Connect with us

Men's Basketball

Former Kentucky Players Speak on John Calipari and Kentucky’s Woes

Published

on

© Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

Once the most popular man in the state Kentucky, John Calipari might have become the most divisive amongst the fanbase.

Over the last week, several former Wildcats have given their opinion players on DeMarcus Cousins, Rajon Rondo, and Antoine Walker spoke out on their opinion on the current situation at Kentucky.

Demarcus Cousins and Rajon Rondo

Rondo joined Cousins on his podcast Bully Ball, where the two provided different opinions on John Calipari. Cousins, who played for Calipari’s first Kentucky team took up for his former coach. “How did we get to this place of we’re now disrespecting the guy that created the standard,” Cousins asked.

Advertisement

“He’s brought more positivity to this university and to this fanbase than any negativity. No matter what university, no matter what legendary coach, they all went through a dry spell of losing tournaments, not really meeting the standard for that year. It happens with every program.”

Rondo, a Kentuckian who understands the prestige of the program before Calipari, responded with, “How many (champion)ships Cal got? It’s been over a decade. It’s about what have you done for me lately. Don’t disrespect the University of Kentucky, though. It’s been one of the greatest colleges of all time way before Cal got there.”

“I don’t understand how we get to the point where our next best option is to replace this coach,” Cousins said. “I never said replace him,” Rondo responded. Cousins says UK will take a big hit financially if Calipari were to be replaced. “Everything is going down.” Rondo disagreed, saying, “It’s UK. It is the brand. It’s Duke, North Carolina.”

Not wanting him fired, what is Rondo looking for Calipari to do?

Advertisement

“All I’m saying is, he has to get the guys to buy in. These guys are looking at the damn draft boards every day. Mentally, it’s like, okay, I want to do what’s best for the team, but at the same time my agent is calling me, I got the NIL deal money coming in. So these are just different times that these kids are going through to buy in. …I don’t think they did that completely in understanding, okay, we need to focus on winning versus looking at the draft board. I think that starts with Cal and the staff getting them to buy into that system”

Antoine Walker

Former Wildcat Antoine Walker also spoke about John Calipari on The Zach Gelb Show, where he says he’s still all-in on Calipari.

“I’m definitely still all-in,” Walker said. “I just think we have to understand that the landscape has just changed. He’s one of the best at doing it and bringing in talent, and maximizing and making good runs. But, It’s going to be tough, because you got to play older teams with the transfer portal, and things like that. It’s gonna be tough to win it all, but I’m still all-in on Cal.”

Walker says NIL can help Kentucky a lot to to correct course. “I think so because of the NIL, because guys are now having an opportunity to make money playing. You may be able to get guys to stay two or three years now. It won’t be such an urgency to go to the NBA.”

Advertisement

A large number of players don’t want Calipari gone, but they understand, just as the fanbase does, that he needs to self evaluate and making changes accordingly to adapt to the current landscape of college basketball.

Men's Basketball

Rick Pitino Endorses Mark Pope, “He Will Lead The Kentucky Wildcats To Another Championship”

Published

on

Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports/ Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

The captain of Rick Pitino’s 1996 “Untouchables”, Mark Pope, is “coming home” to lead the Kentucky Wildcats as the program’s next head coach, officially announced on Friday. While there has been some criticism of the hire, Pitino says he “couldn’t be any prouder to see Mark Pope lead the Kentucky Wildcats.”

While Pope has yet to win an NCAA Tournament game in two appearances, Pitino points out that several top coaches had their trials early in their careers. It took Jay Wright 11 seasons to win his first NCAA Tournament, and Billy Donovan was hired at Florida without an NCAA Tournament appearance. However, he heralds Pope as one of the “premier young coaches” in college basketball.

“Offensively, no one does it better,” Pitino said. “The way his teams move. The way his teams shoot the three. The ball movement. It’s outstanding.”

Advertisement

It’s just the X’s and O’s though, Pitino “guarantees” that Pope loves and understands the program as well as anyone. “I can guarantee to you one thing, that nobody epitomizes the name on the front of the jersey more than Mark Pope.”

“Mark Pope will go on to greatness. You can put it down,” Pitino said. “He will do you proud. “He will lead the Kentucky Wildcats to another championship”

If his endorsement isn’t enough, Rick Pitino says he will “write the check himself” for NIL to help Pope be successful.

Advertisement
Continue Reading

Men's Basketball

Mark Pope Releases Statement As He Is Announced As Kentucky Basketball Coach

Published

on

Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

Per UK Athletics

When his alma mater came calling, Mark Pope knew there was no place like home.

Pope, a captain of the University of Kentucky’s 1996 National Championship team, has returned to Lexington as the 23rd head coach of Kentucky’s storied men’s basketball program, announced Friday.

Advertisement

“The University of Kentucky is the pinnacle of coaching in college basketball,” Pope said. “It’s the definition of a blueblood program where hanging a banner is the expectation every year. Equally as important, UK changed my life forever as a human being. The love and passion I have for this program, this University and the people of the Commonwealth goes to the depth of my soul.”

“I’m thankful to Dr. (Eli) Capilouto and Mitch Barnhart for this opportunity. I’m proud to be your next head coach and I can’t wait to do this together!”

Pope is a nine-year head coaching veteran with stops at BYU and Utah Valley, amassing a 187-108 career record. His squads won 20 or more games in six of the last seven seasons and he has made six postseason appearances.

Advertisement
Continue Reading

Men's Basketball

REPORT: Mark Pope Set Sign Five-Year Deal to Become Next Kentucky Basketball Coach

Published

on

Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

Kentucky has found their guy. Former Wildcat and NCAA Champion, Mark Pope, is now expected to be named the next Kentucky basketball coach on a five-year contract worth $5.5 million annually, first reported by CBS Sports. For perspective, based on last season’s salaries, that is more than Dan Hurley (UConn), Scott Drew (Baylor), and Nate Oats (Alabama).

Pope comes to Kentucky with nine seasons of head coaching experience, after serving as an assistant for six seasons, from 2009-2015. In 2015, he was hired by Utah Valley where he coached for four seasons. In 2019, Pope was hired at BYU where he has taken them to two NCAA Tournaments, but has been upset by a double-digit seed in both appearances.

Pope has proven himself as a good X-and-O coach in his nine-year career, running one of the most innovative offenses in the country, but recruiting will be a real test as he has never signed a four-star recruit. Who he hires on to his staff and collecting NIL support will be critical.

Advertisement

The move has been met with much fan criticism, as fans have been quick to point out that Pope has never won a conference title or an NCAA Tournament game. However, Mitch Barnhart is confident in the move, with some reporting that he is “excited” with the hire.

Just three days into the coaching search, this is an interesting hire with several big names like Billy Donovan and Bruce Pearl potentially available. Barnhart made the decision not to wait for Donovan, who is currently coaching the Chicago Bulls, and Pearl was not considered due to his “baggage”.

A new era of Kentucky basketball has begun.

Advertisement
Continue Reading

Trending