Coming off the plane from the Tigers Sweet Sixteen loss to Missouri, John Calipari told reporters... "I want to be here. This is where I want to coach."
And Memphis fans everywhere heave a sigh of relief.
What we should have been listening to was a few sentences later... "I'm so tired right now."
Sure, the guy is tired. It's been a whirlwind season... Probably one of the better seasons as far as John Calipari's coaching and his effort are concerned. But John Calipari wasn't talking about being tired. He wasn't talking about his feelings on the Sweet Sixteen. What John Calipari was truly talking about were the things he left unsaid...
"I'm not entirely committed to this program."
"I always have my eye on the next big prize."
"I will go down in NCAA history no matter who I must step on or over to do so."
As soon as I heard that initial Fox13 interview, dread welled up inside of me. When John Calipari said he wants to coach in Memphis, it sounded just like a star college athlete, fresh on the heels of losing the big game, who never directly addresses questions about declaring for the draft. John Calipari sounded just like the star who, right after losing the Super Bowl, is approaching free agency, but declines to comment on that after the big game.
What I really needed to hear as a Tiger fan is the message Gator fans across the nation received the day before... "In response to the rumors circulating about my interest in other jobs, I wanted to address this as quickly as possible. I am committed to the University of Florida and look forward to continuing to build our program here.” - Billy Donovan
Thank you, Billy Donovan. A man who has previously turned down big jobs, turned down the NBA, a man who is truly leading his players and fans. Thank you for being upfront, upright and direct.
We received no such response from John Calipari. Upon noticing that little sin of omission, my heart sank quite a bit.
John Calipari is a politician before he is a coach. Take what you will from that in regard to his coaching abilities. It has long been said that if he ran for mayor of Memphis, he'd win in a landslide. That's how John Calipari convinced Dajaun Wagner, Sean Banks, Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans, and supposedly Xavier Henry, Demarcus Cousins and John Wall to join the gimpy Conference USA to play at the University of Memphis. That's how John Calipari scored air-time on major networks. That's how Nike, FedEx and pretty much the whole dad gum city of Memphis came to be Tiger faithful.
The greatest ability of a politician is positioning. Normally, I'd make a Kama Sutra joke here, but I'm too depressed. John Calipari has positioned his way into success, both for the University of Memphis and himself. Whether that success be wins, raises or recruits, John Calipari knows how to sell himself and sell the crew signing his paychecks.
John Calipari seems to get a raise each year, whether that be money, years, perks, concubines. I recently asked myself, "Where does it stop?" Why, Lexington, KY, of course.
I've heard several arguments on how John Calipari was able to get away. Some believe that Conference USA couldn't contain John Calipari any longer. Some say John Calipari is simply a money-grubbing whore who ripped out the heart of a city. It was hard to disagree with that once I learned that UK offered John Calipari a 8-year, $35 million dollar job (higher than most NBA coaches).
I am inclined to agree with the theory that John Calipari, at his most sincere, longs to be in the spotlight. John Calipari longs to be mainstream. He may have said it best himself when he told Fox13, "I'm so tired right now." John Calipari is tired of having to fight and claw his way onto ESPN, Fox's The Best Damn Sports Show, AP and USA Today polls, and the front pages of every sports related show and website in existence. John Calipari's ferocious ego has finally outgrown the city of Memphis. Now that he has pooped all over our pasture, John Calipari is moving on to more expansive lands. In Kentucky, there will be more than enough cud for John Calipari to chew on. I decided to go with the farmland analogy in honor of Kentucky. I don't know if there are farmers, pastures or cud in Kentucky, but I like to think so.
Sadly, John Calipari won't be going to Kentucky alone. He'll take most of his posse from here in Memphis. He'll take at least two current players, Roburt Sallie and Wesley Witherspoon, who've told friends they are transferring. He'll take most of the number one recruiting class of all time with him, a class that the city of Memphis has been buzzing about for months. Most importantly, he'll take the pride that he'd built with the people and in the city of Memphis, dash it on the asphalt, reckoning our program as nothing more than a stepping stone upon which he was able to elevate himself to the so-called basketball elite.
While we wait for the heart-breaking news conference, telling everyone what we already know and fear, I am grateful for what John Calipari has done while in Memphis. He has consistently talked about the great city of Memphis, the love for the Tigers, and how much the city needs the Tigers to represent them. He has always been a strong proponent of all things Memphis and worked to be accepted by the community, rather than just coaching basketball. Based on that fact alone, his accomplishments and constant good-will toward the city are completely overcast by the manner in which John Calipari is leaving. He is treading on the name and image that he tried so hard to raise up, mocking Memphis for the sake of elevating himself to NCAA elitism. Regardless of the good times, John Calipari's exodus is filthy and despicable. For Memphis fans all around, today is the day Coach Cal becomes nothing more than John Calipari.