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Calipari: Does Anyone Do It Better? Number would say no

John Calipari with SEC Network/ESPN analyst Laura Rutledge. (Jeff Houchin Photo)

By KEITH PEEL, Contributing Writer

No one really knows what makes certain people overachievers in life. Some people just have a knack for going farther than anyone expects. You would think extra preparation or meticulous attention to detail or just plain hard work would be the reason some people achieve more. And you would be correct, to a point. But even with all that some people just have a knack for being extremely successful at what they do.

Let’s take college basketball coaches for instance. Five of the best coaches in the country. Mike Krzyzewski, Roy Williams, Tom Izzo, Bill Self and John Calipari. All at blue blood basketball schools. Duke, North Carolina, Michigan St., Kansas and Kentucky.

All are Hall of Fame type coaches, have stellar winning records and have consistently taken their teams to the NCAA Tournament. But what happens when they get there? Interesting you should ask. Here’s a look.

Coach K has taken Duke to the NCAA Tournament 33 times and has won 91 games out of 119. That’s a winning percentage of 76.5. (In the interest of fair disclosure I am only looking at the records for each coaches’ current school).

Roy Williams has taken North Carolina to the NCAA Tournament 13 times. He has won 42 games and lost 10 for a winning percentage of 80.7. Tom Izzo has been to the Big Dance 20 times with a record of 47-19 for a winning percentage of 70.2.

Last but not least (maybe), you have Bill Self. The Kansas coach has been in the NCAA Tourney 14 times and has a record of 33-13 for a win percentage of 71.7.

As a comparison John Calipari – at Kentucky – has been to the NCAA Tournament 7 times through 2017 and has a record of 26-6 with a winning percentage of .813. The highest of the group. Slightly better than the second place Roy Williams.

That’s a lot of numbers and percentages. Sorry, but to tell the whole story a couple of more statistics must be included. One is the total number of Elite 8 or greater appearances. The other is the percentage of times each coach makes it to the Elite 8 or better compared to the total number of times the coach has been in the tournament. Kind of like an on-base percentage in baseball except for Elite 8 or better appearances. Here goes.

Coach K has had 33 appearances in the tournament and has made it to the Elite 8 or better 14 times. That’s an Elite 8 or better percentage of 42 percent. Roy Williams has been 13 times with 8 appearances in the Elite 8 or better for an achievement of 62 percent. Tom Izzo’s teams have appeared in the Big Dance 20 times and made the Elite 8 or better 9 times for an Elite 8 or better achievement of 45 percent. Again last but not least is Bill Self at 14 NCAA bids with 7 Elite 8 or better appearances for an achievement of 50 percent.

Now for  Calipari. He has appeared 7 times in the NCAA Tournament with UK and has reached the Elite 8 or better 6 times. I know – that’s a lot of numbers – but in summary here’s what they all mean.

They mean — as incredible as it seems compared to the other coaches —  Calipari has an Elite 8 or better achievement of 86 percent. That means 86 percent of the time if John Calipari gets a bid into the field of 68 teams he is going to go at least to the Regional Finals. That is incredible. The next closest coach is Roy Williams at 62 percent.

In a comparison to some of the best coaches in the recent history of college basketball John Calipari’s achievement numbers blow them out of the water. Although some of them have more championships than Calipari, none of them comes close to the consistency of winning in the tournament at a high level like Calipari does.

So the next time someone says to you that UK Basketball is the highest seed to be primed for an upset in the tournament or that  Calipari wastes his talent and doesn’t achieve anything in the tournament, politely tell them that based on past history your UK Wildcats will most likely be at least in the Regional Finals and quite possibly go to the Finals and win it all.

And now you have the numbers to prove it.


  1. I think as long as Calipari continues to recruit superior talent he will be fine. Not sure he could take a less talented team and do as well. JMO.

  2. Ole Miss hired Kermit Davis and Georgia hired Tom Crean. These 2 coaches can take lesser talent and coach them up. Tennessee has everyone back and Vanderbilt may end up with a stronger recruiting class than KY for next year. The SEC is getting tougher by the day. Calipari will have his work cut out for him.

    1. BB12……you are very correct with your analysis. Cal’s coaching acumen will continue be challenged more in the future with current SEC coaching constitution. IMO there are several other coaches within that could have done a quicker job pulling this team together quicker than Cal has.

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