Back to School
Can John Calipari rebuild Memphis's once proud reputation?
Before beginning his first practice as coach at Memphis at 9
a.m. last Saturday, John Calipari asked his players to stand in
a circle, join hands and bow their heads while he said a brief
prayer. That invocation was followed by 2 1/2 hours of pure
heaven for Coach Cal as he ran his charges through two dozen
drills designed to sharpen their fundamentals and improve their
conditioning. "About halfway through I looked around and
thought, I love this," says Calipari, who spent last season as
an assistant with the 76ers after a three-year hitch as coach of
the Nets. "In the NBA we ran scrimmages from Day One, but today
I was developing habits. You can see these guys are thinking,
Tell us what to do."
The workout was a welcome change for Calipari in another sense.
In the seven months since he took the Memphis job, he has acted
more like the CEO of an Internet start-up than a coach. He has
been pressing the flesh in Memphis's private sector to procure,
among other things, nearly $200,000 to upgrade the weight and
locker rooms; access to paid summer internships for his players
at Federal Express, whose national headquarters are in Memphis;
and 800 parking spaces at a hospital near the Pyramid--where
Memphis plays its home games--so students can park for free. By
his count, Calipari has also borrowed eight private jets for
recruiting and scouting trips. "A lot of people made the mistake
of telling me, 'If there's any way I can help you, just call,'"
Calipari, who transformed UMass from a nonentity into a national
power in the 1990s, has been dogged--and successful--on the
recruiting front. Last Friday night a top junior college player,
6'8" center Chris Massie of Oxnard (Calif.) College, orally
committed to Memphis, where he will be joined next fall by
arguably the nation's top high school senior, guard Dajuan Wagner
of Camden, N.J. Calipari went all out to get Wagner. Not only did
he sign Wagner's best friend and high school teammate, 6'8"
forward Arthur Barclay, who is academically ineligible this
season, but he also hired Wagner's father, Milt, the former
Louisville star, as coordinator of basketball operations, even
though Milt doesn't have a college degree.
Calipari's players have been privately--and good-naturedly--
referring to him as Adolf in response to the control he has
assumed over their schedules. "He told us straight-up that
playing for him would be the hardest thing we'd ever do," senior
guard Marcus Moody says. "He also told us that we were going to
Whether that prediction comes true remains to be seen, but for
the time being the people of Memphis, starved for a winner since
the Tigers have missed the last four NCAA tournaments, appear to
have embraced Calipari as their savior. The team attracted an
average of 11,794 fans to the 21,000-seat Pyramid last season
while going 15-16; this year more than 13,000 season tickets have
already been sold. "Right now we're going on blind faith,"
Calipari says. Basketball is religion in Memphis, but Calipari
knows that at some point faith must be rewarded, or the
parishioners will go looking for another messiah.
A Victim of Its Own Success
John Thompson III, the newly appointed coach at Princeton, could
more easily focus on the Tigers' future if he weren't haunted by
a ghost from their past. At least that's how Thompson feels
whenever he sees 6'11" junior Chris Young, who on Aug. 31
forfeited his Ivy League eligibility by signing a contract with
the Pittsburgh Pirates. "I looked out my window the other day and
saw Chris working out with the baseball coach," Thompson, 34,
says of Princeton's leading scorer last season. "Then I saw him
in the weight room, and I said to myself, 'There's the best
basketball player in the Ivy League, and he's on our campus.' It
drives you crazy."
Losing Young is only one of several setbacks that have jolted a
program renowned for its plodding efficiency. In the last six
weeks Princeton has also bidden farewell to second-leading scorer
Spencer Gloger, a 6'8" sophomore who transferred to UCLA, and
coach Bill Carmody, who bolted for Northwestern. Add to those
defections the departures of assistant Joe Scott, who accepted
the coaching job at Air Force last spring, and 6'7" junior
forward Ray Robins, who is taking the year off for personal
reasons, plus the graduation of Mason Rocca, and the Tigers have
lost 56% of their offense and 67% of their brainpower since the
end of last season.
