“If he’s a lottery pick, I’m retiring, I’m done. There’s nothing more I can do.” Kentucky Wildcats head coach John Calipari recently told the media this when discussing the possibility of NBA Combine superstar (and UK Wildcat) Hamidou Diallo being taken early on in the first round of the 2017 NBA Draft. While Coach Cal has become known for his propensity for producing one-and-done talent at Kentucky, Diallo took things to the next level, as he enrolled a semester early at Kentucky this past winter and never even played in a game there.
Diallo opted to graduate high school in December and enroll at Kentucky in January. Cal never planned on playing Diallo during the part of season in which he was a member of the team, choosing instead to hone his skills in practice. Diallo indeed never suited up for the Wildcats, but, since he’ll turn 19 years old this summer, the semester’s worth of college basketball participation makes Diallo eligible for the draft.
A former five-star prospect out of Queens, New York, 6’5” shooting guard Hamidou Diallo is a freak athlete, recently accruing the second-highest vertical leap in NBA Combine history with a jump of 44.5 inches. Sporting a nearly seven-foot wingspan, Diallo’s intangibles are out of this world, and, in today’s NBA, impressive intangibles and raw talent are enough to make a player a top priority in the NBA Draft.
— NBA Draft (@NBADraft) May 11, 2017
So Calipari really has nothing to do with Diallo rising up draft boards. Therefore, his half-hearted comment about retiring was essentially an unnecessary pat on the back. Calipari has gained notoriety in recent years for making remarks to the media concerning his players’ propensities to go one and done. At one point, Calipari even stated to the media that he wasn’t at Kentucky to win championships but rather to get his players to the NBA. While a noble concern of his, that remark came across as a cop-out of sorts, almost as if Calipari is justifying to himself that failing to win a championship every year while consistently boasting the nation’s best talent is okay. Just so long as a lot of his players get drafted.
Furthermore, saying, “there’s nothing more I can do,” was a horrible faux pas by Calipari, as that should definitely raise red flags regarding where his heart lies in coaching. Considering that he’s only 58 years old and could easily win a national championship at Kentucky every single season because of the talent that he consistently boasts, there’s plenty more that Cal could do. Sure, he’s won a title with the Wildcats and has been to six Final Fours throughout his college coaching career, but if he truly loves coaching, which is debatable, then he should continue to coach.
If anything, Calipari’s remark concerning Diallo was incredibly self-serving. He oversaw Diallo in practices for three months, and that was the full extent of their time together. Cal didn’t impact Diallo enough to impact his draft stock. Diallo technically never even played for Calipari. The reason that Diallo is a borderline lottery pick is because of his potential and his measurables. His stint at Kentucky has nothing to do with it.
So Calipari needs to get a clue and stop with the self-aggrandizing remarks intended to bolster his legacy. No matter what he says to try to change this, his legacy will ultimately be defined by the on-court success of his teams, not the NBA careers of his former players. Because no college sports coach has ever been defined by that, and Calipari certainly won’t be the first.