Wednesday, March 10, 2010

SEC Coaches Get it (Almost) Right

The SEC announced its All-Conference teams on Tuesday, and, for the most part, the league's coaches got it right.

Kentucky's sensational freshman John Wall was named the SEC Player of the Year, while teammate and fellow freshman DeMarcus Cousins was the Freshman of the Year.

Wall and Cousins were joined on the first team by Wildcat teammate Patrick Patterson, Trey Thompkins of Georgia, Jarvis Varnado of Mississippi State, South Carolina's Devan Downey, Tennessee's Wayne Chism and Jermaine Beal of Vanderbilt.

Varnado, the NCAA's career blocked shots leader, was named the league's defensive player of the year.

Kentucky appeared primed to sweep the major awards, but the coaches gave the Coach of the Year Award to Vandy's Kevin Stallings rather than UK head man John Calipari.

Throughout the week, many have said that Calipari had the most talented team, therefore he shouldn't be awarded as Coach of the Year. My argument would be that recruiting is a HUGE part of college coaching, and since Calipari was able to bring in the nation's top recruiting class (and perhaps one of the best of all-time), shouldn't that count for something? Plus, Calipari was able to mesh his talented recruiting class with the existing players on the UK roster, and turn last year's NIT team into this year's SEC Champions, and perhaps a Final Four team.

Calipari also walked into a tough situation in Lexington, one created mostly by former coach Billy Gillispie. The Wildcats were a team in limbo, and Calipari brought the team together, and plugged in his talented recruting class en route to a 29-2 regular season mark.

Calipari also took a team that had played a grind-it-out style the last two seasons and made it a running team that was among the league's leaders in points scored. He implemented his dribble-drive motion offense, to a certain degree, to make this happen. But he also had to play to his team's strength, which was the post presence of Patterson and Cousins. He tweaked his offense enough to make this a formidable offensive team.

Sure, Calipari rubs many people the wrong way, and, in fact, many people don't like him. His brash style can, many times, make people mad. But even with that, the job that he's done at Kentucky this season certainly warrants AT LEAST the SEC Coach of the Year award.

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