It's never a fun time in a college basketball fan's life. Kentucky fans can attest. Here you are: You've got a great coach, one who's charismatic, intelligent, focused, a freakishly good recruiter and a skilled manager of reputations and personalities. Success comes easily and immediately. Your program, after a few years of disappointing finishes, is back; you're the prospective toast of the college hoops world. It's as good as it gets.
But that doesn't mean life is perfect. If your coach is as good as John Calipari, that means you're successful, but it also means he's in demand. This goes for anyone -- Tom Izzo, Roy Williams, even Mike Krzyzewski, perhaps the least likely of any college coach to leave his job but still a man that had to fight off Nets-related rumors at the Final Four. In Calipari's case, this demand is artificially increased by his very public relationship with the NBA's hottest free agent. Of course rumors are going to fly. This is par for the course. It's also anxiety-inducing for the most detached of fan bases, and Kentucky fans are anything but detached.
So what do you do? You hope. You pray. You rally the troops and collectively convince yourself that your coach isn't leaving, no matter what the daily rumor mill churns up.
Exhibit A, from Kentucky blog A Sea of Blue:
Ambition, like greed and chocolate, can be a good thing, until one becomes overly ambitious, and forgets what it is that made them desirable. Calipari won't make the same mistake [as former Kentucky coach Rick Pitino]. And because of that, UK fans should revel in the fact that Calipari is ours. The NBA can throw multiple millions at Calipari, and the Association will still fall short of what UK and the Commonwealth has to offer. The NBA can attempt to lure Calipari with bright lights, along with the enticements of mega-cities, and the Association will still fall short of what UK and the Commonwealth has to offer. [...]
Simply put, Calipari has it all: An adoring fan base, who happen to be the most passionate in the sport ... And at the snapping of his fingers, any amenity he desires. Calipari has reconstructed Camelot, and with that feat comes the riches and appreciation of a people capable and willing of showing their love for the "re-constructionist." [...]
But the NBA is so full of itself [...] that they will continue to chase the contented and adored. About that there is no doubt. But the advances made by LeBron and the Bulls, Knicks, Nets, and Heat (if indeed there has been any) will fall on the deaf ears of a man who knows what he has, and appreciates the honor that comes with being the University of Kentucky basketball coach.
It'd be easy to call this naive (and, yeah, Kentucky fans certainly aren't shy about self-praise) but really, what else is a UK fan supposed to do? The options are either naivete or cynicism, and part of being a sports fan is being willing to keep your cynical side in check and hope for the best. In Kentucky's case, the good news is that Calipari has made his intentions clear. (Not to mention the various programmatic advantages Calipari has already experienced in his first year at perhaps the most basketball-rabid school in the country.) The bad news is that coaches' intentions are rarely publicly disclosed information. But Big Blue Nation has to choose hope. What would you do?