John Calipari has changed the complexion of college basketball forever. In his 25 seasons as a head coach at the UMass, Memphis, and Kentucky, Calipari has won 78 percent of his games. Only Gonzaga’s Mark Few (81 percent) and Roy Williams (79 percent)
are the only active coaches with a higher win percentage than Cal. Only 12 coaches have a higher win percentage than Cal ever.
- Includes record as coach of major (D-I or equivalent) programs
courtesy of sport-reference
Calipari has been a master of in-game adjustments, recruiting, and developing talent which has made him one of the most impactful figures despite coaching from the college ranks. In Cal’s 25 years, he has helped to produce 42 NBA draft picks.
In the last nine years, three of the NBA’s Rookie of the Year Award winners, starting with the youngest MVP in league history, Derrick Rose who won the award in 2009 were coached by Cal the previous year. The year after Rose, Tyreke Evans won the award in what unfortunately looks likely to be the best season he will ever have. Most recently, Karl Anthony Towns took the award home in 2016. Apart from the Rookie of the Years, however, Calipari has groomed players from Marcus Camby, to Derrick Rose, all the way to De’Aaron Fox.
Calipari began to dominate when other programs failed to evolve. While the one-and-done rule set in place by 2005 hindered many programs who were unable to establish continuity, Calipari embraced the system, altering his own system into an NBA player factory just as much as a college basketball team.
Imagine if there was a team made of just players that played under Calipari. Would the Warriors be reduced to mere mortals? Let’s imagine what that team would look like…
PG – John Wall
SG- Devin Booker
SF- Eric Bledsoe
PF- Anthony Davis
C- DeMarcus Cousins
However, as Calipari has owned the one-and-done game, he may need to evolve yet again to prove himself to be placed on the short list with Dean Smith, John Wooden, and Coach K, all coaches who dominated before the one-and-done rule or both, in Coach K’s case.
Word on the street is that the one-and-done rule may be changing sooner than later. Could that end the decade of dominance for Cal? Only time will tell. The great basketball floating in space that we know as the earth spins on, change is the only constant. Only those who can evolve will survive; especially on the hardwood.