College / Nov 24, 2009 / 10:00 am

The Biggest Myth in College Basketball

Coach Cal + Tyreke

Coach Cal + Tyreke

A couple years ago I had an opportunity to interview John Calipari for Dime. Aiming to do something different with the biggest rock-star coach in the college game, I came up with the idea to have Coach Cal talk to me like I was a big-time recruit and give me his pitch on why I should play for him at Memphis. Thus was born “The Pitch,” our now-regular feature where we’ve had everybody from Rick Barnes to Reggie Theus share their recruiting tactics.

It was only right that Calipari set the standard. After all, he is the best salesman in the college game. By the time he was done with his hypothetical pitch on me, I was ready to quit my job, enroll in grad school at Memphis and try walking on to the Tigers.

Oddly enough, one of Coach Cal’s unique selling points when it comes to landing real-life prospects is something he doesn’t even have to hype up on his own, because the whole basketball world has done a good enough job for him:

John Calipari produces NBA point guards.

It’s the biggest myth in college basketball.

True, Derrick Rose and Tyreke Evans played for Calipari at Memphis and went on to be picked #1 and #4 in their respective NBA Drafts. Rose won Rookie of the Year in ’09 and Tyreke is right in the mix for the 2010 trophy. Calipari also had Dajuan Wagner at Memphis before he was a Top-10 pick; and no one knows how good Wagner could’ve been as a pro before injuries and illness got in the way.

But let’s be serious: D-Rose, ‘Reke and Juanny would’ve been Lottery picks whether they’d gone to Memphis or Middle Tennessee State. All three left school after their freshman years, not quite enough time for Cal to really mold them into pros; had those three gone pro out of high school they would’ve been picked anyway. Did Cal really “produce” these NBA point guards, or just oversee their development for a few months?

Meanwhile, look at the PG’s who played under Calipari for a significant amount of time:

Darius Washington was arguably the third-best high school PG in the country (behind Sebastian Telfair and Shaun Livingston) when he came to Memphis in 2004. Although his freshman year was marked by those infamous missed free throws in the C-USA title game, D-Wash was still a projected Lottery pick going into his sophomore year. He wound up going undrafted. He’s had a cup of apple drink here and there in the NBA, but is otherwise a D-League/overseas player.

Coach Cal + D-Rose

Coach Cal + D-Rose

Willie Kemp was a Top-5 PG in the ’06 high school class — his signing with Memphis was actually one of the reasons Washington left school early. A good friend of mine who is an assistant at the D-1 level swore up and down that Kemp would be the next Gary Payton. Now in his senior year, after three seasons with Calipari, Kemp still hasn’t developed into an NBA point guard. He was a starter as a freshman, backed up D-Rose and Tyreke for two years, and while he’s now starting again under Josh Pastner, he’s not even one of Memphis’ best players.

Who else? You’ve got Antonio Burks, who played three years for Coach Cal at Memphis and saw a combined 81 games in the NBA as a fringe guy. Andre Allen went undrafted by the League. None of Calipari’s point guards at UMass sniffed a minute of NBA burn; can you even name one of them besides Derek Kellogg and Edgar Padilla?

And yet, early into his first season at Kentucky, Calipari is already thriving thanks to his reputation. Not only did he land John Wall, a national Freshman of the Year candidate who’s been compared to Rose and Chris Paul, but Cal also convinced blue-chip PG Eric Bledsoe to come to Lexington even though Bledsoe knew he could be backing up Wall for as long as Wall decided to stay in school. For 2010, superstar prep PG’s Brandon Knight and Josh Selby are still considering Kentucky, while recent Duke commit Kyrie Irving had UK high on his list of finalists. Talk to any of those kids about Kentucky’s appeal, and I guarantee one of the first things they’ll say is, “Coach Calipari produces NBA point guards.”

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not hating on Calipari or saying he’s not a great college coach. The two keys to winning at this level are recruiting and game management, and Cal’s track record has proven he’s one of best recruiters — if not the best — to come along in the last 20-something years. But the idea that he is somehow to college point guards what Mike Holmgren is to NFL quarterbacks is just false.

Still, next spring when Wall gets picked somewhere in the Top-5 of the NBA Draft, the legend will continue to grow. The world has been convinced that Coach Cal cranks out NBA PG’s like Las Vegas community colleges crank out strippers — and somehow, the best salesman in the college game didn’t even have to do the convincing.

*Follow Austin Burton on Twitter: @AustinatDIMEmag
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  • shaw32

    Great article austin.

  • http://www.FireLuviSmith.bastard Chicagorilla

    It’s not about just “producing” pg’s in the since that he made them top picks. Calipari’s offense allows thos Players to show their ability to it’s fullest because his offense is so guard oriented. It’s about the style of play. CDR was a 6’7 shooting guard who had PG skills at memphis. The only way you knew he had some PG skills, is because that offense allowed him to show it.

    [side note]Tyreke Evans is not a f^king PG and I really wish people stop saying that. If he’s a PG, then Allen Iverson is John Stockton. Can Reke dribble well for a 6’6 player – yes. Can Reke make a few nice passes – Yes. Can he run an NBa offense and set up his teammates and make them better….HELL NO! He’s a scoring/shooting guard. Not a PG.

