John Calipari: Is he successful or underachieving?

I thought I would be done with Calipari after his Kentucky Wildcats were eliminated from the NCAA Tournament in Memphis by North Carolina yesterday (in heartbreaking fashion, no less), but the theme today on a lot of national sites & shows is whether or not he is underachieving at Kentucky with the amount of talent that he’s able to recruit.  Regardless of the fact that, yesterday, his team was the underdog against North Carolina (most books had UNC -2.5).

People jump on these stupid hot takes.  The narrative isn’t that simple – he’s been able to win at an incredibly high level, but it depends on what you think of the talent.  I’m on both sides of this.  I understand that he’s had a ton of NBA talent there.  He’s had 28 NBA draft picks at Kentucky in the last 8 years.  That’s almost 3 picks per year.  But I don’t know that basketball has as much to do with talent as it does chemistry… and the luck of your draw in the NCAA Tournament.

And wouldn’t underachieving be based on losing as a higher seed in the tournament as opposed to losing, period?

In the last 8 years, the next closest to Kentucky in regards to the number of NBA draft picks is Duke and North Carolina, who each have had 14 draft picks in that time span, but I think it’s more than just NBA draft picks.  Because, honestly, the NBA drafts based on potential in the league, not based on what the kids did in college. Kentucky has built teams based on incoming freshmen who are good enough to be heading to the NBA right after their freshman seasons.  Other teams can build a good team over a few years – Kentucky competes in the tournament year in and year out.   Now, if basketball coaching rankings were determined only by NCAA Championships, which it is, to some degree, then Coach K would stand head and shoulders above everyone else in this generation.  In the history of college basketball, only 14 coaches have won 2 or more national championships in their career.  Of today’s active coaches, only Coach K, Roy Williams, and Rick Pitino have done it, and K is the only one to win 2 in the last 8 years.  Williams won in 2005 and 2009 – more than 8 seasons ago.  So it’s not as simple as people think.

And don’t compare it to football – in football, you’re not competing in a field of 68 teams, selected out of around 330 teams, where you have to win 6 straight games to win a title – where you just need to win your league and hope for rankings to turn out in your favor.  In basketball, it’s all about seeding and how well you matchup in your bracket.

So, let’s compare a few things.

Coaches with Championships since 2009 (when Cal arrived at Kentucky)

  • Mike Krzyzewski: 2 (2010, 2015)
  • Jim Calhoun: 1 (2011)
  • John Calipari: 1 (2012)
  • Rick Pitino: 1 (2013)
  • Kevin Ollie: 1 (2014)
  • Jay Wright: 1 (2016)

Coach K has made 2 Final Fours in the last 8 years, and won championships in both of those seasons.  The only coach on this list that doesn’t seem to make much sense is Kevin Ollie, who was able to make the final four as a 7 seed, thanks to Shabazz Napier absolutely going insane through the Big East and NCAA Tournaments.

Coaches with Final Fours since 2009

  • Calipari: 4 (2011, 2012, 2014, 2015)
  • Mike Krzyzewski: 2 (2010, 2015)
  • Jim Boeheim: 2 (2013, 2016)
  • Bo Ryan: 2 (2014, 2015)
  • Roy Williams: 2 (2016, 2017)
  • Rick Pitino: 2 (2012, 2013)
  • Bob Huggins: 1 (2010)
  • Brad Stevens: 1 (2010, 2011)
  • Tom Izzo: 1 (2010, 2015)
  • Jim Calhoun: 1 (2011)
  • Shaka Smart: 1 (2011)
  • Thad Matta: 1 (2012)
  • Bill Self: 1 (2012)
  • Gregg Marshall: 1 (2013)
  • John Beilein: 1 (2013)
  • Kevin Ollie: 1 (2014)
  • Billy Donovan: 1 (2014)
  • Jay Wright: 1 (2016)
  • Lon Kruger: 1 (2016)
  • Frank Martin: 1 (2017)
  • Mark Few: 1 (2017)
  • Dana Altman: 1 (2017)

Calipari has twice as many Final Fours in the last 8 years than anyone else, but he’s only been able to turn those into 1 Championship, which is where people have problems with him.  But with some of the names on this list, sometimes the better talent doesn’t always win.

