40-0 too much to expect from Kentucky?
by Adam Himmelsbach, USA TODAY Sports
LEXINGTON, Ky. — The narrative building around this Kentucky basketball team can be traced back to April 2, 2012. To the New Orleans Superdome. To the national championship game. It was there, with the confetti falling and the music playing and the Wildcats celebrating their title, that coach John Calipari raised the bar.
“I want to coach a team that goes 40-0,” he said. “Before I’m out of here. Before I’m done. And the reason is, they say it can’t be done. So let’s go try and do it. Let’s try to win them all.”
And there it was, hubris mixed with hope. It was Calipari being Calipari. Much of the nation sighed; Wildcats fans salivated.
Yes, perfection is a recurring objective in sports. But Calipari’s brash remark gained traction because of the manner in which he delivered it, the moment he chose.
Although last year’s UK team had flaws, the spotlight has long been pointed toward this season, toward a recruiting class billed as the greatest ever. And when center Willie Cauley-Stein and forward Alex Poythress decided to return for their sophomore seasons, the perfect storm gained momentum. Suddenly, talk of 40-0 did not sound absurd.
To be fair, Calipari did not spend the summer boasting about an impending perfect season. When he was asked about the seemingly unachievable mark last week, he even stepped back — and we all know Calipari hardly ever steps back — and said his goal is not new.
“I’ve said it for eight to ten years,” Calipari said, throwing sand on the fire he’d started. “Before I retire, I would like to coach a team that goes 40-0. Will that happen? I don’t know…We don’t talk about it as a team. I mean, I don’t — it’s not like, ‘Oh, we’re going 40-0.’ We don’t.”
At this point, this storyline is spreading because the media has latched onto it, because we love storylines. And the fact that this article is appearing in this space means I am, in some ways, part of the herd.
But I’m actually here to encourage everyone to tap the brakes. I’m here to tell you that … [For more on Column: 40-0 season too much to expect from Kentucky, click here.]