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Another Calipari Money Grab?

Jan 11, 2016 -- 2:05pm

Andy Sweeney
ESPN Louisville Host, Producer


At times, sports can be predictable.

The Bengals lose in the playoffs. The Spurs are good at basketball. And John Calipari will at some point be wooed by an NBA franchise.

We've been through this before. It's become so foggy that I can't tell whether Calipari wants the NBA,  the NBA wants Calipari or the entire thing is a farce. At this point, who's keeping score?

The newest report from Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski has Calipari (through Wes) demanding 10 years, 120 million and full control to take over any franchise, specially whatever shell is left of the Brooklyn Nets. They've apparently shown interest after firing Lionel Hollins and GM Billy King.

Of course, all of this comes on the back of offseason reports that the Sacramento Kings' minority ownership group was interested and Calipari gave them a chance to woo him . And who could forget the confirmed reports that the Cleveland Cavaliers offered 10 years, 80 million for Calipari's services before Lebron James and Kyrie Irving inked their new deals.

We'll never know if Calipari has turned down various offers or that the interest isn't as real as we thought. Either way, the Calipari rumblings haven't stopped, and it doesn't look like they ever will, despite Calipari's latest plea to stay at Kentucky.


But here's the only question that matters: Is there real interest from Calipari in running AND coaching an NBA franchise, or is it another money grab to open the unlimited vault of cash that resides in Mitch Barnhart's office? And if even Calipari was playing the NBA against Kentucky, he knows he doesn't have to. So why the leaks? Why the discussion? Why the need to go through this multiple times each year? 

Is this simply an exercise and a flexing of the muscle by Calipari? Is he setting the stage to amend another contract this May?

After all, his last restructured deal has him making $7.25 million this season, with that number growing throughout the life of the contract.

I tweeted this out earlier today...


Is this where we are? Rich owners incessantly enamored with the sweet talking, full of swag Calipari. They’re ready to offer the world to a guy who was 72-112 his first stint in the league. Hoping his bus load of NBA prospects coached in Lexington will follow his lead when the stakes are high and criticism is tougher. Because guys this is becoming a trend.


Here's what's honestly the craziest part of this...if Calipari wants to lead an NBA franchise, $10-12 million per year isn't crazy. In the same city that houses the Nets are the Knicks, and they're paying Phil Jackson $12 million a year  just to run the franchise and Derek Fisher  -- a rookie head coach -- another $5 million annually to coach it. You could make the argument that $12 million per season for Calipari comes in under budget. I said you could argue, not that you'd be right.

So with Kentucky playing Mississippi State on Tuesday, where are we?

Much like other years, Kentucky fans will wait. They'll mock the reports. We'll do segments on the radio how much Calipari has waited for his 2016-17 recruiting class, .how much true potential they have.

Those on the other side will remind college fans that the NBA is the real league where you prove your coaching worth. Front office "experts" will proclaim that Calipari isn't negotiating, but rather his agent is (a notion I agree with). Meanwhile, the Nets will continue to stink after running their franchise into the ground and shipping out most of their upcoming draft picks.

Fortunately, none of this matters. If Calipari wants to be back in the NBA, he'll get his wish. There sure seems to be enough interest. And money.


Sweeney: Kentucky's 'Weak' Performance

Jan 06, 2016 -- 1:57pm

Andy Sweeney
ESPN Louisville


There are congratulations that need to be handed out after the 85-67 drubbing that LSU laid on Kentucky last night.

First, congrats to Kentucky and John Calipari. It's not easy making Johnny Jones look THAT good. Second, congrats to the players. Somehow, in January, the coaching staff is still having to prod guys to, ya know, play hard. 

What UK fans witnessed last night wasn't simply a blip on the radar, but rather a trend and a narrative that continues to get worse this season. Three losses to teams NOT in the top 25. Three losses where the team’s toughness has been questioned by everyone. Three losses where you never felt Kentucky was going to win.

In a post game interview, Jamal Murray blamed the players, calling the team “weak.”

Calipari went a step further.

"We weren't up for the challenge. We weren't ready to compete at the level they were competing at, especially our inside people," he said in a truncated post game press conference.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, IS the narrative. 

Kentucky isn't playing with emotion. They’re not executing and, quite frankly, the returning guys expected to lead the way simply are not doing so. 