In my opinion, the underachieving part has to do with being upset by a team that is more than one seed line below you.  So let’s take a look at a few of the “best coaches in college basketball” that always seem to underachieve.

Best Coaches over the last 8 seasons

 

  • Mike Krzyzewski, Duke
  • John Calipari, Kentucky
  • Tom Izzo, Michigan State
  • Roy Williams, North Carolina
  • Rick Pitino, Louisville
  • Jay Wright, Villanova
  • Bo Ryan, Wisconsin
  • Bill Self, Kansas
  • Sean Miller, Arizona
  • Tony Bennett, Virginia

So let’s compare the postseasons for each of these coaches over the last 8 years…

Mike Krzyzewski

2 National Championships, 2 Final Fours, 3 Elite Eights, 5 Sweet 16s, 6 Round of 32s, 8 Tourney Appearances

  • 2010: #1 seed – National Champions (beat 16 Ark-Pine Bluff, 8 Cal, 4 Purdue, 3 Baylor, 2 West Virginia, 5 Butler) 6-0
  • 2011: #1 seed – Sweet 16 (beat 16 Hampton, 8 Michigan, lost to 5 Arizona) 2-1
  • 2012: #2 seed – Round of 64 (lost to 15 Lehigh) 0-1
  • 2013: #2 seed – Elite Eight (beat 15 Albany, 7 Creighton, 3 Michigan St, lost to 1 Louisville) 3-1
  • 2014: #3 seed – Round of 64 (lost to 14 Mercer) 0-1
  • 2015: #1 seed – National Champions (beat 16 Robert Morris, 8 SDSU, 5 Utah, 2 Gonzaga, 7 Mich St, 1 Wisconsin) 6-0
  • 2016: #4 seed – Sweet 16 (beat 13 UNC Wilmington, 12 Yale, lost to 1 Oregon) 2-1
  • 2017: #2 seed – Round of 32 (beat 15 Troy, lost to 7 South Carolina) 1-1

John Calipari

1 National Championship, 4 Final Fours, 6 Elite Eights, 6 Sweet 16s, 7 Round of 32s, 7 Tourney Appearances

  • 2010: #1 seed – Elite Eight (beat 16 ETSU, 9 Wake Forest, 12 Cornell, lost to 2 WVU) 3-1
  • 2011: #4 seed – Final Four (beat 13 Princeton, 5 West Virginia, 1 Ohio St, 2 North Carolina, lost to 3 UConn ) 4-1
  • 2012: #1 seed – National Champions (beat 16 WKU, 8 Iowa St, 4 Indiana, 3 Baylor, 4 Louisville, 2 Kansas) 6-0
  • 2013: missed NCAA Tournament (21-12, lost in NIT First Round to Robert Morris)
  • 2014: #8 seed – Championship game (beat 9 Kansas St, 1 Wichita St, 4 Louisville, 2 Michigan, 2 Wisconsin, lost to 7 UConn) 5-1
  • 2015: #1 seed – Final Four (beat 16 Hampton, 8 Cinci, 5 WVU, 3 Notre Dame, lost to 1 Wisconsin) 4-1
  • 2016: #4 seed – Round of 32 (beat 13 Stony Brook, lost to 5 Indiana) 1-1
  • 2017: #2 seed – Elite Eight (beat 15 Northern Kentucky, 10 Wichita St, 3 UCLA, lost to 1 North Carolina) 3-1

