On the way home from Greensboro last night, a friend and I were discussing what might have been had
Uncle Jed Lee Fowler had been able to land either Rick Barnes or John Calipari 5 years ago. Don’t let the national folks fool you, both were very serious about the NC State opportunity and were very close to accepting the position.
Let’s take a quick look back at Calipari’s flirtation with NC State:
-Dan Wentzel wrote a great piece on Cal and NC State here(must read, I love his take on our job):
No, State is going all in, and if it can lure Calipari out of Memphis, Tobacco Road instantly will get a whole heck of a lot more interesting. College basketball, too.
Calipari would win big at State. He wins big everywhere. An exceptional practice coach and recruiter, he built up Massachusetts, actually got the New Jersey Nets going for the first time in decades and returned Memphis to the national elite.
He’d do the same with the Pack.
There is a false assumption that State can’t win because of its proximity to Duke and Carolina. But the three schools are very different and will recruit, often, from three different talent pools. There are overlaps, sure, but not as many as you’d think.
Duke and State almost never knock heads. Carolina and the Pack could, but only on some in-state prospects. Cal will get his guys, tough kids from around the country, some of them arriving with baggage that he quickly will explain away. He would get the kind of exciting, highly touted prospects that State alums could brag about all summer around 19th holes in North Carolina.
While that shouldn’t matter, the reality is that in a part of the country where college hoops is a 365-day-a-year affair, it does.
Give John Calipari the ACC, an NBA-quality arena, a passionate fan base, a strong tradition and a terrific school to recruit with (not to mention the new NBA age minimum), and talent won’t be the problem.
Does everyone know that Calipari is from the Pittsburgh metro area? You would be amazed by the numerous college basketball connections to the city of Pittsburgh. Anyways, I found this article today that was written before a Memphis vs. Xavier game a few years ago when both coaches were still at mid-major programs:
It’s both ironic and appropriate that the No. 13 Tigers will face Xavier tonight for the O’Reilly Auto Parts Puerto Rico Tip-Off championship, starting with the fact that the 40-year old Miller has known Calipari for essentially his entire life.
His father, John Miller, is a legendary high school coach in the Pittsburgh area, and their families became intertwined in ways that would take Calipari several minutes to fully explain. That he ultimately recruited Miller to the University of Pittsburgh was almost incidental to their relationship.
“His uncle and I were teammates, and I spent as much time in his grandmother’s house as I did my own house,” Calipari said. “My high school coach and (John Miller) were teammates, and he coached me in the summer. We’re family.”
In that article, I really like this quote:
For Calipari, Miller is often a sounding board, since they go through similar issues during the course of the season trying to maintain a national profile in a league that doesn’t have all the advantages of the Big East or SEC, which have programs practically in Xavier’s and Memphis’ backyards.
“The bottom line is, just like we want to be thought of with North Carolina, Duke Kansas and UCLA, so do they,” Calipari said. “When I was at UMass, people were like, come on, but by the end of the day, that’s what we were thought of. Sean has the same kind of vision. You’re limited by what you think; if you want to limit yourself and say, our level — well, our level is Duke’s level, North Carolina’s level, Kansas’ level and UCLA’s level. That’s the way he thinks, too.”
That quote describes the exact type of mindset we need in a coach at NC State. Calipari would have won big here at NC State though maybe we were lucky he didn’t take the job considering some of the controversies that have followed him to Kentucky. Obviously if Sean Miller has a similar mindset to Calipari in terms of wanting to compete on the same level as Duke, UNC, Kansas, and UCLA, then he would be dream hire for NC State this time around. Sean is in a great situation at Arizona however.
But like I said when I put up this entry about how Billy Donovan “enraged Roy Williams” early in his career at Florida: A guy can dream.
Maybe Cal will at least put in a good word for us?
Speaking of dreams, I always loved this Jim Valvano video.