And it's the returning guys that bother me the most.

I've been consistent on air that the leaders for this team are not freshmen. Alex Poythress has been through the wars. But why is he still so inconsistent? In UK’s losses, he has scored 6, 4 and 4. Simply not good enough. He'll look like an NBA first rounder one night, and the next he disappears.

Marcus Lee is no better. Last night he fouled out in 5 minutes, scoring no points and grabbing but two rebounds. 

I'll admit, I was flat out wrong. I thought the upperclassmen would shine knowing that freshman Skal Labissiere is simply not ready to  contribute at a high level. I thought Poythress and or Lee would emerge from the shadows of NBA first rounders that have come before them and show how much they've developed in three years. The trend is showing otherwise. 

When asked about his bigs, Calpari said, "I don't know, you'll have to ask them. They didn't compete like they needed to, I know that."

Calipari can only do so much. They'll continue to develop and get better, but still coaching effort in January is a major problem. (And this is after the daunted and much publicized "Camp Cal")

How did this team beat Louisville? I'll never know. But I do know for one night they made Johnny Jones look like a good coach, and that's not easy to do.

Pitino Lacks Awareness, Creates Media Stir

Dec 28, 2015 -- 12:45pm

By Andy Sweeney
ESPN Louisville


Let me be clear: I like Rick Pitino a great deal.

He's one of my favorite coaches in any sport and on any level.

But as I sat in the Rupp Arena media room, I was overcome with fatigue about the storyline of the next few days -- Rick Pitino not doing the normal post game media Q&A. I knew the discussion would be venomous, and it has. Red and blue fans alike proclaim they know what normal protocol for any coach is after a game of Saturdays magnitude.  Twitter trolls have emerged from their caves as though they've been apart of any media scrum. Irrationality at its finest.

Above all else, I'm mad at Rick for making it a story. He created it. The Sports Information staff at Louisville did not.

The media has furthered the story, but make no mistake, we did not create it.

Pitino released a blog Monday morning (knowing he was taking heat) about the lack of question taking:

"Let me set the record straight about not doing a postagme press conference. I told  
Kenny Klein and Paul Rogers 24 hours before the game that it didnt' matter, win or
lose I would speak to our fans through our postame radio interivew and Ralph
would speak with the media"  


Of course Rick released that via his blog.

He did so knowing what the chatter among fans has been since Saturday. He knew a large segment of his fan base was embarrassed.

As Pat Forde and Rick Bozich independently pointed out, the lack of grace and professionalism was staggering. And any notion that anyone in the media was alerted this would be the case is flat out wrong.

Two Louisville SID members said post game that Pitino would go to the podium. The media, knowing this would never be the case, swarmed the  Cards' hallway. We were then told Pitino wouldn't come to podium, but rather speak in front of their locker room.

Finally, Bob Valvano was called into the locker room where he spoke to Rick for the network. We waited 10 more minutes and Willard was the sacrificial fall guy.

But back to my point...I'm mad this is even a story. And it's upsetting that Pitino created this distraction.

And let's be honest: Pitino's actions make John freaking Calipari look like the good guy. He did the post game presser. He was gracious in winning, even complimentary to the Cards. Pitino made himself look like the bad guy. As a fan, that would irk me, especially when Calipari is universally never viewed as the good guy.

Lastly, I'll never understand this from a fan viewpoint.

Maybe it's emotion talking. I'm a New York Giants fan, and after Sunday night's loss to the Vikings, I wanted to hear why that game was such a debacle.

Why do Louisville fans not want to hear their coach speak to a fanbase and do so in an appropriate manner that all coaches do after each game? Why protect your guy when he does wrong? We surely don't do this in any other walk of life. Why start here?

If 19 year olds can face the music then so can their 6 million dollar coach.

Truth be told, Louisville played a hell of a game Saturday. They very well are in the group of 15 teams that can win it all. They'll only get better as guys like Adel, Spalding, Anas and Mitchell get more comfortable. That should be the story. Coming back from 16 down in Rupp and having a shot in the air to win should be the story.

I'm tired of talking about mysterious middle fingers or blowing off press obligations. Coaches always stress doing the right thing and persevering through adversity. I thought players from both sides did that on Saturday, just not the coach in red.

