I always find comments about “egos” in discussions regarding college basketball players fascinating. Most of these guys have spent greater part of a decade playing on AAU/Traveling teams that are essentially All-Star quads, so why would playing with a bunch of McDonalds All-Americans be all that different?
Here is LeBron James with a recent example of the effusive praise of John Calipari’s ability to manage egos:
“What I admire is how he’s able to take, year after year, these high egos coming out of high school and turn it into a team,” James said of Calipari. “He makes them believe, not even believe, it’s what it should be, that the team is more important than the individual. No matter who you are, no matter where you come from, in order for the team to have success everyone has to buy in.
Calipari does deserve some credit, as does any coach, but his ability to manage his player’s egos does not seem particularly unique. Rather Calipari’s success seems to lie mostly in getting talented players to embrace the challenge of earning playing time on as close to an approximation of an NBA roster you’ll find in college ball.
And it’s not like this is all that new. Take a look back at how many lottery picks were on those UNC & Duke teams of the 90s for example. Or the in the 80s when UNC had Jordan, Sam Perkins and James Worthy on the same roster.
Moreover, why does Calipari rarely get credit for developing players like Willie Cauley-Stein, Malcolm Lee, the Harrison twins, or Dakari Johnson? While people are focusing in one his “one and done” players, Calipari is developing a quality core of upperclassmen who provide the experience and resiliency often needed to overcome challenges and mentor Calipari’s highly touted freshmen.