If you've stepped one foot inside of the state lines, you already know the devastation that surrounds Kentucky Basketball. If you live here, don't leave it to me to tell you what you already know. If you watch from afar, it's no different for you either. I use the word "devastation" and some people who just truly don't understand will sit there and laugh, but that's just how it is here. For Kentucky fans, it truly is a devastation that we're going through. When Kentucky basketball (and now football included) is losing, it's what I believe is the equivalent to the sky falling. Life sucks, sports suck and our moods suck, because what gives us the most joy in life is failing us.
All the pressure coming into this season after being fresh off a Round of 64 upset to Saint Peters last March has not lived up to what was expected of them. After that loss, Kansas would then go on to pass Kentucky in all-time wins on their path to the National Championship that they took back home with them to Lawrence. If you want to keep going back and reflecting on the fire that's formed, all of this was off the worst season in school history, with that 2020-21 team that finished 9-16. Now, this one wasn't their fault, but they missed the tournament in the year prior to that because COVID was just starting to become an outbreak and it canceled the entire postseason. So, it's been year after year after year of disappointment and holding off until "next year", just for something else to end the way we hoped that it wouldn't.
What's my point in all this? It's that an NCAA Tournament seems foreign to the students that are currently seniors at the University of Kentucky. There are a group of students who will have made it through their entire college career without seeing their Kentucky Wildcats do something meaningful in the postseason. That right there is just unbelievable and I can't believe I'm even typing it. After Kentucky's loss to the Georgia Bulldogs on Saturday, the current count for the streak since that last tournament win in 2019 was at 4 years, 11 months and 21 day (or 1,819 days).
When did things start to take turn for the worse? Most fans are able to point to one common thing. John Calipari's lifetime contract. Things just have not been even remotely close to how they once were with him on the throne. Maybe it's that he's not as hungry as he once was. Maybe he's getting older in age (just turned 64) and isn't having as much fun with it as he once did. I mean, he is the one who said this job had a shelf life of ten years the day that he arrived. He's on year 14 as we speak. Back to the point of emphasis with that contract are the stats that coincide with it. As I always say: people lie, but numbers don't.
Since signing the lifetime contract in the summer of 2019:
2020 - Present Day: 76-39 record (66%)
2010-2019: 305-71 record (81.1%)
While I understand the reasoning of Mitch Barnhart to extended the contract offer out to Calipari in that specific moment, we can't ignore the fact of what's changed since. The on-court success has changed and that makes the contract a big time target for many. It fended off UCLA, but now it's making fans defend their stance of wanting a new coach as a result. For myself, I want John Calipari here. Not as much as I once did, but I still find myself wanting him to run this program because I know he has what it takes to do so. At the rate it's going at now, my fuse is on its way to flaming out pretty soon. If it wasn't for this recruiting class coming in next year, I'd definitely entertain the idea of starting a search to keep in our back pockets. If it's up to me, I'd give him one more season to prove his worth. If he doesn't do something great next year, that will be five consecutive seasons of dissapontment and, at a place like Kentucky, that's one too many to be tolerated.
Even if I had everything my way, I'd still give John Calipari one more season. If I was able to draw up the perfect scenario, I'd choose for Cal to get his guys next year, knock down every door to another title and for him to retire right after and ride off into the sunset. That's what he's still here for - to win that second title. It would put him into an elite category of coaches and he can exit on top, like I'm sure he prefers. I'd thank the man for his time here, be beyond grateful to him for allowing me to grow up watching him thrive here (mostly), and I'd even shed some tears over it. But unfortunately, I can admit that the game is passing him by and he isn't as good as he once was. All great things come to an end and I think that his end is near. I believe that second title will satisfy him and he can finally move on and enjoy retirement with the Coach K's and the Roy Williams' of the world.