Christopher Johnson is an RTC columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn.
The advent of interactive web-based communication services like Twitter, Facebook and blogs has allowed coaches to connect with fans in a more direct and personal way than ever before. We witnessed an excellent example of this newfound coach-fan correspondence this summer when Kentucky head coach John Calipari, addressing UK fans directly as “Big Blue Nation,” explained in a long-form blog post on his personal website his new “nontraditional” scheduling philosophy as a roundabout way of rationalizing his refusal to continue the program’s decades-long home-and-home series with border rival Indiana. In “Forming a nontraditional schedule for a nontraditional program,” Calipari focuses on three main points: “Preparing our players for the postseason”, “our fans” and “the financial component.” He laid out his thoughts eloquently, a thoroughly-composed argument that shone some light on why he dared put an end to one of the nation’s deepest and most hostile hardwood conflicts.
Calipari’s philosophy (and staunch insistence on playing at neutral sites, such as Lucas Oil Arena) didn’t jibe well with Hoosiers coach Tom Crean, who feared the idea of UK staging an annual recruiting fair in his program’s backyard metropolis, Indianapolis. The talks fell through, and college hoops fans nationwide will lament the loss of one of the sport’s most riveting ongoing territorial battles. But Calipari’s direct approach in addressing UK’s legions of fans made sense in more ways than one. Rather than voice his opinion through the traditional media, Calipari proceeded to convey his thoughts via his own personal mouthpiece. It was forthright, frank and an altogether noble gesture from a man who, even to his own fans, seems to exist within his own impenetrable realm of coaching regality.