Tom Izzo

2 Final Fours, 3 Elite Eights, 5 Sweet 16s, 6 Round of 32s, 8 Tourney Appearances

  • 2010: #5 seed – Final Four (beat 12 New Mex St, 4 Maryland, 9 Northern Iowa, 6 Tenn, lost to 5 Butler) 4-1
  • 2011: #10 seed – Round of 64 (lost to 7 UCLA) 0-1
  • 2012: #1 seed – Sweet 16 (beat 16 Long Island, 9 St Louis, lost to 4 Louisville) 2-1
  • 2013: #3 seed – Sweet 16 (beat 14 Valparaiso, 6 Memphis, lost to 2 Duke) 2-1
  • 2014: #4 seed – Elite Eight (beat 13 Delaware, 12 Harvard, 1 Virginia, lost to 7 UConn) 3-1
  • 2015: #7 seed – Final Four (beat 10 Georgia, 2 Virginia, 3 Oklahoma, 4 Louisville, lost to 1 Duke) 4-1
  • 2016: #2 seed – Round of 64 (lost to 15 MTSU) 0-1
  • 2017: #9 seed – Round of 32 (beat 8 Miami, lost to 1 Kansas) 2-1

Roy Williams

2 Final Fours, 4 Elite Eights, 5 Sweet 16s, 7 Round of 32s, 7 Tourney Appearances

  • 2010: missed NCAA Tournament (20-17 record, lost in NIT Championship Game to Dayton)
  • 2011: #2 seed – Elite Eight (beat 15 Long Island, 7 Washington, 11 Marquette, lost to 4 Kentucky)
  • 2012: #1 seed – Elite Eight (beat 16 Vermont, 8 Creighton, 13 Ohio, lost to 2 Kansas)
  • 2013: #8 seed – Round of 32 (beat 9 Villanova, lost to 1 Kansas)
  • 2014: #6 seed – Round of 32 (beat 11 Providence, lost to 3 Iowa St)
  • 2015: #4 seed – Sweet 16 (beat 13 Harvard, 5 Arkansas, lost to 1 Wisconsin)
  • 2016: #1 seed – Championship Game (beat 16 FGCU, 9 Providence, 5 Indiana, 6 Notre Dame, 10 Syracuse, lost to 2 Villanova)
  • 2017: #1 seed – *Final Four (still pending) (beat 16 Tex So, 8 Arkansas, 4 Butler, 2 Kentucky)

Rick Pitino

1 National Championship, 2 Final Fours, 3 Elite Eights, 4 Sweet 16s, 5 Round of 32s, 7 Tourney Appearances

  • 2010: #9 seed – Round of 64 (lost to 8 California)
  • 2011: #4 seed – Round of 64 (lost to 13 Morehead St)
  • 2012: #4 seed – Final Four (beat 13 Davidson, 5 New Mexico, 1 Mich St, 7 Florida, lost to 1 Kentucky)
  • 2013: #1 seed – National Champions (beat 16 NC A&T, 8 Colo St, 12 Oregon, 2 Duke, 9 Wichita St, 4 Michigan)
  • 2014: #4 seed – Sweet 16 (beat 13 Manhattan, 5 St. Louis, lost to 8 Kentucky)
  • 2015: #4 seed – Elite Eight (beat 13 UC Irvine, 5 Northern Iowa, 8 NC State, lost to 7 Mich St)
  • 2016: postseason ban (NCAA Violations)
  • 2017: #2 seed – Round of 32 (beat 15 Jacksonville St, lost to 7 Michigan)

Jay Wright

1 National Championships, 1 Final Fours, 1 Elite Eights, 1 Sweet 16s, 5 Round of 32s, 7 Tourney Appearances

  • 2010: #2 seed – Round of 32 (beat 15 Robert Morris, lost to 10 St Mary’s)
  • 2011: #9 seed – Round of 64 (lost to 8 George Mason)
  • 2012: missed NCAA Tournament (13-19)
  • 2013: #9 seed – Round of 64 (lost to 8 North Carolina)
  • 2014: #2 seed – Round of 32 (beat 15 Milwaukee, lost to 7 UConn)
  • 2015: #1 seed – Round of 32 (beat 16 Lafayette, lost to 8 NC State)
  • 2016: #2 seed – National Champions (beat 15 UNC Asheville, 7 Iowa, 3 Miami, 1 Kansas, 2 Oklahoma, 1 North Carolina)
  • 2017: #1 seed – Round of 32 (beat 16 Mt St Mary’s, lost to 8 Wisconsin)