In a way Princeton is a victim of its own success. When the
Tigers took top-seeded Georgetown to the brink of defeat in the
1989 NCAA tournament, they raised Princeton's profile as a school
where a player could not only get a great education but also
compete at the highest level. That meant better players were
attracted there, and the results could be seen in the No. 8
ranking the Tigers achieved during the 1997-98 season. Suddenly
Princeton was winning recruiting battles with the likes of Texas
to sign Young and with UCLA to sign Gloger.
Dealing with success can be difficult, however. Young, a
righthanded pitcher who led the nation with a 1.05 earned run
average last year as a sophomore, couldn't turn down a $1.65
million signing bonus from the Pirates. Gloger, a Santa
Margarita, Calif., native who had originally committed to UCLA as
a high school senior, decided he wanted to play for the Bruins
after all. Carmody, an architect of much of the Tigers' success
over the last 18 years, including 14 as an assistant to Pete
Carril, couldn't resist a reported seven-year, $3.5 million offer
from Northwestern that dwarfed his Princeton salary.
Thompson, the son of the former Georgetown coach, played for
Carril from 1984 to '88 and spent the last five years as an
assistant at his alma mater, so he understands that he has a
tough job ahead picking up the pieces. "There have been so many
fires to put out, I haven't really had time to sit back and
evaluate how my life has changed," he says. "We've taken some
hits, but I don't think this school is ever going to lower its
Teddy Dupay's Summer
Living Down a Tough Play
Teddy Dupay has read the letters, seen the Internet posts and
watched the videotape of last year's NCAA championship game in
which he committed a hard foul on a breakaway layup attempt by
Michigan State's Mateen Cleaves that almost knocked Cleaves out
of the game, leading CBS commentator Billy Packer to say, "Teddy
Dupay doesn't guard people defensively, he mugs them." Dupay,
Florida's 5'11" junior sharpshooter, understands how the world
works, so he knows that no matter what he accomplishes in
basketball, chances are he'll be most remembered for that one
play. "It's funny," he says, "because in an earlier game I made
the same play on [Oklahoma State forward] Desmond Mason, and
Packer complimented me for being tough. I hope people don't think
of me as a dirty player, but at the same time I'm not going to
just give someone a layup."
After the game, which the Spartans won 89-76, Dupay tried
unsuccessfully to find Cleaves in Michigan State's locker room,
but he did chat briefly with members of Cleaves's family in the
hallway outside. "I wanted them to know it wasn't intentional,"
Dupay says, "and one of his brothers said he understood."
The day after the final, Dupay underwent surgery to fix a torn
rotator cuff in his left (nonshooting) shoulder. The injury,
which was discovered at the beginning of his freshman year, had
gotten worse over the second half of last season, but Dupay
played through the pain. He relied on several medications that
often left him drowsy and grumpy, and as a result of the injury
his production fell off. He averaged 8.6 points last season (down
from 11.0 in his freshman year) and made only 28.1% of his
three-point tries in the SEC and NCAA tournaments.
Dupay was cleared to play again just in time to go on the Gators'
five-game tour of Europe in August. Crossing the Atlantic didn't
leave The Play behind--"Some Americans were over there, and that
was always the first thing they asked about," he says--but at
least it gave him a chance to make some new ones. Dupay drilled
six three-point attempts during the first half of Florida's
opener against a club team in Paris, and he was the Gators'
leading scorer on the trip, with a 21.6 average.
Utah coach Rick Majerus apparently doesn't think much of the
prognosticating of the journalists who cover the Mountain West
Conference. When asked about a media poll that picked the Utes
to win the Mountain West, Majerus replied, "I have to laugh at
that. We don't have a single player on the preseason
all-conference team, but BYU has five starters back, two guys on
the all-conference team and the greatest high school recruit in
the history of Utah in [6'8" forward] Garner Meads, yet they're
If the citizens of Las Vegas see a man with a familiar hangdog
look slouching around town, they shouldn't assume a coaching
change is imminent at UNLV. Fresno State coach Jerry Tarkanian,
who guided the Runnin' Rebels to the 1990 national championship,
has been in Sin City to help his wife, Lois, who still lives
there year-round, campaign for a seat on the Clark County
Commission. Lois has served on the county's school board for
The WAC has regained the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament it
lost last season after losing eight teams to the Mountain West
Conference, but it's still having trouble generating much buzz.
The league had to cancel its preseason media day due to lack of