In Coaching: Good/Bad/Unfair, Winning/Losing

There’s a sex scandal haunting Rick Pitino at Louisville. The high profile basketball coach has admitted to adultery in the wake of blackmail attempts by his former lover. Not to worry, because Louisville is sticking with their high powered coach despite his “alleged” hypocrisy and moral transgressions, (a devoted husband, father and practicing Catholic, Pitino has recently released a new book on how to live a champion’s life). Besides, what’s morality got to do with coaching basketball? The man’s a proven winner! Give him a break!

Then there’s “Mr. Teflon Man, John Calipari who last March signed an 8 year, $31.65 million contract with Kentucky, Louisville’s arch-rival. Calipari’s former team, Memphis, which made it to the 2008 NCAA Final Four is being punished by the NCAA for violations. The sanctions include the school having to vacate it’s Final Four berth as well as the 38 wins they accrued with Calipari at the helm that season.

Apparently one of the star players had someone else take the SAT for him. Of course, Calipari didn’t take the SAT for Derrick Rose so he wasn’t implicated in any of the charges. This means that as the coach and leader of the team, John boy did nothing wrong. (It’s the old, see no evil; hear no evil; speak no evil). But hey! Cut the poor man some slack. After all, he’s just coaching basketball here. How can he be expected to keep track of all this unrelated, academic and personal stuff!

John has also demonstrated his incredible timing at getting out while the getting is good before. He took UMass to the Final Four back in 1996, putting UMass basketball on the national map. Interesting enough, right after he left, UMass was slapped with NCAA sanctions because their star center, Marcus Camby had accepted gifts of $28,000, jewelry and prostitutes from an agent. Mind you, that’s not Calipari’s fault! He’s only coaching the team and doing a damn fine job if it I might add! So what if UMass had to forfeit their NCAA Final Four berth and UMass has dropped off into basketball obscurity? The fact of the matter is that Calipari sure can coach and that’s why Kentucky snapped him up!

So why all the whining about cheating, dishonesty, NCAA sanctions and adultery? Really, what has this got to do with coaching college basketball and producing winners? Absolutely nothing if you look at the behaviors of the administrators at Louisville, Kentucky and numerous other D-I colleges. Apparently morality is not high on the list of requirements for a candidate to get the job done “right.”

The job description is quite simple. Produce a “winning” team as in won-loss record. Nothing more. Nothing less. It’s not important to be a good role model. It’s not relevant to teach young adults how to be honest, trustworthy members of society on and off the playing field. As long as you win, pretty much anything goes and you will be compensated handsomely for it.

Perhaps in some small way this might explain why our country is in the stinking economic mess that we’re currently in. We’re effectively teaching our future leaders how to skillfully cut all kinds of neat corners and that dishonesty is the best policy as long as you win. Loyalty is unimportant but selfishness is where it’s at. And accountability? What’s that?

And this is supposedly how you train champions?


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