Instead of the players, coaches too should live up their one day contract.

Bo Ryan Retires, Quits on His Team

Dec 16, 2015 -- 2:36pm
By Andy Sweeney
ESPN Louisville
I must admit from the start. I wrote this poorly worded column yesterday, just hours after Bo Ryan decided to hang it up. Also, after going back a second time and listening to his "good bye" presser, I felt like I was a tad harsh, but still, many of the same principles apply. This includes the fact that Ryan should not and ultimately will not choose his replacement. He wanted to retire in the offseason but a personal Greg Gard family situation altered that course. Whether it's April or December, Ryan should not get to manipulate the system so his assistant becomes a head coach. That's not his job nor his call within the scope of an athletic department. 
Anyways, here's the column I put together yesterday....
Bo Ryan will be known for many things. Most are positive. No doubt the 364 wins at Wisconsin being one of those positive stats. 
Unfortunately, he'll also be known for quitting. Because that's what he did to his 7-5 Wisconsin Badger basketball team. 
He quit on them.
He quit leading. He quit coaching. He decided to not finish what he started.
In hindsight, Ryan should have stayed retired after announcing last season. But due to a family sickness within Greg Gard's family, and the belief Gard wouldn't even get the job, Ryan decided to delay the inevitable. He came back for another season just to dump out after 12 games. Of course, giving Gard his shot at becoming the Wisconsin HC.
Maybe Ryan is the most loyal man to his longtime assistant. Maybe he's spiteful Gard probably won't keep the job after this season (IMO). Either way, smooth move by Ryan. I'm not totally saying he manipulated the system, but odd timing nonetheless. We can agree on that, yes?
What's more bothersome is how dangerously close this is to becoming a trend. Steve Spurrier did it in October. Ryan decided it was time last night, after a win. Both legendary, both walked away IN THE MIDDLE, not the end. And by most fans and media this has been seen as acceptable. 
And therein lies my biggest problem.
Coaches toss out this bluster that you must run through a wall for them. GIVE ME EVERYTHING YOU HAVE! Never quit. Never stop trying. Find a way, any way, damn it! The game is never over!
These are the hard nosed motivational tactics that coaches blurt out across the entire landscape of sports. So why is it OK that Ryan and Spurrier backtracked on their own teachings?
Why don't Ryan/Spurrier finish what THEY started? Isn't that what THEY coached? Go run through a wall for YOUR players, Bo. Don't quit now. Quit worrying about your successor and worry about building a better team.
Don't  get my wrong. I'm a big fan of Steve Spurrier. Not as much Bo Ryan, but respect both immensely. But they quit on their respective teams, fans and their athletic department. 
In an era of snark and criticism, Spurrier and Ryan seem to have avoided the social media mob. And, for once, there was something with criticizing. 

Analyzing the Cards, Cats

Dec 01, 2015 -- 1:21pm

Andy Sweeney

It was fun Saturday watching both Louisville and Kentucky fanbases meltdown about an hour apart. Leading 24-7 at the half, Cardinal fans in my vicinity had cursed everyone from JUrich to Bobby, and yes, Krathrope (still). Flip the script an hour later and the sweat pants guy Drew Barker and the Caaayuts were in full meltdown mode.

