Last night’s NBA Draft was pretty boring from start to finish (Wes Johnson’s pants generously excepted), but there was one moment that resulted in our jaws on the floor at the RTC West Coast Compound, and it didn’t even involve one of the players (or random “USA” chants from drunken New Yorkers). We’ve been unable to find the video of this yet (let us know if you have), but at some point during the middle of five Kentucky players being selected in the 1st Round, ESPN interviewed John Calipari, who had this to say about the grand evening:
This is the greatest night in the history of Kentucky basketball.
Now, we’ll excuse Coach Cal’s uber-salesmanship and a bit of hyperbole while getting caught up in the moment, but c’mon Coach… we can think of at least seven nights that were probably a tad better for the Big Blue faithful than June 24, 2010 (see above). And if we’re being honest with ourselves, many more than that. In fact, while UK fans as a whole seem genuinely happy for Wall, Cousins, Patterson, Bledsoe and Orton as individuals for fulfilling their lifelong dreams, there is still a lingering sense of what could or should have been for the team, especially if some of the players stuck around. This sentiment is heavily anesthesized by the fact that another truckload of blue-chippers are already en route to Lexington for 2010-11, but rival blog Card Chronicle nails the reality underlying this situation:
If in the next two years Cal continues to dominate recruiting and continues to produce first round NBA Draft picks but doesn’t lead the Cats into the final week of the season, watch how drastically the tide will turn. Success for Kentucky fans means national championships. This current wave of insanity excitement might seem to be the product of last year’s success or all the top-rated recruits or all the national attention, but really it’s all driven by the feeling that national title No. 8 is right around the corner. […] On the flip side, you get the feeling that Calipari feels like this is succeeding. Kentucky basketball is back to being a mainstay in the top ten, they’re being talked about on the news on a regular basis, he’s got celebrities showing up at Rupp Arena, he’s getting the top prep talent in the country to come to Lexington and then he’s getting them in a position to make millions before they can drink legally. […] But if Calipari isn’t able to turn status into championships within a reasonable (to Big Blue Nation) amount of time, watch the relationship disintegrate. Kentucky fans will start to debate whether or not all this glam is good for the program and Cal will become (understandably) bitter.
Which makes Calipari’s comments today on the Dan Patrick Show (audio link) all the more intriguing. According to Jerry Tipton of the Lexington Herald-Leader, when Patrick pointedly asked Calipari how last night’s draft could be the best moment in such a proud program’s history, Calipari answered that it “depends on your frame of reference” before explaining how UK is a players-first program. When asked again whether a national title or a night like last evening was better, he similarly dodged the question by saying that you need the latter to win the former. Fair enough, but these feints in the light of day certainly give credence to what CC was saying above. No matter how much he may want it to be true, Calipari’s success at UK will ultimately not be measured by the number of draft picks he puts into the first round — it’ll be measured by the number of banners he puts in the rafters. Surely he knows this. Right?