BLOG: Controversy comes with Cal, but good things are overlooked

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By John Herndon

Controversy surrounding John Calipari is about as predictable as the sun coming up in the east. Kentucky basketball fans have been reminded of that twice on Friday.

One came when a national media member at a Final Four press conference asked Calipari about his first trip to the Final Four. Only one word can describe such a question on the day before the biggest stage in major college basketball: Cheapshot.

Yet, it surprised no one that the fact that Calipari has had two Final Four appearances stripped would come up.

The records may not show it but the 2008 Memphis team and the 1996 UMass team got to the Final Four and competed. And, I might add, that 1996 Umass team was very formidable. It was easily the toughest team that UK played all season.

After the NCAA ruled that Marcus Camby was ineligible, it also went out of its way to say that Cal was innocent of any charges.

The Derrick Rose incident at Memphis is a little more tricky. Eric Crawford of The Courier-Journal and John Clay of the Lexington Herald-Leader both did splendid jobs of looking at Cal's Final Four history on Thursday. Being someone who is looking in from the outside, I won't even attempt to dissect all of the ins and outs of the situation.

If Rose took his entrance test fraudulently, most people would assume – rightly or wrongly – that the coach would know about it.

However, one thing that stands out to me is the fact that the NCAA ruled that Rose could play, then after Memphis went to the championship game, the NCAA ruled he was ineligible. If only I could make a mistake, go back and admit it and then have you pay for it.

That is what it the Rose situation amounts to.

And you can take it to the bank that every coach in America would have played Rose after the NCAA ruled him eligible.

Then there is the report that came out on Friday that said an obscure former staffer made some improper calls to DeMarcus Cousins. It is a secondary violation and the guy was sent packing as soon as UK became aware of it. Suffice it to say it is not the same as Jim Tressel.

With Cal, the controversy is part of the package, but really, that is too bad. During his time in Lexington, Calipari has become known for his charity work. He raised over a million dollars in Hoops for Haiti, has been known to make unannounced visits in hospitals and reportedly has done many other good deeds that have gone unnoticed.

At the university, Calipari has used the enormous pulpit that comes with his position to extol the virtues of other UK sports. In fact, his players are regulars at the UK women's team games and I have personally seen Cal standing on the balcony at Memorial Coliseum watching Victoria Dunlap and company play.

And while I hear Cal's recruiting of “one-and-dones” ridiculed, I challenge anyone, anywhere to find a better example of what a student-athlete should be than Brandon Knight. He's famously a straight-A student who can play a mean game of basketball.

Find any player that has grown more in the last two years than DeAndre Liggins, for that matter, both on and off the court.

Calipari can come across as self-promoting, no question. And there are questions and controversy that are just part of the deal he signed two years ago.

But John Calipari was hired to take the University of Kentucky back to its place at the top of major college basketball.

No matter what the outcome against UConn on Saturday night, he is doing just that.