Calipari-to-NBA rumor sparks a question: Is college basketball ‘a sinking ship’?

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John Calipari quickly shot down the speculation — attributed to “multiple sources” — that appeared Wednesday about him supposedly being open to a job opportunity in the NBA. One of purported reasons for the Kentucky coach’s alleged openness to such a move was presumed to be the state of college basketball as “a sinking ship.”

There is no doubt the bulging transfer portal and the expectation that players will soon be able to profit off their names, images and likenesses will significantly change college basketball. But is the sport a sinking ship?

“How many times have people said that over the years?” ESPN analyst Jay Bilas said. “And why? Because players are allowed to transfer? Or players are allowed to make money? That’s absurd. It’s laughable.

“That sinking ship they’re talking about is making more money than ever and is going to make more money than ever going forward.”

Bilas suggested the changes in college basketball over the years have consistently resulted in more revenue and richer salaries for coaches and administrators.

“So, nobody waved their arms (in the past) saying this is a sinking ship,” he said before adding, “by the way, sinking ships don’t make millions of dollars. I think the game will do just fine.”

Bilas attributed the notion of Calipari being open to returning to the NBA because of the changing nature of college basketball to the UK coach’s age. He is 62. Bilas noted how these changes were cited when Roy Williams, who will be 71 on Aug. 1, retired this spring and Mike Krzyzewski, 74, announced he will retire after next season.

“If all of them were in their 40s, they’d just adapt to it and move on,” Bilas said.

If Calipari leaves, Kentucky would adapt and move on, he added. “I think John’s the best coach for Kentucky. Whenever he decides to retire or move on, Kentucky is going to have its pick of the available coaches.”

Another ESPN analyst had a 180-degree difference of opinion about the state of college basketball.

“I think college basketball is a sinking ship,” Fran Fraschilla said.

But he did not see Calipari putting on a life jacket and heading to shore, figuratively speaking.

“Given John’s salary and length of his contract, his ship is going to stay afloat longer than most,” Fraschilla said.

Calipari’s contract runs through the 2028-29 season and pays him an annual salary in excess of $8 million.

But Fraschilla saw the sport facing turbulence ahead.

“I think college basketball coming out of a pandemic and going into this new era with free transfers (and) the lack of clarity in the name, image, likeness makes this probably one of the worst times to ever be a college coach,” Fraschilla said. “But John’s situation is better than 99 percent of the other coaches out there.”

Share the money?

With the expectation that college players will soon be allowed to profit off name, image and likeness, former Kentucky star Kevin Grevey saw a potential problem.

“You’ve got to think of your teammates,” he said. “Are they going to be jealous because, ‘man, he’s making money. I’m a role player here.’

“So what do you do? Do you share the money with your teammates because if it weren’t for them, you wouldn’t be where you are as a fine player at Kentucky?”

Grevey, who ranks seventh on Kentucky’s career scoring list (1,801 points), suggested a solution.

“I would probably take all my buddies out for steak dinners and try to make them feel they were part of what I just raked in,” he said. “It’s just weird. I’d have a hard time with it, to be honest.”

Book note

Kellan Grady’s ancestry is rooted in South Africa. For example, his grandmother protested against apartheid. His social consciousness seems acute. He helped found an organization called College Athletes for Respect and Equality at Davidson and hopes to get a chapter started at Kentucky.

This prompted a question about whether he had read comedian Trevor Noah’s book, “Born a Crime.” Noah, who was born and raised in South Africa, hosts “The Daily Show” on the Comedy Network. His “crime” was being an interracial person in South Africa.

Grady, whose family is rich in social activism, said, “I have not read it. I shouldn’t tell my parents that.”

A self-described “little dork with comedians,” Grady said he regularly watches late-night comedians Jimmy Kimmel and Noah.

“Multiple people have told me I have to read it,” he said of Noah’s book. “So, eventually I will.”


Former Louisville standout Donovan Mitchell was the guest on a show shown on The Players’ Tribune website. He was asked about playing for Rick Pitino at U of L.

“He has a way of unlocking something that is there that you don’t know,” Mitchell said. “I already had a fire. But, like, he just tapped into it because now you’re playing angry because he’s crazy. Like, Coach Pitino is crazy. … I don’t know how to describe it, but he unleashes that dog inside you. For me, it was just like everybody in front of me is not better than me.”

Speaking of crazy, Mitchell was asked about the Kentucky-Louisville rivalry. “That one game, I will say nothing gets crazier than that Kentucky-Louisville rivalry. …,” he said. “That means more in Kentucky than winning a national championship.”

Tennis, anyone?

Last week saw Shai Gilgeous-Alexander as the former UK standout featured in The Players’ Tribune series on basketball players taking up new sports. A previous episode featured Tyler Herro learning golf.

For Gilgeous-Alexander the new sport was tennis. Monica Puig, who won a gold medal playing for her native Puerto Rico in the 2016 Olympics, was his instructor.

Lesson one: How to hold the racket. “Hold it like it’s a frying pan,” Puig tells him. To which Gilgeous-Alexander replies, “I don’t cook.”

After he takes a few forehand and backhand swings, Gilgeous-Alexander says, “I feel so non-athletic right now.”

After the two hit volleys back and forth, Puig asks him what was the hardest part. “Trying to control my ego,” he says. “Like, I wanted to hit it super hard. But every time I did that, it didn’t go so well. So I had to … stay with the technique and get it over (the net).”

Gilgeous-Alexander says he was always told that nothing worthwhile comes easy. For example, “I moved to a prep school in the States, and it’s my first time being away from home at 15 years old,” he says. “I knew it wasn’t comfortable for me, but if I wanted to reach my goals, it was what I had to do.”

Small world

As noted earlier, Orlando Antigua helped Pittsburgh inflict a painful defeat on Kentucky early in the 1991-92 season. It came in a second-round game in the Preseason NIT and denied UK advancement to New York where UK Coach Rick Pitino and star player Jamal Mashburn were to return as conquering heroes.

Kentucky’s next game after losing to Pittsburgh was against a UMass team coached by … John Calipari. UK won 90-69.

Fatigue surely was a factor. UMass was playing its fourth game in six days. Also included in that span was a trip to Lexington from Anchorage, where UMass had played in the Great Alaska Shootout.

Meanwhile, the game against UMass was Kentucky’s first since the loss to Pittsburgh 12 days earlier.

Hence, UK led 46-41 at halftime, then pulled away in the second half.


A recent addition to the transfer portal, where traffic this offseason is nearing 1,700 players, caught the eye.

Denmark “Denny” Slay II has transferred from High Point to the Academy of Art.

One question: Academy of Art?

It’s a Division II school in San Francisco. It’s also a private-for-profit art school.

Slay, a 5-foot-11 guard from Woodbridge, Va., averaged 5.1 points for High Point this past season.

Happy birthday

To Immanuel Quickley. He turned 22 on Thursday. … To Joe Crawford. He turned 35 on Thursday. … To former NBA coach Del Harris. He turned 84 on Friday. … To Ravi Moss. He turns 37 on Monday. … To Derek Willis. He turns 26 on Monday. … To former Georgia and Western Kentucky coach Dennis Felton. He turns 58 on Monday.

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