This post was written by a guest contributor, Miguel Pinto.
I was raised a Kentucky fan, my most early memories coming during the Pitino Era. Ritchie Farmer, Gimel Martinez, John Pelphrey, Jamal Mashburn, Travis Ford, Rodney Dent, Jared Prickett, Roderick Rhodes, Tony Delk, Walter McCarty, Mark Pope, Jeff Sheppard, Nasr Mohammed, Heshimu Evans, Scott Padgett, Wayne Turner, Tayshaun Prince, Ron Mercer, and the list goes on and on. These guys were my idols. They were bigger than life itself, and it was all I wanted to be as an adolescent, all the way up to a teenager. Pitino had great results with many of these teams, winning 5 SEC Tournament Championships, 2 regular season SEC Championships, reaching 3 Final Fours, and a National Championship in 1996, a runner up in 1997, and it can be argued that his recruits won a championship in 1998 under Tubby Smith (which is completely reasonable to think so).
Then, things changed.
With Tubby at the helm, there were a few decent seasons speckled throughout, followed by many 10-loss seasons, ultimately leading to his demise. This ushered in one of the worst eras in my lifetime, the Billy Gillispie debacle. Though he managed to bring us a few memorable names such as Patrick Patterson and Jodie Meeks, he fell short of expectations, ending in 2008-09, by missing the NCAA Tourney for the first time since 1991, getting knocked out of the NIT, finishing 22-14 overall.
Big Blue Nation was ready for a savior.
At the time, there was talk of Tom Izzo potentially coming over from Michigan St., but I personally couldn’t have been happier to see Coach John Calipari take the helm, after the ’08-’09 season. Cal was known for recruiting top level talent, quickly developing young players, and making the most out of the one-and-done’s. He had great success at UMass as well as Memphis, virtually turning “no-name” teams, into title contenders seemingly overnight, while making freshman talent like Marcus Camby and Derrick Rose into household names, and top draft picks.
Since his innaugural season, Coach Cal has brought the city of Lexington and Big Blue Nation one of the top two recruiting classes each of the last 10 seasons, including currently, as we sit, with three- 5 star, and two-4 star recruits, and still the favorite to land five-star Jaden McDaniels, the No. 8 player (per 247 Sports) and No. 1 PF in the 2019 recruiting class. Calipari has the most wins, most NCAA tournament wins, most Final Four’s (4), most Elite Eight’s (8), Sweet Sixteen’s (8), and highest winning percentage of any coach in D-I CBB, since he has been with Kentucky. Not to mention some of the most exciting teams and players in recent memory. Oh let us not forget the SEC Tournament and regular Season titles, The 2012 National Championship, the 2014 National Championship Runner-Up (and the run they went on), and the 38-1 team in 2015, arguably the greatest team ever assembled, who fell short agains Wisconsin. Cal brought us DeMarcus Cousins, John Wall, Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Karl Anthony Towns, Devin Booker, Jamal Murray, DeAaron Fox, Malik Monk, Bam Adebayo, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and most recently Tyler Herro, Keldon Johnson, and PJ Washington, just to name a few.
Yet still, as always, people question our coach.
Why doesn’t he recruit three and four star players and develop talent?
He is a recruiter, not a coach!
John Calipari is an innovator. He, basically, single-handedly, started the one-and-done style of recruiting, which Duke, Kansas, and UNC have come aboard. As seen by the most recent committment of recruits, Cal seems to be up to more innovation. Going after grad transfers, not pushing all-in on top 5 players, having guys come back more and more every year. Look at this years team- Ashton Hagans, Immanuel Quickley, and it’s looking more and more like EJ Montgomery and Nick Richards will both be returning. Nate Sestina is the second, high-level grad transfer in consecutive years, after Reid Travis last year (and I am not counting us out for Blackshear, though he likely remains in the draft). WE HAVE 5 PLAYERS WITH A MINIMUM OF A YEAR OF EXPERIENCE COMING BACK, on top of ANOTHER #1 recruiting class, which could improve, with the potential addition of five star PF Jaden McDaniels.
I guess I’m confused, what do the scrutinizers want? Another Tubby or Gillispie?
I believe in my coach.
2019-2020 Current Roster-
Hagans- So. PG
Quickley- So. CG
Maxey- Fr. CG
Juzang- Fr. SG/SF
Allen- Fr. SF
Whitney- Fr. SF
Brooks- Fr. SF
Sestina- Sr. PF
Mongomery (likely)- So. PF
Richards (likely)- So. C
I think Coach Cal is doing just fine, and an NCAA Championship is right on the horizon!