A real laughable scenario as UL freshmen QB ran all over the place. Mark Stoops, as had been the case all season, had no answers and there was no stopping the proverbial bleeding. Cards win, 5 straight, and have really dominated the series as late. Sadder yet for Cats fans, any momentum or good feeling from the Stoops era has disapated. Here are a few observations from both sides....
1.  With this particular crop of QB's, Lamar Jackson is the answer. The conversation is over. Kyle Bolin has had every opportunity, and much like Patrick Towles, we have seen the ceiling. He's a back up QB. Everybody clamors for the backup, but not anymore. We need to move on. This is as bad as Lamar Jackson will be. He's been in campus for about 4 months and you see the talent. For the first time in his second tenure Bobby Petrino will head into next season with no QB competition.
2.   Glass half empty: who will be back defensively? No doubt Devonte Fields, Josh Harvey-Clemons and Keith Kelsey have aspirations at playing at the next level. Will they begin that quest after this season? Gut says yes to at least 2 of the 3. For the third straight year expect even more turnover on the defensive side of the ball.
3.   Glass half full: the offense. Everybody is back, everybody. Bobby will bring back the guts of his offensive line, the entire WR/RB/TE core, and a true sophomore QB with an offseason dedicated to being the starter.
4.   UL has dominated series since 1994. Not only have the Cards won 5 straight but they've won 14-22 since the rebirth of the Governor's Cup. Louisville moves into next season with the game at home, a better coach, a better QB and all the momentum.
5.    7-5, while the season salvaged this season after starting 0-3, is NOT acceptable going forward. I've said it on air many times, Louisville didn't hire Petrino to beat Syracuse, Wake Forest or even Kentucky for that matter. It's all about beating FSU and Clemosn while competing for the ACC championship. Cards should expect 9 wins next season.
1.  Fans, let's start with them. They've bought in, bought tickets and have provided a great home field advantage all season. They deserve more. They don't deserve incompetency. All they've received is incompetency.
2.  The THREE recruits. The high powered 2013 recruiting class from Stoops was based in 3 guys: Drew Barker, Matt Elam, Dorian Baker. Barker hasn't played, Elam has played and it hasn't been good, Barker can't catch.
3.  The assistants. It seems as if Stoops has whiffed over and over. Neal Brown got the HC gig at Troy but very few Cats fans bought into the Air Raid. Mostly because it never worked. Enter Shannon Dawson who has been little better. On the defensive side of the ball I don't blame DJ Eliot, I blame Stoops. Just like I don't blame Garrick McGee for offensive woes, I would blame Bobby.
4.  The 2015 schedule was relatively easy, but it won't be next year. The Cats will go on the road at Alabama, Louisville, Missouri and Tennessee. They'll get Georgia, a South Carolina and Mississippi State in Commonwealth. Good luck.
5.  The Barker conundrum. Hindsight being 20/20, the staff butchered the entire QB situation. They loved Patrick Towles so much that morning after their final game he decided to transfer. It became evident early this season that Towles wasn't the answer.

Mocking the Locals in the Draft

Jun 25, 2015 -- 12:27pm

By Andy Sweeney
ESPN 680 & 105.7


I’ve always held the belief that for those taken, round 1 or 2, it’s all about fit and stability within an organization and not always how high you go. I’ll give you a local example…in 2012 Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was taken 2nd overall to Charlotte. In the long run it would have been better for him to fall to number 3 (Washington), 6 (Portland) or 7 to the Warriors who took Harrison Barnes that year. Sometimes going lower means landing in a more stable situation, the opposite of the Charlotte Bobcats.

I'm giving you THE BEST and THE WORST case scenario. 

***If you notice I left out the Twins and Dakari. I do believe all 3 are drafted in the 2nd round. When you get to round 2 the order gets nutty as teams trade those picks much of the time. But all 3 WILL be on a team next year***

Karl-Anthony Towns, Kentucky
6’11 250 C

THE GOOD: I actually think Minnesota at 1 is a good spot. Historically, it hasn’t been, we know that. BUT you add Towns to a front line of Gorgui Dieng and Nikola Pekovic and you’re off to a good start. Plus, last year the Wolves made a key trade for Andrew Wiggins and have high flier Zach LaVine. There could be worse teams picking at number 1 overall…like Philly.

THE BAD: I know there are tons of Lakers fan in the area so sorry beforehand. The Lakers have little stability at this point. New ownership group that hasn’t been able to lure free agents. Last year’s first rounder, Julius Randle, broke his leg 16 minutes into his NBA career. He’s a complete unknown. Kobe may never play again. If he does, will it matter? And I'm not sold they're capable of making a move for Demarcus Cousins. These aren't the "Dr Buss" Lakers.


Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky
7’1 242 C

THE GOOD: As I mentioned above with MKG, sometimes it’s better to drop and end up in a better spot than go higher and end up with a mess of a franchise. This holds true with WCS. I would love to see him end up being taken 11th overall to the Indiana Pacers. If you believe the pre draft scuttle that his stock is dropping, then conventional thinking would have him available outside the top 10. WCS would be the new inside anchor for the Pacers who have admitted they want to be younger and faster at the C position. Roy Hibbert has 1 year left on his deal and may not be there come the start of the season..opening the door for WCS to play and play a lot under a great head coach in Frank Vogel. 

