An Offer He Couldn’t Refuse

I went out to run a few errands this Monday afternoon and there was one topic that had just about everybody talking: It appears John Calipari is headed for the University of Kentucky as head basketball coach.  Oh there are the denials and the need to get various pemissions to do this and to do that.  As a Kentucky fan, I think JC would be a great asset to the UK squad.  Of course, coaching basketball at UK is like being the football coach at Alabama.  Fans are very unforgiving for anything less than a stellar season which for Wildcat roundballers means at the least an appearance in the Final Four each year.  Now JC may back up and surprise everyone by NOT going to one of the storied programs of the country but I doubt it.

All of this does two things: It kind of rankles me and it also reminds me of my first time to break a story nationally.  Last things first: I was working as a reporter at radio station WLBJ in Bowling Green, KY, home of the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers.  My starter wife (I’ve since remarried) was working in the book-keeping department for some folks who had a close connection to the athletic program at WKU.  I got word that the basketball coach at WKU, Gene Keady, was going to leave The Big Red for Purdue.  This was big news for WKU which was coming off a big season.  I scrambled everywhere trying to find Keady and finally tracked him down and got confirmation from some folks that he was indeed leaving.  I rather nervously filed the story with the Associated Press in Louisville and soon the story was being flashed with an “urgent” on the national wires.  I received a very nice letter from the AP Bureau Chief and I still have it and the original wire copy from the old style teletype machine as it moved on the wires with my name credited on the story.  Now, having shared that story, this is why my backside is feeling a bit burned.

Coach Cal is a great guy.  He and his family attend the same church as my mother-in-law so I’ve seen him in the non-basketball situation.  He’s a great salesman and has really done wonders for the city of Memphis and the University.  Last Friday, he was all over about “not leaving Memphis”.  He was happy here he told everybody who would listen.  Then suddenly he’s ready to go to UK.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t begrudge anyone an opportunity to better their situation.  But how about a little honesty up front.  We’re all big people.  We can take the truth.  What I have trouble with are people I feel are yanking my chain.  It puts me in the mind of the guy who said “I don’t mind someone taking a whiz on MY shoes.  But it insults my intelligence when you do it and try to convince me that it’s raining”.   The bottom line:I wish JC the best of luck at the U of K if that is indeed where he goes.   But I can’t help but feel a little jaded because I feel this guy I held in such high regard is trying to tell me it’s been raining.

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13 Comments on “An Offer He Couldn’t Refuse”

  1. Tom Says:

    Tell JC not to let the door him in the butt on the way out!!!

  2. Jeff Says:

    They all do that. It’s the head coach dance. I don’t understand it, but I suppose it’s part of the bargaining process. His agent probably told him to say that so Kentucky would offer him more money.

  3. Leadpipe Says:

    Even if he stays now, will he still be loved and respected? Or will we all be waiting for the next opening to have us walking on eggshells?

    I’m all for getting better, taking it to the next level, but don’t jack us around in the process.

    Go, don’t go.

    I agree with your sentiment, Joe.

  4. jamey Says:

    Trouble is, in the process we have today, there’s no good honest way to handle leaving one school for another.
    Say “I’m going to Kentucky!” while still in a Memphis Tigers warm-up suit and fans will think you’re a jerk. Say, “I’m not going to take it” before you’ve been officially offered and you wind up lying like Nick Saban.
    Coaches handle it the only way they can, dodge the question. “All I know is that I’m happy here.”

    Besides, if you’re currently employed at one tv station and there’s a rumor that another station is interested in you, do you turn in your notice and pack up your things before accepting the other job?

  5. Doug Johnson Says:

    If I hear the phrase “storied program” one more time, I’m going to smack someone with The Big Book of News Cliches!

  6. Mr. LOL Says:


  7. […] Larkins shares some of those same feelings of disappointment: Coach Cal is a great guy. He and his family attend the same church as my mother-in-law so I’ve […]

  8. Jack Church Says:

    I love college sports but I’m starting to get the feeling that if a coach moves his mouth he must be lying. I guess that is why I am still steamed UT let Phil Fulmer go. Love him or hate him Coach Fulmer was the last of a dying breed from the coaching world that was true to his word and the university he served.

  9. the tall tv guy Says:

    I agree with you, Joe. It’s the second time I’ve heard the comment about don’t try to convince me it’s raining.

    Cal knew he was leaving around Noon on Monday. Why was there all this uncertainty and this decision is so hard stuff for the next 24+ hours? One of the worst things you can offer people is false hope. That is what’s bothering me.

  10. BJ Says:

    I mentioned to someone earlier this week that there simply isn’t any loyalty left in athletics. As comedian Jerry Seinfeld suggests, we simply cheer for the clothes now. Players and coaches to do things that simply would have been considered unthinkable two decades ago.

    Just look at Rick Pitino. He coached at Kentucky and then moved to arch rival Louisville. Could anyone imagine Bear Bryant leaving Alabama to take the field at Tennessee? How many baseball players have hopped from the Yankees to the Red Sox or the Red Sox to the Yankees?

    It’s all about getting paid, like most things in business. There’s no sense of community. There’s no loyalty. People have been screwing each other for so long it’s no surprise the attitude today is “every man for himself.”

    What surprises me is how often we continue to be surprised by behavior that has become the norm and not the exception.

  11. Richard Says:

    I figured something was up when he made a comment on television after Memphis won their first playoff game. He said something to the effect that if they win they win; if they don’t, we go back home.

    I hope he earns the money KY is going to pay him. If he doesn’t, he’s history.

    Let him go…I won’t miss him anymore than I missed Dana Kirk when he left or any of the other coaches.

  12. DW Says:

    I have chosen not to comment on Coach Cal up to this point because I thought that passions would cool and a little reason might enter the debate. I was obviously wrong so here goes. Coaching is a big money business with the object being to start small and move as far up the laddar as you can during your working life. Television works the same way you just don’t see people trying to move down to a small market for half the money. It seems that simple to me. He did amazing things for the Tigers. We are getting interest from coaches that wouldn’t give us a second look 9 years ago. We have moved a long way up the food chain however Kentucky is still sitting on top and that is where every talented and ambitious coach wants to be. As far as his comments go why don’t we give the guy a break, he was expected by local media to publicly turn down an offer that he hadn’t yet even received. He probably should have just refused to answer but we all know that would have started a whole other frenzy. He never promised to stay forever so wish him well so we can all move on.

  13. joelarkins Says:

    Perhaps there is some misunderstanding that I’m upset with Coach Cal for leaving. Not at all. I would have doubted his sanity if he hadn’t left. Like it or not, Kentucky has a great history of basketball. It’s a great program. My point, which I will make again, is that instead of saying things like “Oh, I’m not leaving, this is my home”, just be honest. Why get the hopes of these die-hard fans up and then dash then, turning them all to the point that they are ready to drink the “Blue & Gray Koolaid” and keel over on the lawn of Coach Cal’s house. Be up front. If you don’t know about the offer, say you don’t know. No one can begrudge someone trying to better his or her situation.
    And for what it it worth, some coaches and some news people have found that “bigger is not always better” and that moving to smaller markets or smaller schools can be an improvement. They may also make more money. It’s all about how you sell it.
    And one final note, I really felt P-Oed when I read a letter to the editor in Thursday’s C-A calling Coach Cal a “snake-oil salesman in an Italian suit”. A person who would say such a thing doesn’t deserve living in a city with a great basketball team. Okay, I’m done.

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