Tar Heel Fan

Monday, April 10, 2006

Secondary Target

Now that Rick Barnes has officially withdrawn himself from consideration for the NC State coaching job, the powers that be in Wolfpack land quickly moved to their second target: John Calipari, head coach at Memphis. Now in may respects I honestly think Calipari is a better coach than Barnes, at least in terms of the results he has yielded in the situations he has worked. Calipari took UMass to a Final Four in 1996(later vacated because UMass center Marcus Camby got paid.) Calipari took a school that did nothing but lose in basketball and made them a winner. After foolishly jumping to the NBA for four seasons he returned to Memphis and this past season had them at 33-4 and a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. So one thing is obvious, Calipari can recruit and seems to know what he is doing on the sideline. He also had done more with less and posted better records at schools who were not in power basketball conferences like Clemson was for Barnes or the big time state university like Barnes has at Texas. The lure of Barnes was his NC roots and the fact he got in Dean Smith's face one time during a game. NC State is focused on getting a big name coach and Calipari certainly fits the bill. The only problem with Calipari is one of reputation for the kind of players he recruits. NC State went through a two year probation because Jim Valvano played fast and loose with the rules and was willing to bring in less that astute players on the academic and character levels. Calipari operates on a similar scheme picking up a lot of players which could not cut it academically at other schools or have some spectre of trouble in the past which makes them radioactive to the North Carolinas and Dukes of college basketball. Current Oklahoma St guard JameSon Curry, who was a UNC recruit until he plead guilt to drug possession and was cut loose by Roy Williams, is the type of player who would end up with coaches like Calipari, Bob Huggins, and obviously Eddie Sutton. Then there is the incident at UMass where Marcus Camby accepted money and as a result UMass vacated the 1996 Final Four appearance. Calipari has been cleared of any wrongdoing in the case, but when that sort of thing happens on you watch as head coach, it does raise red flags. [PAUSE POST] Now in the ongoing war of rivals, NC State fans have been saying that UNC has no room to talk on this matter since Roy Williams was cited a minor infaction while at Kansas. It seems that Williams approved the giving of gifts to graduating players. First of all, the violations were self reported by Kansas and not the result of a NCAA investigation. Secondly, Williams made a full statement disclosing his side of the story and express remorse for what had happened. And finally, the basis of the violation is that a "student athlete is a student athelete for life" which means that if I am ever in Greensboro and a Spartan club member takes me out to dinner and pays for it then a NCAA violation has occurred since I ran cross country for the university. In other words Williams made the same assumption that I made about myself and that is the moment the last game was played or eligibility was officially exhausted then NCAA restrictions were officially lifted. It was a honest mistake and since the gifts involved were of such little value it is no wonder the NCAA has never categorized this a major infraction. Some NC State fans on the Pack Pride message board have categorized the Kansas gifts as far worse than anything Valvano or NC State ever did. This is an interesting position since according to the search results yielded by the NCAA database on infractions NC State was cited for major violations under Valvano as well as four other times in their history in various sports. In other words State fans need to shut up about this since history has proven there is but one school between UNC, Duke, and NCSU that enjoys a checkered past and that is the Wolfpack. [RESUME POST] I am not saying Calipari is dirty or will commit NCAA infactions the moment he walks on campus. What I am saying is there is a perception as to his commitment to things like academics and character. I think Calipari will be more likely to engage in behavior similar to Valvano in an effort to get the job done and the last thing NC State needs is the perception that they can only be successful on the same level with UNC and Duke if they cheat their way there or recruit the wrong kind of players. NC State fans want so much to be on the same level as UNC and Duke but part of that is not only winning on the court, part of that is running a clean program with model student athletes. Of course this is all water under the bridge. Yesterday some enterprising NC State fan used a flight tracking website to figure out that a plane registered to Wolfpack donor Wendell Murphy left Duplin County for RDU and then flew from RDU to Memphis. Yes, one can assume that planes leaving Duplin County en route to Memphis are not going for blues and BBQ. NC State AD Lee Fowler and NCSU Chancellor James Olbinger made the trip to offer what has been described as an "overwhelming" package. Translation: A lot of freakin' money. We do not know how much but one can only be humored by NC State's predelection to pay coaches who have only been to one Final Four and never been in a NCAA title game the same kind of money Roy and Coach K make. The other interesting part of this is how upfront NC State has been with their pursuit of Calipari versus Barnes. With Barnes it was backwater channels and middle men making the overtures all veiled in secrecy. In the case of Calipari it has been very obvious. It has been speculated that Calipari made the first move in this dance. The agressive and open nature of the NC State offer seems to give that theory legs. Why would NC State open itself to the public embarassment of rejection if they did not already think there was some kind of interest? The other part is that NC State's people want the media to know certain things at this point. Let's be honest, Fowler did not have to travel to Memphis to conduct this interview. The technology exists to do a conference call or even a video conference. Fowler and the gang wanted it to be known that they were meeting with Calipari and that, as sources are claiming, an offer is on the table. Why? Because it placed an extreme amount of pressure on Calipari. Everyone knows that the ball is in Calipari's court and he has to respond quickly as does the Memphis AD. The effect of this tactic means a quicker resolution putting Memphis at a disadvantage to counter effectively and it also may push Calipari to make the decision in favor of the Pack. For all the screaming in Wolfpack nation about Fowler he certainly seems to know what he is doing here, especially if this works out. I would expect some kind of resolution on this target in less than half the time it took with Barnes. So at this point we are left with the following questions: 1. Is Calipari truly interested or is he pushing for a raise from Memphis? 2. Calipari is a good fit in that he has taken programs at a certain level and put them near the top, but do the ends justify whatever means he might employ? 3. Is it wise to pay someone who has limited Final Four or NCAA title success as much as other coaches who have those accolades? 4. Are the Pack boosters and academic surrogates of the athleteic department going to be satisfied with whatever platitudes Calipari offers up? 5. Where does NC State go if he rejects them in this very public courtship? The next few days will tell an interesting tale.

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