Bo Ryan (only 6 years – resigned during 2016 season)

2 Final Fours, 2 Elite Eights, 4 Sweet 16s, 5 Round of 32s, 6 Tourney Appearances

  • 2010: #4 seed – Round of 32 (beat 13 Wofford, lost to 12 Cornell)
  • 2011: #4 seed – Sweet 16 (beat 13 Belmont, 5 Kansas St, lost to 8 Butler)
  • 2012: #4 seed – Sweet 16 (beat 13 Montana, 5 Vanderbilt, lost to 1 Syracuse)
  • 2013: #5 seed – Round of 64 (lost to #12 Ole Miss)
  • 2014: #2 seed – Final Four (beat 15 American, 7 Oregon, 6 Baylor, 1 Arizona, lost to 8 Kentucky)
  • 2015: #1 seed – Championship Game (beat 16 Coastal Carolina, 8 Oregon, 4 North Carolina, 2 Arizona, 1 Kentucky, lost to 1 Duke)

Bill Self

1 Final Four, 4 Elite Eights, 5 Sweet 16s, 8 Round of 32s, 8 Tourney Appearances

  • 2010: #1 seed – Round of 32 (beat 16 Lehigh, lost to 9 Northern Iowa)
  • 2011: #1 seed – Elite Eight (beat 16 Boston U, 9 Illinois, 12 Richmond, lost to 11 VCU)
  • 2012: #2 seed – Championship game (beat 15 Detroit, 10 Purdue, 11 NC St, 1 North Carolina, 2 Ohio St, lost to 1 Kentucky)
  • 2013: #1 seed – Sweet 16 (beat 16 WKU, 8 North Carolina, lost to 4 Michigan)
  • 2014: #2 seed – Round of 32 (beat 15 Eastern Kentucky, lost to 10 Stanford)
  • 2015: #2 seed – Round of 32 (beat 15 New Mexico St, lost to 7 Wichita St)
  • 2016: #1 seed – Elite Eight (beat 16 Austin Peay, 9 UConn, 5 Maryland, lost to 2 Villanova)
  • 2017: #1 seed – Elite Eight (beat 16 UC Davis, 9 Mich St, 4 Purdue, lost to 3 Oregon)

Sean Miller

3 Elite Eights, 5 Sweet 16s, 5 Round of 32s, 6 Tourney Appearances

  • 2010: missed NCAA Tournament (16-15)
  • 2011: #5 seed – Elite Eight (beat 12 Memphis, 4 Texas, 1 Duke, lost to 3 UConn)
  • 2012: missed NCAA Tournament (23-12, lost in NIT First Round to Bucknell)
  • 2013: #6 seed – Sweet 16 (beat 11 Belmont, 14 Harvard, lost to 2 Ohio St)
  • 2014: #1 seed – Elite Eight (beat 16 Weber St, 8 Gonzaga, 4 San Diego St, lost to 2 Wisconsin)
  • 2015: #2 seed – Elite Eight (beat 15 Texas Southern, 10 Ohio St, 6 Xavier, lost to 1 Wisconsin)
  • 2016: #6 seed – Round of 64 (lost to 11 Wichita St)
  • 2017: #2 seed – Sweet 16 (beat 15 North Dakota, 7 St Mary’s, lost to 11 Xavier)

