John Calipari

College Hoops on Sling: Coach Calipari Has a Point, But He Should Still Shut It

over the Georgia Bulldogs, and used his post-game press conference to lambast North Carolina State for their decision to fire head coach Mark Gottfried, whose team had just dropped its seventh straight.

“We’re firing coaches in midseason – are you s***ting me? We’re firing coaches in midseason. You know what I’m putting in my contract? You can fire me in midseason, but you’re gonna have to pay me $3 million. Oh, you’ll let me stay now, won’t you? There’s a new one that’s gonna be in the contract… Now every coach in the country: Put it in your contract!”

Let’s agree that firing a head coach with two weeks left in the season is dumb. If there’d been some sort of scandal – drinking, prostitutes, booster shenanigans – OK, get him out immediately. But canning a guy with just a few games left on the schedule is pointless. And letting the same guy stick around after you’ve canned him? That’s even dumber. As Calipari goes on to note, what if Gottfried were to take his team on a magical run through the AAC tournament or sneaks into the Big Dance and makes it to the Sweet 16? Suddenly NC State athletic director Debbie Yow is gonna look mighty silly.

And now Yow and her people are out there looking for a replacement, trying to convince someone to coach at a school where missing the tournament twice in six years means you can get fired in the middle of the season. Sounds like quite a sales pitch.

So, yeah, firing someone at this stage of the game is dumb, but as is always the case in the NCAA, it’s the kids who get really screwed. Gottfried’s been at NC State for for six years, meaning he personally recruited every kid on that team, and now he’s gone. Worse still, they have to go through the final three games of the season with the stench of Gottfried’s corpse hanging over their heads. Meanwhile, Gottfried goes home with $2.28 million still owed him on his contract, and the sympathy of everyone in his profession. Gottfried, who’s never made it past the Sweet 16, is being giving more money to walk away than his starting five will probably make in their first decade out of school. Yes, his pride has taken a hit, but he’s a big boy, and he’ll find another job.

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Gottfried, to his credit, is taking it in stride. On Saturday in a pregame speech to his players, hecompared himself to a dog that’s been hit by a car: “It’s like if I’m that dog, and that car rolls over me, that car’s on top of me and that tire squishes me. You’ve got a choice to make right there. I can promise you, fellas. I’m gonna bite that damn tire. Bite that damn tire!”

Given Calipari’s track record, his bemoaning the vagaries of a head coach’s life is absurd. Calipari has left in his wake vacated wins at UMass and Memphis, went 72-112 as coach of the New Jersey Nets, and now makes $8 million annually at Kentucky. Last year USA Today compiled salary data for 61 of the 68 coaches who made it to March Madness, and the average compensation was $1.7 million a year – for that kind of cabbage, you should come and go as your boss pleases, even if they’re being dumb about it.

Watch NC State, Kentucky and lots more college hoops this week on Sling

Monday, Feb. 20

Miami (18-8) vs #18 Virginia (18-8)
7pm ET on ESPN

BC (9-18) vs #19 Florida State (21-6)
7pm ET on ESPNU

Texas (10-17) vs #12 West Virginia (21-6)
9pm ET on ESPN

Tuesday, Feb. 21

Oklahoma (9-17) vs #9 Baylor (22-5)
7pm ET on ESPN2

South Carolina (20-7) vs #13 Florida (22-5)
7pm ET on ESPN

Evansville (14-15) vs #25 Wichita State (25-4)
8pm ET on ESPN3

#11 Kentucky (22-5) vs Missouri (7-19)
9pm ET on SEC Network

Wednesday, Feb. 22

#10 Duke (22-5) vs Syracuse (16-12)
7pm ET on ESPN

TCU (17-10) vs #3 Kansas (24-3)
7pm ET on ESPN2

#22 Butler (21-6) vs #2 Villanova (26-2)
9pm ET on FS1

#7 Louisville (t22-5k) vs #8 North Carolina (23-5)
9pm ET on ESPN

#6 Oregon (24-4) vs Cal (18-8)
9pm ET on ESPN2

Thursday

Memphis (18-9) vs #15 Cincinnati (24-3)
7pm ET on ESPN

#16 Wisconsin (22-5) vs Ohio State (15-13)
9pm ET on ESPN

#5 UCLA (24-3) vs Arizona State (13-15)
9pm ET on ESPN2

USC (21-6) vs #4 Arizona (25-3)
10pm ET on Pac-12 Network

Saturday, Feb. 25

#18 Virginia (18-8) vs NC State (14-14)

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#12 West Virginia (21-6) vs TCU (17-10)
2pm ET on ESPN

#23 Creighton (22-5) vs #2 Villanova (26-2)
3pm ET on FOX

#9 Baylor (22-5) vs Iowa State (17-9)
4pm ET on ESPN

#6 Oregon (24-4) vs Stanford (13-13)
4pm ET on Pac-12 Network

#14 Purdue (22-5) vs Michigan (17-10)
4pm ET on ESPN2

#3 Kansas (24-3) vs Texas (10-17)
6pm ET on ESPN

Iowa (14-13) vs #24 Maryland (22-5)
6pm ET on ESPN2

#5 UCLA (24-3) (tk) #4 Arizona (25-3)
8:15pm ET on ESPN

BYU (19-10) vs #1 Gonzaga (28-0)
10pm ET on ESPN2

Sunday, Feb. 26

#22 Butler (21-6) vs Xavier (18-9)
3:30pm ET on FS1

Georgia Tech (16-11) vs #21 Notre Dame (21-7)
6:30pm ET on ESPNU

Watch college basketball on ESPN & ESPN2 by subscribing to Sling Orange; on ESPN3, ESPNU and SEC Network by subscribing to Sling Orange + Sports Extra; on FOX and FS1 by subscribing to Sling Blue; on Pac-12 Network by subscribing to Sling Blue or Orange + Sports Extra

All stats courtesy ESPN and College Basketball Reference.

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