If I were to compile a list of the four coaches I would least like to win the NCAA men's basketball championship, they would be Mike Krzyzewski, Jim Calhoun, John Calipari and Rick Pitino.
Krzyzewski, Calhoun and Calipari have won the last three national titles with their Duke, UConn and Kentucky teams, respectively. Assuming Pitino's Louisville team beats Michigan tonight-as is expected--it will be four straight years of frustration for me.
As much as I love this tournament, I have a mounting disdain for how it usually ends. I will not watch tonight's national championship game. I usually don't especially in recent years. They are too ominous, dispiriting, and disappointing. Out of the field of 67 who make the tournament, the team I least want to win makes it to that game, and they usually win. It's torturous. I will read a book instead, or blog about baseball, or eat something.
Tonight this country should root against Louisville and Pitino if they know anything about Pitino. I won't go into the details other than to say he has had some marital indiscretions with another women that didn't portray him as a nice guy at all, especially to his wife and family. Think self-centered jerk. By contrast, Michigan coach John Beilein strikes me as a nice upstanding man. I can root for him and will be happy if he wins although I have no ties to that university. I support him mainly because he isn't one of the other four guys.
So why do I root against these four guys? Because I believe, I truly believe, that they have reached their heights as coaches by being ruthless. They have manipulated the minds of college kids to the point where they are scary and almighty in the minds of their players. This is what these coaches want. Check out the recruiting history of Calhoun and Calipari. It has been well documented they engaged in highly questionable and unfair recruiting of star players. Did you know that the Big East coaches have such disdain for Calhoun that they conspired one year to vote against him for Coach of the Year even though, based on wins, he may have deserved it? The reason was because of the tactics he used to lure star players to his program. They did not like the guy. We're not talking one guy. We're talking a league full of coaches. Calhoun didn't care. He only cared about winning.
As for Calipari, there have been two schools where he coached previously, University of Massachusetts and Memphis. Both have been charged with recruiting violations while he was head coach. Do you honestly think this guy would do something underhanded and uncool to get a star player to sign with his team? Take one look at him and you will have your answer. He reeks slime.
Coach K, despite striving mightily to portray himself as holier-than thou, is really not that holy. His players say he is more like Bobby Knight than the public believes. Heard of Bobby Knight? He is probably the most ruthless and mean coach in the history of college basketball. I never rooted for him either. The way Coach K scream at refs is repugnant, the antithesis of holy.
The common thread among all four of these coaches is egomania and ruthlessness in pursuit of wins and national championships. They win, yes, but they are not likable. They would do almost anything to beat you. Have you taken a close look at Pitino's eyes? It's a scary sight that his players no doubt fear. Can you imagine being one of his players and having him tirade against you-as you know he does all the time? Would that be a fulfilling college experience?
So what's the lesson here? Be mean, super ambitious and cut corners and you can be a very successful basketball coach. Intimidate, bully your way. Break rules. Dismember the minds and hearts of your players. Steal their souls. Break their hearts. Make few friends. Win. Infuriate. Alienate. Trample on people to get what you want. Not what your players want-they really don't matter to you in the long run. Get what you want. Let's not kid ourselves that your glory and ambitious is about your players. They are mere pawns. You are the kings.
So tonight I suggest you avoid more Final Four frustration. This year's tournament has lost its mojo as it seems to every year as the brackets blow up and the Final Four plays out. A few weeks ago it had found its allure with the surge by Florida Gulf Coast into America's hearts. That was a team and coach worth rooting for. They were fresh. There was not a collection of high school McDonalds All Americans as you always find on Duke, Kentucky, UConn and Louisville.
They made us believe in hope, in what is possible, a new angle on life. They made us believe in the little guys, the less powerful.
Coach K, Calhoun, Calipari and Pitino make us believe in power that annoys and corrupts.