Kentucky's John Calipari is the sleaziest coach in a sleazy game.

The stadium scene.
March 16 2010 4:24 PM

The Sleaziest Coach in a Sleazy Game

John Calipari and college basketball are a match made a few levels below heaven.

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Unless the school wins its pending appeal before the NCAA, the Memphis program will have two Later Vacateds in its history, and John Calipari will have two Later Vacateds on his résumé. This was a match made a few levels below heaven.

In 2005, long before the questions arose over who exactly took Derrick Rose's SAT, there was a break-in at the apartment where several members of the Memphis team lived. According to police reports, the items stolen included $3,600 in fake fur coats, $6,000 worth of shoes, and however many throwback jerseys $2,150 will buy you. It is possible that the players in question amassed this bounty on only what they received for books, tuition, room and board, and fees, or out of the largesse of their respective grandmothers. It is also possible that Maggie Gyllenhaal waits for me around the next corner. Then came that great season that doesn't exist any more, and the scandal, and Calipari was off to Kentucky while Memphis took the NCAA sanctions right in the face.

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But the man is a master at walking between the raindrops. The argument in his defense is, always, that nobody investigating the scandals at UMass and Memphis ever found anything they could pin directly on John Calipari. It was always the players who betrayed his fundamentally naive trust in their integrity, or the shifty characters around the players who induced them to abuse the good nature of a decent chap who's only trying to play by increasingly complex rules. While Calipari knew Memphis was under investigation before he scurried off to Lexington, the NCAA itself has said that Calipari is not "at risk" in its investigation of the Memphis program. His responsibility for knowing what was going on with his players ended at ... well, it's hard to say where it ended because, by the logic used in this defense, it never really began. What was he supposed to do, anyway? How can a poor man stand such times and live?

No, seriously, that's what people argue.

That's how Calipari wound up at Kentucky, bringing along both Wall and Cousins, the latter of whom had previously committed to Memphis when he was there.

Because nothing ever touches him, Kentucky did everything but lay out a golden carpet between Memphis and Lexington. He's certainly delivered so far. His team is one of two favored to win the tournament, and any basketball fan has to love the way John Wall plays. Very soon, Wall will move on to a more honest professional career, and good for him. Before he does, however, it would be nice if one of our basketball pundits would bring up the whole Later Vacated thing. He wins and then, poof! He's disappeared from history, like a dead pharaoh fallen out of favor or a general who displeased Stalin. And, if Kentucky wins this thing and you picked someone else in your pool, just be patient. Appeals might be pending for a couple of years.

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Charles P. Pierce is a staff writer for the Boston Globe Magazine and a contributing writer for Esquire. His latest book is Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free.

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