Archive for Monday, April 7, 2008

Keegan: Calipari, Self cut from same cloth

April 7, 2008


2008 NCAA Tournament

2008 NCAA Tournament

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— Memphis basketball coach John Calipari could buy a mattress store or three with cash today if he so desired, but it wasn't always that way.

Calipari was new to Lawrence, just hired as a graduate assistant on Ted Owens' staff. Workers inside Allen Fieldhouse were breaking down a set from the movie, "The Day After," when Calipari took the opportunity to save a buck.

"They were throwing these cots away because the whole Allen Fieldhouse was a triage, so it was filled with cots," Calipari remembered fondly. "So I didn't have a bed. They're throwing these cots out, so I went over and took one. I got the wide cot. I had to put a piece of wood under it. But that was my first bed."

Calipari worked for Owens in his last year on the job at Kansas and for Larry Brown in his first year.

"I loved it," "Calipari said. "I was a volunteer. To eat, I worked at the training table. I would serve peas or corn. 'What would you like? I'll be there for practice if you want to do some extra shooting. Would you like peas or corn?' That's what I did. But you know what, it was the greatest time of my life. I remember the first time in Allen Fieldhouse, the old locker room. I went in, and it was old. I'm thinking, 'Phog Allen showered in this shower.' I mean, it was old. And I said, 'This has been here since the building, right?' They said, 'Yeah.' The storied history of Kansas."

Then Calipari moved onto a job with more responsibility at Pittsburgh, and two weeks later Brown had a new, similarly energetic, bright and ambitious graduate assistant by the name of Bill Self.

"I'm sure John did have a lot of those jobs," Self said of the peas-or-corn question. "I think my jobs were much more meaningful than serving the peas and the corn. I was in charge of making sure we rented out the correct bowling alley on game days and numerous things like that, because you know coach Brown, he's very, very, very superstitious, because if you bowl and you play well, you probably played well because you bowled on that lane, had nothing to do with Danny (Manning). So, you know, I had many responsibilities like that. You know, Cal is right in this regard: making $4,500 a year, being a grad student, all that stuff. I don't know if I could have had more fun than what I had that grad assistant year in Lawrence."

Somewhere close to 11 p.m. today, either Self or Calipari will win his first national title. When that happens, Brown will be elated. And heart-broken. He'll love it. And he'll hate it.

Self is close with Brown, but Self said Calipari is even closer. Both men credit Brown with having a big hand in helping to mold them into the coaches they are today.

"I thought at the time, and I still do, that he's the brightest mind I've ever been around," Self said of Brown. "... He was tough, but he made the game easy for the players."

Much like Calipari and Self.

"The thing that impressed me most about him was he was like a camera because he could see all 10 players on the court at once," Self said. "... I think I see the game and I developed my philosophy from him more than anybody else because, in large part, when I was with him, I knew absolutely nothing, so I was like a sponge just trying to soak everything up."

When the New Jersey Nets fired Calipari, Brown was right there to pick him back up by making him his assistant with the Philadelphia 76ers.

"Getting fired? Whoa, that's like falling down a flight of steps," Calipari said. "A lot of times there were people on the sideline kicking you to fall faster. And that's part of life. You find out who your friends are. I had a hundred calls when I got the job. I had, I have to say, three calls when I got fired. Larry Brown, my father, and Howard Garfinkel (Five-Star basketball camp director). Those were my three calls. So you know, anybody that's been through it knows what it is. That's why Larry Brown reaching out and saying, 'Come on down here and join me,' what it did for me, one it starts to bring you back. Men, their livelihood, how they make a living, is who they think they are. That's their life. So you kind of die. And so he helps there. He also confirmed how I felt about the game and how I teach it because I was with him."

Self and Calipari pursue the same type recruits. Fast and long. Rosters filled with such players tend to inspire observers to brand coaches as good recruiters. Teams with outstanding shooters and teams that prefer a slower pace tend to result in the coaches receiving credit for their masterful work during games. The stereotypes are nonsense, of course.

All great college basketball coaches excel in three areas: 1. They see how players will mesh when deciding which guys to recruit; 2. They motivate their players to play hard; 3. They get them to play together at both ends of the floor. Both Brown disciples bat 3-for-3. When the final buzzer sounds on the 2007-2008 college basketball season tonight, 20 seasons after Brown won it all with KU in his final college game, one man will be a national champion. The other will be mentioned alongside UCLA's Ben Howland and Rick Barnes of Texas as the best college basketball coaches who have yet to win a national title.


jayhawks71 10 years ago

So,let the talk begin... if Bill Self leaves KU for his alma mater (Just heard Dan Patrick say that reports are that Self is "really thinking about it" because of the truck of cash that Boone Pickens is waving at him) whom does KU pursue? My short list, in no specific order is John Calipari, Bruce Pearl, and Kevin Stallings. I would, one day love to see a Danny Manning or Mark Turgeon coaching the Jayhawks, but for Danny, it's about 7-8 years too soon and two jobs too early and for Turgeon about 3-4 years too early, and he is in the job that he needs at least a few years before consideration. What do you folks think?

trinity 10 years ago

what do i think? i think i'm about to absofreakin'lutely lose my MIND with all this chatter about will he or won't he go to oklahoma. and who is this dan patrick you speak of? and who is doing the reporting that self is "really thinking about it"? have they a hotline to coach self? i'm just wonderin'.

acg 10 years ago

These two men are not cut from the same cloth at all. Coach Self has class and Calipari does not! I saw that d-bag in an interview the other night and the reporter asked him how they felt about going up against KU for the final game and he was all "we're not worried about it. I don't see much from them in the way of defense, blah blah blah". What kind of tacky crap is that? Any good coach, with tact and diplomacy, would say "they have a good ball club, we're going to play our best, it should be a good match up" you know, the stock answer you give when trying to be respectful of your opposing team. Even Roy always used tact when speaking about other teams. Calipari was rude and I wanted to kick him in his junk. It's going to feel nice tonight when KU, you know, that team he's not too worried about, kicks his ass!

Alia Ahmed 10 years ago

Remember the story about Brandon Rush's court date. The KC Star says the story was false.

trinity 10 years ago

acg, i just love you!!! great post, hear hear! :) thanks tob; i did endeavor to google this patrick fellow. not so much to see. now-i'm off to follow logan's link about the court date, lol.i am absolutely hysterical already&game time is still 3 hours away! aghhhh!

trinity 10 years ago

hah! cool beans! thanks logan! but-the "dismissed without prejudice" thing kinda bugs me. :-/

jayhawks71 10 years ago

What was Calipari's role in the UMASS F4 being stripped. My understanding was that Marcus Camby was being paid by an agent while still a college player? Did Calipari know? Did Calipari endorse this? Let's face it Roy knowingly told boosters they could give cash gifts to players. I realize the rules are very convoluted, but unless Calipari endorsed/knew about it, then I can't get on his case. Honestly, I thought Bruce Pearl would get talked up a bit more. And, of course, I think and hope that Bill will stay. Self was my choice for a replacement for Roy to UNC 1 during which Roy said "I'm stayin'"

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