Been a while since I've given an opinion on college basketball beyond my Tournament picks. After all, Hoosier fans don't have a lot to say about ethics in basketball in the post-Bob Knight era.
But really, the Sampson debacle should give Kentucky fans pause. Indiana basketball, determined to climb back to the top and recover its mojo after Mike Davis' reign, hired an ethically-challenged but nationally-known coach to lead its program back to the promised land. Sampson landed two top recruiting classes, but repeatedly was in trouble with the NCAA for violations first at his previous head coaching job and then at Indiana. In addition, he brought at-risk kids to surround his one prize recruit; it all came tumbling down toward the end of the 2007-08 season. When Tom Crean came in to fix the program, he had two scholarship players left who averaged 1.8 points between them.
The news from John Calipari today reminded me so much of the Sampson fiasco. Let's see: according to Coach Cal's bio, he took UMass to the Final Four and was the national coach of the year in 1996; what he didn't mention was that the season and Final Four appearance was vacated by the NCAA for major program violations. And according to his UK bio, he took Memphis to the Final Four and was the national coach of the year in 2008. But now we discover that his program that year also had major violations and will most likely lead to vacating the season and the championship game appearance.
Which means that at least during his two best seasons, Coach Cal (or his staff, who reports to him and for which he is responsible) cheated. Which means if I was a Kentucky fan, I'd be very nervous. UK just needs to look across the Ohio River to see what happens when an ethically-challenged coach leads your history-rich program. The aftermath is a painful thing to watch.