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Win or lose, media won't define Cal

It didn't take long, a mere 48 hours, actually, after Kentucky coach John Calipari hatched his three-year plan that unfurled the Wildcats' eighth championship banner at Rupp Arena, for the rumors to start in their muffled beginnings.

It didn't take long for the NBA rumors to come bubbling to the surface but Calipari wasted no time refuting those on his website Wednesday.

Frank Isola, New York Knicks beat writer for the New York Daily News, tweeted that a lot of NBA folks believe that the wheels to "Calipari-to-the-Knicks" have already been set in motion.

Talking heads said Tuesday that maybe Calipari has set the bar too high for even himself at UK and perhaps would do well to get the heck out of dodge to stay one step ahead of the mob before the expectations spin out of control, like say with former UK head man Tubby Smith.

It's an often perpetuated myth that Kentucky fans ran Smith out of town because they expect a national championship every year and that they'll do the same thing to Calipari if he stays long enough.

Regardless, Calipari promptly put those rumors to bed Wednesday, refuting the rumors on, saying, "I’m not going anywhere. I have the best job in the country. Why would I leave after we’ve just won a national title? We’re trying to catch UCLA, folks."

Calipari said regarding the Knicks rumors even prior to the start of the NCAA Tournament that his name will always be associated with other jobs. No matter what happens, the "Cal-to-the-NBA" rumors will always be one job opening away.

It's difficult to envision that Calipari would want to trade the chemistry that the Cats enjoyed this season for the toxicity of the Knicks, one that has already gotten former coach Mike D'Antoni fired.

Earlier this season, Louisville coach Rick Pitino said the reason that college coaches haven't succeeded at NBA posts is because they only get the "horseshit jobs." Calipari won't have that problem. He'll be able to pretty much hand pick his next coaching stop if there's life after Lexington.

Some are quick to draw the comparison to former USC football coach Pete Carroll, who took the Seattle Seahawks job because he wanted to try his hand at the NFL a second time to prove he could do better than the first time around. People also forget that Carroll was also trying to stay one step ahead of the NCAA, as the Trojans were about to be on the business end of major sanctions that occurred on his watch.

Just as Calipari wouldn't allow the media to define him by his failures, he wasn't about to allow it to define him by his success either.

But if Calipari were to leave UK for the more lucrative, perhaps higher-profile pastures of the NBA, it won't be for any kind of validation or vindication. He proved that after the title game Monday night.

On the biggest stage following the biggest win of his career, and with one of the biggest, "I told you so's," in history loaded in the chamber, Calipari never fired the "eff you" bullet at the national media that doubted his ability to win a championship with a bunch of freshman one-and-doners or the horde of media that wanted a pound of flesh for each of his vacated Final Four stops at UMass and Memphis.

Just as Calipari wouldn't allow the media to define him by his failures, he wasn't about to allow it to define him by his success either.

"I'm glad it's done," Calipari said. "Now I can get about my business of coaching basketball, getting these players to be the bet they can be and helping young people create better lives for themselves and their families. I don't have to hear the drama. I just coach now. I don't have to worry. Done. Let me move on."

Calipari's response to his 67-59 win over Kansas Monday night mirrored his response to the 75-68 loss to the Jayhawks in 2008.

"I feel the same as I did before the game. I don't feel any different," Calipari said. "I'm not going to change who I am. I'm here for these young people and they know that. They trust what I'm telling them is in their best interest. I'm going to be the same guy. This is about them. It's not about me."

As much as he's billed as a competitor or even egotistical, I'm convinced that the main reason Calipari coaches, and excels at coaching college basketball, is because he's actually invested in the success of the young people he coaches.

No one has been able to replicate the type of success Calipari has enjoyed on the recruiting trail, which he'll hit again Friday in an attempt to sign his fourth consecutive top-ranked recruiting class at UK.

Calipari's honesty goes a long way on the recruiting trail and pays immediate dividends in what he calls a "players first program."

Calipari's "blue" print for recruiting results has been strikingly simple. It's an honesty policy that has 5-star talent buying into his system from day one.

"It starts with how you recruit them," Calipari said. "You can't tell them, 'you're going to shoot 30 times a game, the offense is going to run through you and you're going to start.' None of these guys were promised they'd start. And then you have to recruit them the right way so they know you're trustworthy. And then they got to trust you're doing it for them. It's not about me. Then they'll do what you ask them to do because it's for them."

At Kentucky, Calipari has cultered a players first program that after winning a national championship, has the ability to recruit itself. The NBA is, and always will be, a players league where coaches are hired to be fired.

An underrated aspect of Calipari's coaching acumen has always been his ability to set aside his coaching ego and tailor his system to the strengths of his team. Similarly, he's repeatedly set aside his personal ego for his players, assuming only the blame while heaping the praise onto his players.

It's a connection that not many, if any, college coaches can make.

"If you make it a player’s program, if you’re about them, then you make that connection," Calipari told Yahoo! Sports' Dan Wetzel during the Final Four. "If you’re about yourself, you’ll never hear from them again."

As far as NBA rumors go, that's another story.

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