  • shake&bake

    Thank you Las Vegas community colleges!!!!

  • http://www.FireLuviSmith.bastard Chicagorilla

    Point Guard U- it used to be Ga. Tech, with Mark Price, Kenny Anderson, Starbury, Jarret Jack, Will Bynum (transfer)

    But you can also say Arizona with Steve Kerr, Kahlid Reeves, Mike Bibby, Jared Bayless, Nic Wise.

    or UNC- Phil Ford, Kenny Smith, Ed Cota, Ray Felton, Ty Lawson.

    UCLA- Gail Goodrich, Pooh Richardson, Tyus Edney, Baron Davis, Earl Watson, Russell Westbrook, Darren Collinson, Jru Holiday, Malcolm Lee.

    It all depends on how you look at it and what value you place on each player. Looks like UCLA has the current PG thing locked up as a school.

  • http://www.FireLuviSmith.bastard Chicagorilla

    Left out a few people

    Arizona – Gilbert Arenas, Will Bynum (went there for 1 year), Salim Stoudimire, Damon Stoudimire,

    UCLA- Jordaon Farmer

    And while everyone is talking about Calipari, looks like Ben Howland has been producing PG’s to the fullest. With several final four appearances.

  • http://twitter.com/airjustinn AirJustinn

    I agree, people are always saying that he produces “NBA Point Guards.” Regardless of where D. Rose or Tyreke went, they still would have went to the league. It’s really all politics.
    Honestly, I think there’s something fishy about the man. Controversy has followed him at every school he’s been to. Let’s not forget about the controversy at Umass – go minutemen – where Camby was caught with prostitutes,money and a whole bunch of other shit. Also, I’m a skeptic of him leaving Memphis so timely before the SAT scandal arose – no pun intended. No disrespect to D.Rose, but I’ve met two people who went to high school with Rose and said he wasn’t that intelligent – but that’s just word of mouth.

    Long story short, I’ll give it a couple years until the usual controversy follows him to ‘Tucky. Who knows, him and J.Wall are probably jumping off some hoes right now.

  • Detroit Dave

    I think guys go to Cal’s teams only because they know they will be featured in the offense. They don’t have a tough conference (Kentucky is tough but not Memphis’ Conf USA) so you know if you play well your team should win 25 games. They run a high scoring offense.

  • http://www.kingsfans.com Willis


    Damon aka Mighty Mouse went to ASU

  • no j mayo

    fuck all you bitches. go cats. go cal.

  • Timmy D

    @ Willis

    Damon went to Zona not ASU

  • D.Head

    @willis no chicagorilla is correct Damon went to Arizona

  • http://www.FireLuviSmith.bastard Chicagorilla


    Seriously? Damon Stoudimire went to Arizona State University? lol, please don’t correct me if you have no idea what the f^k you are talking about. At least you knew his name was Mighty Mouse…. which is so gay btw.

  • Joe

    Wow, the author of this article is as about as stupid as the article itself.

  • TJ

    austin, C’mon Son !! You are hating and just doing what writers do creating garbage to get readers. Austin is probably a UNC fan who realizes Drew 2 isnt the answer.

    Anbody who thinks Rose & Evans would have been early picks coming out of MTSU is crazy. Im sure both of those guys credit Cal for their development.


  • Mack

    At least he does not turn top high school point guards into Big East QB’s.

  • http://www.twitter.com/bfears bfears

    THANK U!!! same thing i have been sayin!

  • O_O

    This whole article is stupid and seems to be based on jealousy. Cal is the popular coach right now and maybe if you actually paid more attention to Cal’s offense and how point guards flourish in it, then maybe you could see how he’s had recent success with point guards. Also, with Rod Strickland and Orlando Antigua as assistant coaches(both had excellent careers in basketball after college),they can mold them into better guards and possible NBA first round picks faster than any coaching staff in the country right now.

  • heavy d

    Calipari doesn’t develop these players into great pros, but he doesn’t screw them up either. They’ve got great natural ability and if they work hard once they get there they’ll have good careers. If they don’t they’ll fizzle. He can promise the a college experience that is probably as close the AAU All-Star circuit that they’ll find. If that’s want the player wants that’s fine. The guaranteed first round deal is worth a lot more money than the average UK grad would earn in 20 years.

  • fkuashle

    Your an idiot. YOu should quit writing. Thanks to your article, I now have 5 minutes of my life that I wont get back. You are a no talent fuck.

  • egg

    Yeah, what chicagorilla said. Where did you hear that Caipari produces point guards? That’s like discounting the value of true athletic talent. Its not like hes a PG factory

  • Aaron

    I guess that’s why top college point guards went to the biggest program ever, Memphis, while he was there, right? Because he’s a terrible coach?

    Rather, it’s because he will help their draft stock and get them exposure to NBA scouts.

    Rose played for Cal for a reason. And I would assume he knows more than you about Cal’s ability as a coach.

    The person who wrote this article is an idiot.