Top-50 Recruit’s Dad Doesn’t Trust Pitino, Calipari
Would you send your kid to play for these two coaches?
by Jon Jaques / @JJaques25
I don’t know much about basketball prospect Derek Willis. I do know he is a Class of 2013 top-50 recruit from Bullitt East High School in Kentucky whose family is confusing the heck out of a lot of informed people. He announced his de-commitment from Purdue on Thursday, only for his father to renege on that de-commitment a few hours later (apparently the family will use the weekend to fully assess the decision).
The real intrigue in this mess comes, as it usually does, when an intrusive parent gets too involved and opens his yapper. Willis’ dad Del, while attempting to explain his son’s perplexing half-defection from Purdue to Rivals.com’s Purdue affiliated site, threw his home state’s two greatest current basketball (and probably societal) icons under the bus.
“I don’t know if I can trust Coach [Rick] Pitino or Coach [John] Calipari,” Willis said. “Their agenda is more for their benefit than the kid’s. They’re more worried about themselves.”
According to the article, if Derek does re-open his recruitment he intends to visit both Louisville and Kentucky. Willis’ high school coach has already said that both schools have reached out since word of the de-commitment leaked. Well sure… under normal circumstances, Willis’ precarious situation with Purdue might have opened the door for two of the more successful programs in the country to come calling. But doesn’t it seem like Daddy might have just slammed that door shut?
To be fair to the elder Willis, his quote is being taken a little out of context. He was in the middle of praising Purdue coach Matt Painter and his staff for how comfortable his son feels around the Boilermaker program and for comparison’s sake, he picked out Pitino and Calipari to vilify and alienate. In a way it was innocent (the quote was more about Painter than Pitino or Calipari), but Papa Willis also didn’t need to bury two of most successful and popular college basketball coaches in recent memory in that moment.
This could all be moot if Willis decides to stay with Purdue after the weekend. But Willis really isn’t the story here (high school athletes flip flop between college choices at an alarmingly high rate these days).
What strikes me as newsworthy is the dad who apparently has so little trust in the stewards Louisville and Kentucky basketball that he would go out of his way to sabotage his son’s chances of playing for two of the country’s top basketball programs. It is really icing on an already delicious cake that those two schools happen to be in the kid’s home state.
Forget this is even about basketball for a second. What parent actively squashes in-state schooling options for their child? One who is really spooked. So what is it about Pitino and Calipari that gives Del Willis pause?
Both have had highly publicized run-ins with the NCAA.
Most recently, Calipari has left a trail of vacated Final Fours from UMass to Memphis. You’d have to dig deeper to find Pitino’s infractions, but while serving as an assistant coach at Hawaii all the way back in 1977, Pitino was implicated in eight of the 64 violations that resulted in the University’s probation. Pitino was also the victim of an embarrassing extortion attempt (you know the story: consensual restaurant sex, a pregnancy, and some awkward press conferences).
So these guys aren’t the world’s finest role models. But we’re not talking violent, throat-snatching Bob Knight from back in the day at Indiana when parents would often steer their kids away from the Hoosiers for fear of their child’s safety. Coaches Cal and Pitino are mostly harmless.
So you’re the parent of a top-50 basketball recruit: Do you send your kid to play for one of these legends?
Jon Jaques is a former starter for the Cornell Big Red and former forward for Israel’s Ironi Ashkelon club.