When you hear comparisons between Mike Krzyzewski and John Calipari the conversation, if you are listening to a supporter of Calipari, is that the man can recruit and he puts players in the NBA. But does that really make him a better coach?
Well it probably goes without saying that Calipari, at least during his time at Kentucky, has become perhaps the country’s most elite
recruiter. If you look at the classes he has amassed while there, you could play a High School All-Star game with that talent. But does all that talent translate to the NBA and is he really the better coach because of it?
If you look at just the number of players that Calipari has coached that ended up in the NBA or are currently in the NBA you can’t really say that its much better than Krzyzewski.
Krzyzewski has a decided advantage over total player coached who have played in the league mainly because he has been coaching longer. Still the common misconception is that Duke players don’t translate to the NBA and that really isn’t true.
Lets just do a current comparison of guys in the league currently in order to give Calipari at least a fair shot.
The NBA currently has 18 former Duke players coached by Krzyzewski on rosters. The lists includes some very good players from both college and the pros as well as some potential stars and NBA role players. Not every player can be a star, but former Duke players have staying power in the league.
Calipari while the coach at Kentucky, Memphis and UMass currently has put 17 former players on NBA rosters. I’ll give you the fact that Calipari has put Derrick Rose, Anthony Davis, Pattrick Patterson, Eric Bledsoe, Tyreke Evans, John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins in the league, and all are averaging greater than 10 points per game and playing significant minutes; but Duke alumnus are holding their own.
Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer, Mike Dunleavy, Grant Hill, Corey Maggette, JJ Redick, Kyrie Irving, and Gerald Henderson all average double figures in scoring and minutes played. That list doesn’t even include guys like Chris Duhon, Shane Battier and Elton Brand who have been around forever; and in the case of Brand he has a near career double-double averaging 18 points and 9 rebound per game while playing for some awful teams.
And the list above doesn’t even include the latest Blue Devils to join the league like Kyle Singer, Nolan Smith and Austin Rivers whose careers are just getting started.
Still the perception that Calipari does a significantly better job persists. The main reason is that he puts so many guys in the league after one or two years of college. Calipari, uses his prowess for getting guys in the league to attract the kids that either are so good that they can go right away, or the good ones that just don’t have an interest in college.
He isn’t interested in coaching these kids, he is more or less a collector of talent and he has used that to his advantage and last year’s National Championship was the ultimate prize for him.
Calipari lures these kids with the opportunity to play right away and when you lose half or more of your roster every year you can do that. What talented kid doesn’t want to play as a freshman? But the folly of this approach is that the kids aren’t always going into the league ready and coachable. And what happens when those careers don’t pan out?
If you look at his list of former players, Calipari has had quite a few that didn’t work out in the NBA and if you compare the relative lengths of their careers, Krzyzewski’s former players are staying in the league longer. They may not be super stars, but they are still making good money.
Why is that? Perhaps because when a player comes to Duke they get more than just a year or two of playing experience. They get taught on how to be a better player, how to be a better person and what to do with their life once basketball is over or doesn’t work out.
Think Jay Williams for a second. He looked primed to be a great NBA player but an accident derailed his playing career; but it would be hard to say that he hasn’t become a success.
I’m not implying that those kids that play or have played for Calipari are bad people, but what happens when their NBA Hoop Dreams don’t pan out? What happens if they get hurt or they end up not being as good as they think they are? Are they more prepared for the world beyond basketball than Duke’s former players? I’d say not really knowing any of their stories that it isn’t even close.
Krzyzewksi has former players in very successful positions in broadcasting, law, coaching, and in the front office of NBA organizations. Calipari hasn’t been coaching as long, but he can’t even come close to to saying that.
All of this and I haven’t even mentioned the coaching. The on court success also speaks for itself. Mike Krzyzewksi has more than 400 more victories, three more National Championships and graduated a significant number more of his student-athletes. If we look at just the wins and loses and championships there is no question who is the better coach and it isn’t even close.
But those who will argue that Calipari has surpassed Krzyzewski and use the number of players in the NBA as fodder for their arguments need only to just look at the current NBA rosters, look at the length of the careers and then think about who really has had the better career and who is the better coach.
If this was a contest on how many one and dones you can get into the NBA then Calipair of course wins, but last time I checked that wasn’t the definition of what a coach should be.