DESTIN, Fla. --
"John" was all former Kentucky athletic director
Wednesday, no one called from the elevator. Calipari swallowed hard and took questions. He didn't necessarily answer them, but he took them.
"We've responded to it," Calipari said of the
Asked if he'd spoken to Bledsoe since the story appeared, Calipari remained tight-lipped. "We're good on that," he said.
But things are not good for Calipari, who may be due for some good karma after
Bledsoe, who went one-and-done along with fellow Wildcats freshmen
The difference between the Camby and Rose scandals and the Bledsoe mess is that Calipari had moved on to another job before anything hit the fan. Despite rumors that friend-of-Calipari and hoops power broker
"I made my statement," Calipari said Wednesday. "The only people who seemed to not believe me were you guys. But I said I'm going to be at Kentucky next year. I don't need to say anything else."
Silence is likely best, because anything Calipari says at this point probably will be used against him. Calipari has a fairly solid defense in this case -- the NCAA's initial eligibility center certified Bledsoe's transcript not once but twice -- but the fact that these issues keep popping up around Calipari should give anyone in blue pause. Calipari's only two Final Four banners have come down, and NCAA investigators began asking questions about his recruiting practices as the Wildcats' coach barely a year after he landed at Kentucky.
Now no one will talk about his team's respectable APR. No one will talk about the fact that the one-and-dones stayed behind in Lexington to finish their classes so they wouldn't hurt the program. "A kid has to be a really loyal kid and a good student to want to stay that last month and a half and finish his schoolwork when he knows he's going to the NBA," Calipari said. "Our kids this year did."
But that doesn't matter now, because Calipari is at the center of one more scandal.
It was no secret in the college basketball world that Bledsoe's transcript was a document shrouded in mystery. Whoever signed him was going to get the third degree from the NCAA. Knowing this, and knowing his own history with the NCAA, Calipari signed him anyway. So he shouldn't be surprised that the posse has ridden south from Indianapolis.
Calipari can make a convincing case that he knew nothing about Camby's income, Rose's test score or Bledsoe's transcript. Second only to his mastery of the dribble-drive motion offense is his mastery of the concept of plausible deniability. Calipari has been called Teflon. He's more like Teflon sprayed with WD-40 and dipped in mercury.
Plausible deniability is a critical skill for any major college hoops coach. College basketball recruiting is a cesspool, and every elite program must wade into the muck if it wants to stay elite. (Yes, that includes your favorite program.)
He's been covered in smoke, but he has yet to touch fire. His problem now is that he's dealing with the NCAA and not a court of law. The NCAA doesn't offer due process. It doesn't have to prove anything beyond a reasonable doubt. It will convict on smoke in the absence of fire. Kentucky just got outfoxed by fired coach
Many Kentucky fans have rushed to Calipari's defense. For that, he's grateful. "Coaching at Kentucky is like being in politics," Calipari said. "You've got your core group that absolutely loves you, and the others are trying to unseat you." Of course, Calipari left off the next logical piece of that sentiment. If he coached at Tennessee, Kentucky fans would call him a cheater.
It may behoove Calipari to place a call to Worldwide Wes and ask for placement in the NBA, but he seems resolved to stay at Kentucky and ride out this latest wave. In fact, while he wouldn't talk about Bledsoe's case Wednesday, he was more than happy to address any soon-to-be drafted guard who might want to replace Wall or Bledsoe. "If you're a point guard right now, and you're out there, you kind of say, 'Man, I want to follow in those shoes,' " Calipari said.
But would you?