Tony Bennett

1 Elite Eight, 2 Sweet 16s, 4 Round of 32s, 5 Tourney Appearances

  • 2010: missed NCAA Tournament (15-16 record)
  • 2011: missed NCAA Tournament (16-15 record)
  • 2012: #10 seed – Round of 64 (lost to 7 Florida)
  • 2013: missed NCAA Tournament (23-12, lost in NIT Quarterfinals to Iowa)
  • 2014: #1 seed – Sweet 16 (beat 16 Coastal Carolina, 8 Memphis, lost to 4 Michigan St)
  • 2015: #2 seed – Round of 32 (beat 15 Belmont, lost to 7 Michigan St)
  • 2016: #1 seed – Elite Eight (beat 16 Hampton, 9 Butler, 4 Iowa St, lost to 10 Syracuse)
  • 2017: #5 seed – Round of 32 (beat 12 UNC Wilmington, lost to 4 Florida)

So, truth be told, Calipari has the mark of not making the 2013 NCAA Tournament (due to Nerlens Noel being injured), but he has the most Final Fours, the most Elite Eights, and has no major upsets (as defined by losing to a team 2 or more seed lines under you).  Let’s compare some other stats.

Best Coaches over the last 8 seasons: NCAA Tourney Records

We’re going to count even seeds as higher seeds (because the only way you can beat an even seeded team is in the Final Four).  But let’s see what the records look like when you count up wins and losses against teams with a higher seed and lower seed than the one each coach received that year.

Now, I understand that having the higher seed does not always mean that you’re the betting favorite in that game, but it does mean you’re supposed to have the strong team because you had the stronger resume throughout the season, as determined by the NCAA selection committee.  I understand that there have been other great NCAA Tournament coaches in this time-span (Bob Huggins, Chris Mack, etc), but I’m just going with a few that people regularly think of as big-time college basketball coaches, and I think that you’ll find all of these rankings interesting.

So, over the last 8 years, according to rankings of overall NCAA Tourney winning percentage, overall percentage vs lower seeds, and percentage vs higher seeds, this is what the overall average ranking comes out to be:

  1. John Calipari  1.67   (1,1,3)
  2. Mike Kryzyzewski  4   (2,3,7)
  3. Roy Williams  5   (3,2,10) / Rick Pitino  5   (4,4,7) / Bill Self  5   (5,8,2)
  4. Tom Izzo  6   (8,6,4) / Sean Miller  6   (7,5,6) / Bo Ryan  6   (6,7,5)
  5. Jay Wright  6.67   (9,10,1)
  6. Tony Bennett  9.33   (10,9,9)

So if you still believe that John Calipari is underachieving in the NCAA Tournament, just take a look at what he’s been able to accomplish in the last 8 years – and that’s including missing the 2013 tournament.  The funny thing is that Roy Williams could win this year’s tournament and the only way he’d be able to help his numbers is by beating Gonzaga in the Championship game, which would give him 1 win vs teams seeded higher or equal, which would have him in 9th place with a 1-3 record in that field, which would actually put him alone at #3 with 4.67, and move everybody else back a spot.

Know your stats before you jump the gun.


TunicaTravel.com
About Gary Segars 599 Articles
Gary began his first website in 1998 as a sophomore in high school, writing reviews of cds and live shows in the Memphis area. He became editor of his college newspaper, then moved towards a career in music.He started the infamous MemphisTider.com blog during the 2006 football season, and was lucky enough to get into blogging just before the coaching search that landed Nick Saban at Alabama. The month and a half long coaching search netted his site, which was known for tracking airplanes, over 1 million hits in less than 90 days. The website introduced Gary to tons of new friends, including Nico and Todd, who had just started the site RollBamaRoll.com.After diving into more than just Alabama news, Gary started up his first installment of WinningCuresEverything.com in 2012. After keeping the site quiet for a while, it was started back up in April 2016. Gary then joined forces with high school friend Chris Giannini and began a podcast during the 2016 football season that runs at least 2 times a week, focusing on college football, NFL football, and sports wagering, and diving into other sports and pop-culture topics.E-mail: gary@winningcureseverything.com Twitter: @GaryWCE