Memphis fans need to wake up.
Unfortunately, when they wake up they’ll realize they’re suffering from a crushing hangover.
A John Calipari hangover.
Months ago, before @ announced, then cancelled a tribute to @, I opined that finding a way to forgive Calipari was necessary for the health of the men’s basketball program at the University of Memphis.
By health – I meant to say some means of escape from a nasty hangover.
The Calipari hangover isn’t regarded as such around Memphis, of course. The Calipari hangover is otherwise known as The Josh Pastner debate. It’s symptoms are incessant and depressing discussions about whether NCAA tournament appearances in and of themselves are a sufficient accomplishment, should it matter the coach is a great guy, player development, local recruiting, transfer epidemics and blah blah blah I’m so tired of this I’m not even buying tickets anymore.
Simply put, the energy / vibe around the Memphis program has been bad for going on 7 years. Sure, Pastner has generated bursts of optimism – as did the temporary promotion to the disintegrating BIG EAST. But if Memphis fans are honest with themselves they can now see their worst fears confirmed: that Memphis basketball reverted from national title contender to it’s pre-Calipari mediocrity the day Calipari’s motorcade sped off to catch a Lexington bound jet.
If Memphis fans are honest with themselves they have to at least entertain the possibility that this incarnation of Memphis Basketball is closer to what should be expected of the program given its resources than the Calipari version. Especially if they value that well resourced, now winning, football program on the other side of campus.
If Memphis fans are honest with themselves they have to understand that the same traits they currently revile Calipari for (deception, disloyalty) form the basis of the tactics he used to elevate Memphis to such a high level. That same level they now loathe his successor (Pastner) for not reaching in spite of his outstanding character and integrity.
If Memphis fans are honest with themselves they would understand that College Basketball as a whole is widely understood to embrace a culture of corruption and deception. Why else would John Calipari be inducted into the Hall of Fame? He represents the best of the sport.
I just thought that putting the Calipari era to bed – once and for all – would have been healthy for the psyche of the fan base. But maybe I’m being shortsighted. Maybe this act by Memphis – a loud, national, fuck you to Calipari will accomplish the same thing. Maybe Memphis fans can finally move on and enjoy the current program.
But we know that’s unlikely to happen. Alas, after 6 mostly sad seasons in the wake of Calipari’s exit – Pastner’s days in Memphis seem numbered. Everyone agrees he’s a great guy and will probably have some success elsewhere.
But assuming Memphis does move on from Pastner – just to be clear about what Memphis fans expect of the next guy:
Calipari’s winning percentage.
Calipari’s player development.
Pastner’s character and values.
That’s a pretty high standard.
Maybe Coach K or Tom Izzo are looking for a change of scenery.
Or maybe instead of watching him leave for a Power 5 job in a few months, Rudd can convince Justin Fuente to coach the basketball team too.