guy that leaves after their freshman year there is another coming in that can make the game fun to watch. DeMarcus Cousins leaving Kentucky didn’t hurt the team did it? No, all it did was force the new guys and returning guys to work hard to maintain the winning nature of the team.

All Calipari has done is realize that there are some players you have to let go of. You can’t ask a guy to stay in college when he has the chance to make enough money to support himself and his family. So instead of turning his nose up at the NBA’s eligibility restrictions, he’s decided to embrace the rule and use it to his full advantage. He knows that high school players are going to see how many guys from Kentucky are going in the first round of the NBA Draft and will want to play for Calipari because they know that he will do whatever it takes to help them fulfill their dreams of playing in the big leagues.

The biggest evidence proving that Calipari is quite possibly smarter than most give him credit for is to see how many guys he’s coached that have gone on to earn millions in the NBA. Just look at what Marcus Cambry, who was WAY before the One and Done era, Cambry played in the league for 19 years and made over $130 million dollars. Who knows how long Cambry’s career would’ve been if Calipari had been selfish and asked Cambry to stay at UMass. The list of successful players Calipari has coached includes Derrick Rose (please resist the urge to argue), DeMarcus Cousins, Karl Anthony Towns, Anthony Davis, Jahlil Okafor, John Wall, and the big goes on and on.

So while there may be some that routinely curse Calipari for his support of the “One and Done” rule, there are even more Kentucky fans that trust Calipari and know that he is going to lead his Kentucky Wildcats to be a competitive basketball team year in and year out. It raises the question of whether Calipari is hated for a legitimate reason or if that hatred is thinly veiled jealously at his ability to recruit the best and continue to have success on the court every year?

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