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Monday, August 20, 2007

Offense Will Be Star of Calipari's Clinic

Offense will be star of Calipari's clinic
By Dan Wolken
Sunday, August 19, 2007

When he started getting phone calls from coaches asking about the offensive system that has helped the University of Memphis win 66 games in two years, John Calipari's initial instinct was to protect the family secrets known primarily to himself, UTEP coach Tony Barbee and Pepperdine coach Vance Walberg, who developed the attack.

After all, part of what has made Memphis successful lately -- especially in recruiting -- is the uniqueness of its system, which can best be described as a fast-paced driving motion incorporating principles of European basketball and the Princeton offense.

For now, however, Calipari is still comfortable sharing information, especially with coaches at the high school and small college levels. And that will be the focus of the first l adidas Mid South Basketball Coaches Clinic on Sept. 14-16 at the Grand Casino Resort in Tunica.

"We're getting calls from high school coaches in the tri-state area, and Vance said he got about 300 calls last year," Calipari said. "He had a half-day clinic (in California), and 300 coaches came to it. So we decided, let's do something in Tunica. I don't know if this has been done before, but it's all inclusive, so you can get the hotel, clinic and a buffet ticket."

Though Calipari and Walberg will be the featured instructors, a true all-star cast of coaches from Larry Brown to Bobby Knight to Del Harris, Jamie Dixon, John Pelphrey and Stan Heath will be on hand as guest speakers.

"Friday night will be the 'Hall of Fame' night," Calipari said. "Then Saturday, Vance and I will do offense, the drills, explaining it. Then the Sunday morning before they leave, we'll say, 'Here's how you tie the defense to it.'"

The "Attack, Attack, Skip, Attack, Attack" system -- run only by Memphis, UTEP and Pepperdine within Division 1 -- is already widely used among Division 2 schools on the West Coast thanks to Walberg. Calipari said he expects most of the coaches attending the conference will be from Division 2 and 3 programs, as well as high schools and junior colleges in the region.

Though Division 1 coaches can sign up for the clinic, Calipari admits to being somewhat conflicted when they inquire about the offense.

"We just say, watch the tape of how we play and ask us questions," Calipari said. "But for a coach to be totally committed to this, it's just hard. Because they'll watch it, and it's just hard. You just can't get yourself to do it. But the drills are good for whatever you run. You don't have to run this offense to be running these drills."

Coaches seeking more information on how to register should go to

Sign of the times

Calipari held out as long as he could. But after famously resisting Internet communication for years, Calipari said he is now the proud owner of an e-mail account.

"I'm an e-mail expert now," he joked. "I'm juiced."

He can thank the NCAA for that revelation. Because once it became illegal to send text messages to recruits on Aug. 1 -- a ban the NCAA upheld after a board of directors meeting on Aug. 8 -- Calipari said he had to learn how to e-mail, which is still a legal way to make contact.

(Side note: Seems kind of odd, doesn't it, that the NCAA has deemed text messaging illegal yet e-mail is legal, considering both can be done on the same phone in many cases?)

Calipari said there has been an adjustment period to the text message ban. Consider, for instance, the system the NCAA has set up for phone calls between coaches and recruits. Players can call coaches as many times as they want, but coaches can only make a limited number of phone calls to recruits at certain times of the year.

So if Calipari missed a call from a recruit previously, he could simply text the recruit to call back. Now, before returning the call, Calipari would have to check with the other members of the coaching staff to make sure he's not breaking NCAA rules by making more than the allotted number of phone calls.

In other words, it's insane.

"I'm just hoping they re-evaluate it," Calipari said. "This is how these young people communicate. They can say bye if they want or not text you back. After you text someone 12 times and he doesn't return the text, you have a pretty good idea where you stand."

Hunt goes Polish

Former Tiger and Craigmont guard Jeremy Hunt signed a contract last week to play in Poland for Polpak, based in the city of Bukowiec. According to, other notable Americans signed to play in Poland for 2007-08 include former NBA guard Travis Best, former Missouri guard Ricky Clemons and former N.C. State guard Scooter Sherrill.

To reach reporter Dan Wolken, call 529-2365; e-mail:

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