THE BAD: The Knicks. Period. Stop. Poor WCS would be entering a situation with a President and head coach that might be over their collective heads. There’s very little talent on that roster and I’m not sure it’s getting much better. Plus, we know Knicks fans won’t like whoever they pick. For the sake of WCS' development, not sure this is a good spot.


Devin Booker, Kentucky
6’6 206 SG

THE GOOD: If you believe that 8-12 slot is where Booker will be taken, and I buy into that notion, then I think 10 to Miami would be ideal. Nearly ALL mocks have Booker pegged at 9 to Charlotte (Chad Ford update today and said 10 to Miami). In Miami I do believe Booker would play behind D-Wade/Dragic. You could put all three on the floor at the same time with Booker being 6’6 and stretching the floor. Plus, we all believe Miami is stable…Eric Spolestra, Pat Riley, good ownership group. Miami needs a shooter and Booker would be a younger Ray Allen who had so much success in the Lebron era. 

THE BAD: Sorry, I’m an MJ guy, but there’s not much upside in landing in Charlotte. There might be more playing time but you’re talking about disappearing into obscurity. As it stands, Charlotte has trade Noah Vonleh, Gerald Henderson and wants to move Cody Zeller. This is MJ admitting he can’t draft. Add on top of that they cannot lure free agents…this is simply a dead end. Analysts say Charlotte needs a shooter, which they do, but they need much much more. 


Trey Lyles, Kentucky
6’10 242 PF

THE GOOD: If you believe the experts then we’ll assume that Lyles is maybe the most intriguing and mysterious pick in this draft. There’s not a lot of scuttle about him, but word is that NBA GM’s love the kid. Best case scenario for me would be Lyles landing at 14 to OKC. He would immediately join a front line that needs the help and a team that is poised next season to make a deep playoff run. You also wonder if new HC Billy Donovan’s familiarity with Lyles would tip the scales in landing the UK big man. I do think Lyles has just scratched the surface and would be a nice fit to an already fantastic roster (when healthy).

THE BAD: Currently, ESPN’s Chad Ford has Lyles pegged at 17 with Milwaukee (later moved him 12 to Utah). At first glance not the best fit but that roster is rebuilding and I do think Jason Kidd is competent. Worse case scenario has to be Dallas. I know last year they were a playoff team but Rondo is out the door as is Monte Ellis…ya know, the starting back court. Dirk is another year older and front line scoring is non existent. Dallas about to go through a major rebuild if they don’t land Lamarcus Aldridge…and I don’t think they will. Tough spot here for Lyles, plus it means he falls out of the lottery. 


Montrezl Harrell, Louisville
6’8 253 PF

THE GOOD: Trez is an interesting case study. He came back for his junior season and probably will end up being drafted in the same slot had he come out last year, BUT we know he’s a much more accomplished player this time around. Best case for me would mean him drooping a little past what Louisville fans think he should. I’d love to see him go 26 to San Antonio. Play behind Duncan for at least one year and possibly have Lamarcus Aldridge on the front line with you. Plus, you know what I think about stability and there’s no franchise more respected in the sport than the Spurs. He would be a great building block to a team trying to become more youthful.

THE BAD: I think Toronto at 20 would be rather mediocre. NBA insiders believe they’re trying to move DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowery…better known as their starting back court and best two players. I think the Raptors are about to undergo a slight rebuild. Trez would get lost in the shuffle. 


Terry Rozier, Louisville
6’2 190 PG/SG

THE GOOD: I said it during the season and still believe it now that Rozier is going to be a solid/long time pro. He’s that good. He can run a team but also score many different ways. With that being said, I’m not convinced he’s a first rounder but hope that he is. My best case is Chicago (that’s where Chad Ford has Rozier slotted). He’ll have the chance to play immediately and a lot given the health of Derrick Rose. The Bulls have been great in developing draft picks, but have also been good with finding guys who can play behind Rose. Rozier fits this perfectly. 

THE BAD: Dropping out of round 1 would obviously be worse case scenario. If he does slip to the bottom of round 1 then it has to be the Nets. Total instability at all areas and low chance of being in the post season going forward. The only caviot would be his playing time. If D-Will continues to be injured (and he will) then Rozier could get some playing time.

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