By Matt Murray
In the evening hours of March 25, 2009, Lexington, Kentucky was solemn and quiet. All that could be heard was the sound of a buzzer going off on the few TVs that had been left on long enough to watch the Kentucky Wildcats fall by double digits to Notre Dame in the NIT. It was rock bottom; the end of a long slide from the top of the mountain of college basketball. Kentucky had missed the tournament for the first time in 17 years, and their new coach, Billy Gillispie, had seemingly put the finishing touches on running the program out of the spotlight.
For years, Kentucky had thrived in an era of college basketball in which dynasties were the key to success; building and sustaining programs was forged on the foundation of long-term players. But with the introduction of the one-and-done rule, Kentucky was unable to find a way to survive in a new era of basketball. That all changed on April 1st, 2009.
In the span of a week, Kentucky ousted Gillipsie and brought in one-and-done expert John Calipari, who promised the power of his recruiting, mixed with the historical prestige of Kentucky, would be a potent mix that would allow him to create a modern-day dynasty in Lexington. He admitted it would be a different feel, one that would put players before the program, but that’s how a team must survive in this basketball landscape. The teams will serve as revolving doors to the NBA, but it’s the only way to ensure the best of the best want to attend your school. They have to spend one year out of high school before they head to the league, and Calipari has made it nearly impossible to explain why you’d want to spend that year anywhere else but Lexington. Continue reading