Letters to Coach K: Calipari is Pandora, Coach K is Spotify

By: Jamen Blake

Recently, Coach Calipari has taken shots at Coach K’s recruiting philosophy.  This, coming in the wake of Coach K signing the number 2 recruit in the country Zion Williamson, seems like a knee-jerk reaction.  Coach Cal has had his time in the sun, now it’s time to pick up his towel and sun-tan lotion and move out the way, Coach K is here to stay.

Coach Cal says that he disapproves of schools whose recruiting methods rely on the following phrase:

“If you come with us, you’ll be taken care of for life.”

Coach Cal prefers to go with this:

“We’ll teach you how to fish, so you can eat for a lifetime.” (Transfer fishing to basketball for this metaphor)

Look, I get it, Coach Cal’s message does sound like a much more well rounded and respectable approach.  But let’s be perfectly honest, we’ve heard this spiel before.  In 2016, Coach Cal said the same things about an “undisclosed” school using the aforementioned methods to recruit high schoolers.  Now here he is again, blurting out his reactionary response to reporters as soon as he feels his niche talents have been exceeded by somebody else.  It also happens to coincide with Duke earning the number one recruiting class for the past four out of five years.

Coach Cal and Kentucky have been beaten at their own game, and they feel threatened by it.  This is where the Pandora metaphor comes into play.  

Pandora is an internet radio station that began in the year 2000.  You type in the artist or style of music you want to listen to and Pandora will play it for you.  It will suggest some different types of songs and artists throughout and you have the choice to like or dislike it.  But ultimately, Pandora chooses what you listen to.

Spotify, on the other hand, gives you complete and utter control.  It came out in 2008 and allows you to pick a specific album, artist, song, or create a random playlist and only asks a meager monthly subscription to access all of its features.  

My point here is that Pandora came out first during the “dot-com” era where everything internet was pure pandemonium.  Investors were dumping everything they had into it and nobody could envision an end in sight.  Then came Spotify.

Spotify sat there for all of those years… watching… learning.  They understood the strengths.  They understood the pitfalls.  Spotify developed a product that was superior to their competitors, much like Duke developing a superior product to Kentucky.

Duke is able to offer so much more than Kentucky. Once they embraced the one-and-done mentality, it wasn’t even fair.  

Duke has the greatest coach of all time, they have one of if not the most storied programs in history, Cameron Indoor Stadium is the most feared place to play in the nation.  Not to mention their student body will likely make up the next wave of life-altering doctors, lawyers, engineers, businessmen and women, and maybe even the next President.  Coach K telling these kids that they’ll be taken care of for life isn’t a cheap sales trick, it’s a guarantee.  Coach Cal’s jealousy is seeping through the seams at this point.

Hey Cal, just accept that your Pandora.  Heck, I even listen to Pandora every once and a while when I’m cooking waffles, in the off-season, and reading over Duke’s number one recruiting class report.  It’s still a pretty good radio station.

Welcome to Zion, Mr. Williamson

Zion Williamson is the number two recruit in the nation and has recently committed to the Duke Bluedevils.  This means Duke has received commitments from the top three players in the country and is the first school in history to do so.

You know how the saying goes, “The rich keep getting richer.”  This couldn’t be more true for Duke right now.  I don’t like to look ahead, but it’s hard not to.  

Imagine a Duke team with what I envision to be the starting five.  Tre Jones (Tyus Jones’ younger brother), Cam Reddish, RJ Barrett, Zion Williamson, and Marques Bolden.  This is a McDonald’s All-American starting five with athleticism that blows this years team away.  The beautiful thing about this team is we’re already going to have a deep reliable bench in play.  Couple that with the fact these are better three point shooters than what we currently have and Duke’s small ball mentality with big bodies will be in full force.  We may have something special on our hands.

I’ll go back to the playground methodology for this one though.  If I had to pick a team to play with between the current Duke basketball team and next year’s team, I’d have to go with this year’s team.  Duke’s current team has such a beautiful mixture of size, strength, speed, and ability that it’s hard to imagine a better offensive vessel.  They also have the senior leadership present in Grayson Allen, for better or for worse.  That being said, next year’s team should be significantly better at defense.  But, seeing that we are going to play four freshmen again, defense will be a late-season addition.  

Duke won’t have a traditional power forward for next year.  Rather, Duke will play at break-neck speeds yet again and put up insane offensive numbers with their fresh new talent.  The question remains though; how well can we play defense with so many freshmen?

Virginia is responsible for Deflategate

Virginia is the bane to ACC’s existence.  They play defense, slow the tempo down to a near flatline, and boast an efficient offense with mid-range jumpers and layups.  I absolutely hate when Duke plays Virginia.  

If you thought Tom Brady was good at taking the air out a ball, just wait until you witness Virginia play basketball under Tony Bennett’s philosophy.

Virginia will literally pull out a wide open ten-foot jumper to burn through their entire shot clock every single time.  When they get an offensive rebound, you might as well pull out the newspaper and start this week’s crossword.  It is so slow it’s painful.

That being said, it works.  If Duke’s theme song this year is Shots by LMFAO, than Virginia’s is Beethoven’s fifth symphony.  They are methodical, dedicated, disciplined, and deadly.  Virginia is the best defensive team I have ever seen.

Taking all of that into account, Duke lost by two.  Virginia deserved every ounce of that victory in Cameron Indoor, but Duke at least made a run of it.  

Coach K had Duke play man to man defense for most of the first half which, in his hall of fame career, is one of his biggest mistakes I’ve seen him make.  I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, STAY IN ZONE DEFENSE!  There’s nothing worse than watching freshman poorly communicate a switch on defense which leads to an open shot for the opposing team.  This was the story of the first half versus Virginia.

Virginia will limit your possessions no matter what you try to do to speed them up.  This means you have to stimy their offense.  Once Duke switched to a zone, as they have in every comeback attempt, they made a run.  I stand by the opinion that if Duke is going to lose, make it be by contested three point jump shots, not open runs to the rim.  I’m hoping Duke and Coach K learned from this lesson, play to your strengths no matter what. STAY AWAY FROM MAN TO MAN DEFENSE!

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