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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Dick Vitale - Calipari will bounce back

Calipari will bounce back
Dick Vitale

I feel badly for Memphis coach John Calipari. I don't think he slept on Monday night after his team's loss to Kansas.

My friends, you can be critical of mistakes down the stretch, or missed free throws. The bottom line is Memphis finished with a record 38 wins, and the two losses were nailbiters against Tennessee and Kansas. Yes the loss to the Jayhawks will hurt more because it was for the national championship. It is more disappointing because the Tigers led by nine points with just 2:12 left on the clock.

You cannot deny this was a great season for Memphis. The Tigers made their first Final Four appearance since 1985 and first trip to the championship game since Bill Walton and UCLA dominated in 1973. It was a great season, but it will be a long summer.

As I was getting ready to leave San Antonio, a fan came up to me and asked about Memphis not fouling at the end of the game. Calipari will be listening to that all summer while people forget his team went 38-2. That says a lot about gratification and the world we live in.

Let me tell you, Calipari has not done a good job at Memphis. He has done an incredible job! He has a 219-65 record with the Tigers. He is two victories from passing Larry Finch as the school's all-time win leader.

It is not easy to recruit there as I can tell you first hand from my days at Detroit. When you are in an urban area and going up against the power schools like, for example, North Carolina, Kentucky and Duke, it is a challenge. When those big names walk in the door, the eyes light up and the recruits get excited. At a school like Memphis, no offense, it is tougher to sell.

I know what a national championship would have meant to the fans down in Memphis. It would have been special and I know there would have been a huge celebration down on Beale Street.

Calipari is a master motivator and salesman. If he loses Derrick Rose and Chris Douglas-Roberts to the NBA as many expect, he will simply reload and keep the Tigers on the basketball map.

It was a very difficult loss, but one that Calipari will learn from. It will be a tough lesson, but trust me, he will bounce back big-time!

While I salute Kansas as national champions, let's remember the positives of a super season at Memphis.

Dick Vitale coached the Pistons and the University of Detroit before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in December 1979. Send him a question for possible use on ESPNEWS.

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