Some Not-So-New News

Coach Cal’s team was 23-8 for the season and 13-5 in the SEC. UK is co- champs with A&M. Photo by Victoria Graff

Coach Cal’s team was 23-8 for the season and 13-5 in the SEC. UK is co- champs with A&M. Photo by Victoria Graff

In the first season of “Saturday Night Live,” Chevy Chase hosted the Weekend Update. For weeks, after the death of Spanish strongman Generalissimo Franco in November 1975, Chase would lead off the segment by intoning, “Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead.”

It was the repetition that made it a joke. That plus the “news” that little changes from week to week.

I get the same feeling from seeing the “news” every week that “Marques Bolden has set a deadline for his decision.” Latest deadline: last Sunday.

Duke? Kentucky? What has kept it from becoming a “ho-hum, who cares?” story is the rising tension between the two coaches.

The latest episode involved the revelation by 2017 recruit Hamidou Diallo that Duke tried to sell him on his life after college, Kentucky on his NBA chances after college.

Frankly, I don’t see the difference. But John Calipari, who clearly gets bored during the off-season, took the occasion to explain his “vision of the program,” a multi-installment series for local sportswriters. In it, he rapped “other coaches” for creating this false duality, as if at “other schools” a kid can play out his dream in the NBA, or his second dream as a surgeon at the Mayo Clinic.

And so, the gloves are off. (Or are they on?)

In this corner, Mike Krzyzewski. The man who represents everything that’s good about college basketball. Somehow, through sheer integrity, he’s built an athletic powerhouse at a tiny school (enrollment: 15,000) where the academic bar couldn’t be higher. (It’s not true that the enrollment exam for basketball recruits is spelling Krzyzewski’s name right, but that would be pretty exacting.)

And in this corner, John Calipari. The man who represents everything that’s wrong with college basketball. Somehow, with what must be a sheer lack of integrity, he has recruited the best high school basketball players to his behemoth of a state school (enrollment: 28,500) where the academic bar for basketball recruits is spelling UK.

Krzyzewski disdains the one-and-done. He gets only kids who want to spend four years at Durham, soaking up his coaching and Duke’s academics. He runs a clean program, never a whisper of impropriety. He goes into living rooms around the country, promising recruits a four-year trip to NCAA title-land and writes down on a piece of paper the glories of a Duke diploma that he puts in mama’s hand.

And if that rare kid says “so long” after his freshman season, well, hey, this is America, land of the free – and Duke is the best of what America stands for. So best wishes, Jahlil; best wishes, Kyrie; best wishes, Jabari. We know you benefited from your incomparable year at Duke. We know the pressures at home were great. We know you’d have preferred to stay in school if it were up to you.

Krzyzewski runs a spotless program – he’s just powerless to stop the tidal wave that was begun by you…know…who…

Calipari lives for the one-and-done. He goes into living rooms around the country, promising recruits a lottery pick if they come to Kentucky, and writes down on a piece of paper a seven-figure salary that he puts in mama’s hand.

He embraces Anthony and Karl-Anthony as they get called to the podium on draft night while he’s motioning to all the Bams and Maliks out there that this will be you a year from now. Best wishes, Julius; best wishes, Nerlens; best wishes, Jamal. We know you benefited from your few months at Kentucky. We’ll mail you your transcripts.

Calipari runs a dirty program – everyone knows what happened at UMass and Memphis – he’s just so smarmy smart that he never gets caught…not directly.

This is what the national basketball conversation would have us believe, even as Duke is fast catching up to Kentucky as a one-and-done factory. And it has really come to a head this spring, as the two schools have their most powerful freshmen classes in history yet continue to scramble over Bolden.

Some people have said Bolden now favors Duke because his mother thinks he’ll take a stronger freshman English class during his fleeting fancy on the Durham campus. However, someone must have convinced the kid that Kentucky has a world-class American History 101 lecturer because he can’t seem to make up his mind between the two schools.

He’ll decide, of course – eventually. Either way, he’ll tell his mother a year from now that she’s a wealthy woman.

And Generalissimo Franco is still dead. VT