When Oscar Combs speaks, you better listen. The “Guru of UK Sports” made a guest appearance on the radio show this morning and dropped a precious nugget that made me squirm a bit.
After pining about the hypocrisy of coaches salaries, the futility of the Eddie Gran firing, and the first-half Notre Dame meltdown, Oscar was asked how long he thought Coach Cal would stay at Kentucky before going on to the NBA.
As all Cat fans are painfully aware, “Calipari to the NBA” talk surfaces all the time. That doesn’t mean we have to like it, and it doesn’t mean we have to believe it. After all, doesn’t Coach Cal put the kibosh on those rumors every time they surface. Didn’t the guy sign a lifetime contract?
“If you look back when [Calipari] first came here, and he talked about how long he would be here and the longevity of coaches, [he said] coaches don’t stay at one place a decade,” Oscar reminded us. “I see the gray hairs more frequently in his head. I think these past couple of years—particularly this past year—has really weighed heavily on him.”
Love him or hate him, I think we all agree that John Calipari was just what the doctor ordered when he took over the reins to the program with the greatest tradition in college basketball back in 2009. Coaching Kentucky Basketball, however, takes more than just knowledge about Xs and Os. It takes superhuman energy and effort. It’s akin to being the CEO of a huge public enterprise.
“These twelve years, I didn’t think anybody could humanly do that,” Oscar said. “He goes 24/7. Sometimes he gets 26 hours out of his 24-hour days. He has said from day one that someday—maybe not now—he’d like to go back to the NBA. With the pandemic hitting, with the uncertainties of the one-and-dones…I don’t know.”
I think Oscar does know. He knows a lot about John Calipari and his NBA aspirations and connections. He certainly has the benefit of knowing about UK Basketball history when it comes to coaches abruptly leaving.
“It could be a lot like the last three coaches who left Kentucky successfully,” Oscar explained. “We didn’t have a lot of advance notice. We had less than twelve hours on Joe B. when he quit. We had less than a day on Rick Pitino. And we didn’t have thirty minutes notice on Tubby Smith.”
Oscar was quick to remind us that all those coaches only won one title while they were at Kentucky. John Calipari already has his.
I think what Oscar’s really saying is that we better be careful when we start griping about the trials and tribulations of this year’s team. We better watch out when we speak ill of Coach Cal and the growing “Calipari fatigue.” Cal is human just like the rest of us. He’s susceptible to the stresses and strains of the year 2020 just like everybody else. The guy’s got boundless energy, but there are limits. A worldwide pandemic can quickly change your priorities and perspective.
In other words, enjoy his genius when you can. Be careful what you ask for, because as much as we’d like to deny it, John Calipari has dreams and aspirations outside of UK Basketball. I hope I’m wrong, but he might just be taking his talent to the NBA A LOT sooner than we all think.
Check out everything Oscar said this morning right here.