In the past month the Calipari Institute for Innovation in Coaching and Advantages in Recruiting (a.k.a. Kentucky basketball) broke ground by becoming the first college team to hold an official "draft combine" for its NBA prospects; the first to publicly invite ex-players back to campus in the event of an NBA lockout; and, last Thursday, the first to have its coach take on the side project of attempting to qualify a foreign national team for the Olympics. John Calipari is always ahead of the curve, but why is he coaching the Dominican Republic when he's already a power player in college hoops?
Calipari has Dominican ties—Wildcats junior Eloy Vargas is from there, and assistant Orlando Antigua played for the national team—and he has pledged to organize grassroots programs in the baseball-mad country. He will also enhance Kentucky's brand as an NBA development center because prospective D.R. national team members such as Trevor Ariza, Francisco Garcia, Al Horford and Charlie Villanueva would be training in Lexington, where Calipari can also hold a minicamp for emerging Dominican players.
While his rival at Louisville, Rick Pitino, backed out of a plan to coach Puerto Rico, Calipari could become a hero if he leads the Caribbean nation to its first Olympics—a feat that would ensure the next wave of Dominican prospects takes a hard look at Kentucky. Once again, advantage Wildcats.