By Kevin Cowherd
The Baltimore Sun
10:00 AM EDT, April 3, 2012
Say what you will about John Calipari. Call him a sleaze-bag (he's been called worse) for his recruiting methods. Rip him for the vacated seasons and Final Four appearances at Massachusetts and Memphis when players and agents did questionable things on his watch. Mock him for how oily and unctuous he can sound in interviews.
But the man can coach. Anyone who watched Kentucky win its eighth national title last night -- 67-59 over Kansas -- and anyone who watched the Wildcats dismantle opponents all season long knows that.
The masterful job Calipari did getting this team to play sound, unselfish basketball can't be over-stated.
Sure, the Wildcats have five, maybe six players who will wind up in the NBA next season. But with great talent can come great headaches for a head coach. Suddenly he can be hit with ego and ball-hogging issues, poisonous me-first attitudes among the superstars, an unwillingness to sacrifice for the overall good of the team.
But somehow, Calipari got the Wildcats -- they started three freshmen, including Anthony Davis (a once-in-a-lifetime talent) and two sophomores -- to play as a team, to share the ball and take advantage of the unique skills of individual players.
The win over Kansas on Monday night was a textbook example of that unselfish play. The Wildcats ran their offense and everyone was involved.
Davis shot poorly all night and scored six points but totally dominated inside with 16 rebounds and six blocked shots. And the other four starters made up for the points Davis didn't have. Doron Lamb led the Wildcats with 22 points, Marquis Teague had 14, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist came back from a shoulder injury to score 11 and Terrence Jones had nine.
Great win for Kentucky. Great coaching job by Coach Cal.
He deserves kudos for it -- no matter what else they say about him.
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