John Calipari’s Not Going To Stop Playing 18-Year-Olds Because Mid-Majors Are Playing Grown Men | Here’s Why You Can’t Fire Calipari and Praise Tom Izzo

Kentucky fans and the college basketball world at large are calling for Kentucky Wildcats coach John Calipari to be fired after the Wildcats fell to Oakland 80-76 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament Thursday night.

The No. 14-seeded Golden Grizzlies pulled off a massive upset over the No. 3-seeded Wildcats, marking Kentucky’s second upset in the past three seasons.

While the large majority of fans and media start calling for heads, it also shows a lack of understanding of the sports landscape. The demands for Calipari’s job after 15 years at the helm are emotional overactions in the moment.  

Champ Doesn’t Think Calipari Should Go

Calipari has had some early exits and also failed to make the tournament over the past five seasons. The abundance of future NBA lottery picks makes it easy to criticize Calipari, or assume Kentucky is supposed to be able to stomp on mid-majors in the NCAA Tournament because of the school’s tradition and track record. 

Again, that would be failing to understand how drastically the landscape of men’s college basketball has changed. 

I went to one of the sharpest sports minds in the game, who doesn’t think Calipari should get fired and believes coaches like Tom Izzo get a pass.

“You have a lot of people that are misinformed,” said the sports guru, “Champ From Detroit”. “These networks and television shows, they praise these coaches and brag about them making it to the Final Four, winning 20 games and getting huge contract extensions on their contracts and making a ton of money.”

From his perspective, Calipari has done so much for the game and the athlete. He’s the ultimate player’s coach. Top recruits traditionally come into his program, they go one-and-done, they win 25-plus games historically since he’s been there. He has an NCAA tournament record of 57 wins and 22 losses with Umass, Memphis and Kentucky (32-11). He’s been to six Final Fours, three national championship games and won a title.

People are calling for Kentucky coach John Calipari’s job while praising Michigan State coach Tom Izzo for winning in a way that’s much less beneficial to the player. (Photo: Getty Images)

As a draftable college basketball player, you look at the NBA and you see all of these players making a lot of money and you know you won’t be in college more than a year or two, because the objective is to get paid. For the coaches, and now especially, the players. 

That’s what Calipari has always offered.

So What Do People Calling For John Calipari’s Head Want From Him?

Calipari is a coach whose brand and program is still very relevant each season, despite the entire recruiting game changing overnight and the waning lure of blue-blood programs.    

Do they want Kentucky to win five or six national championships? Is it to fill the seats, or to get the one-and -done players? 

Every program and top coach have a game plan and sets organizational goals. You can’t have it all and can’t please everybody. Consistency is really the key, as well as being able to withstand large-scale changes in the recruiting dynamics. 

ESPN, CBS and all of these networks brag about college coaches who won a championship 25 years ago, but they get Top 100 players historically to stay in school three or four years and advance to the Final Four. So when we talk about Calipari, he doesn’t stand alone as this coach who has failed to meet the high expectations of fans and media. 

While Calipari has always been credited with getting superstars to come for one year, try to win a title and then go off to the land of riches in the NBA, Michigan State coach Tom Izzo has been the great benefactor of excellent players with mid-pro potential staying for at least three years in school and then having success in the NCAA Tournament. 

Izzo holds an overall record of 56-24 in the NCAA Tournament across his 29 years in East Lansing. He has the fifth-most Final Four appearances among coaches in NCAA Tournament history (eight), behind only legendary college basketball coaches such as Krzyzewski, John Wooden, Dean Smith and Roy Williams.

They say he owns the month, but he has the same number of titles as Calipari. Izzo is no stranger to losing big games.

It’s really just a matter of style, and how you want to conduct university hoops business. Izzo’s track record in the NCAA Tournament has some blemishes as well, but he’s comfortably been at Michigan State for over 25 years, winning just one national title in 2000, led by a spunky four-year point guard names Mateen Cleaves. 

“Look at Izzo’s record in the Final Fours since that magical run in 2000. He was blown out in 2005, he was blown out in 2009. He blew the game against Butler. He blew the tournament game against Texas Tech,” Champ said.  

Mid-Majors Copying Tom Izzo Blueprint

The benchmark for Michigan State seems to be going to the Final Four and losing. We shouldn’t put Kentucky on a higher pedestal based on what they did 40 or 50 years ago.  

The landscape of college basketball right now, for the teams that are most successful, is what Tom Izzo has built a career on; Older players winning three or four games in the NCAA Tournament and everybody bragging about how great the Spartans are and raving about Izzo’s program and how they make the Final Four every three or four years with senior players. 

Now with the NIL money and many of the top players going overseas or G-League to NBA and forgoing college altogether, the mid-majors are on the come-up because they are using Izzo’s old school formula for success. They’re winning with grad transfers that are 23 or 24 years old and they are making the deep runs into the tournament. They still usually end up losing to the elite teams, but the age and experience is definitely a factor. 

Calipari and Izzo Have Contrasting Styles Of Capitalizing Off Black Athletes

We need to start holding coaches accountable at the high major levels, because they get these lifetime deals for winning 25-plus games and make a Final Four, and if they win one, that usually means a 20-year job extension. 

Let’s be real. These coaches have built lavish lifestyles off the backs of poor, Black inner-city kids that are winning them 20 games each year and maintaining their jobs. 

They take two-week vacations to France and have the nerve to complain about kids transferring or wanting NIL money. They have eaten so well off the system they don’t want it to stop.

You can’t criticize Calipari who has brought Black kids from the inner-city to Kentucky and tells them, “Come in here and help me win for a year and go get rich. You can’t stay for two years.”

Calipari’s philosophy was progressive and upset the apple cart, a first step in weakening the power and control the NCAA had over top recruits and the quickest routes they had to financially capitalize on their talents.

You Can’t Have It Both Ways  

You can’t sit up here and kill Calipari, but praise Tom Izzo. At least he’s making sure his guys get paid and he’s not the only one eating steak and lobster for dinner. The days of the Ramen Noodle and ketchup college meal is over. Uber costs $25 a pop for one person and these Generation Z kids got to have it. 

Calipari has sent close to 50 players to the NBA, some of them became legends of the game and superstars such as D-Rose (Memphis), Anthony Davis, Karl-Anthony Towns, Devin Booker, DeMarcus Cousins (Kentucky) and more.

Calipari Is Selling What Recruits Want To Hear

As far as March Madness success with Kentucky goes, Calipari has always been hit or miss because what he’s selling is a way to get rich and provide for your family as a player as quick as possible. He’s even leading a cutting-edge NIL collective at Kentucky to stay ahead of the changing landscape. Calipari usually has one of the youngest teams in the tournament because helping him fill his trophy case with Elite Eight appearances is not his endgame. Sometimes those one-and-done guys bought in, sometimes they didn’t.

Like Keyshawn Johnson said on “Undisputed,” when Skip called for Calipari’s dismissal: “Calipari is coaching a different game.”

Izzo, whose No. 9- seeded Michigan State Spartans defeated No. 8 Mississippi State 69-51 in a first-round NCAA West Regional game on Thursday, prefers players he has more control over, who intend to be at the college level long enough to build strong chemistry and make tournament runs. 

Neither school has the same lock on recruiting as it did pre-NIL, but if you have a problem with Calipari, then you have to have the same problem with Izzo. Both are exploiting a system, but Izzo is the only one that eats at his table.

Back to top