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Keith Taylor: Former UK star, analyst Larry Conley says Calipari's success not a surprise


 Former Kentucky standout and retired television analyst Larry Conley likes the job John Calipari is doing at Kentucky

Former Kentucky standout and retired television analyst Larry Conley likes the job John Calipari is doing at Kentucky

 
October has arrived and that means basketball is just around the corner.
 
The excitement for the upcoming season started building last week when Big Blue Nation began camping out at Memorial Coliseum to obtain tickets to this year’s Big Blue Madness slated for Oct. 16 at Rupp Arena. Nearly 600 tents were set up in a four-hour period from 5-9 a.m., signifying the anticipation for the upcoming season.

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Since he arrived in Lexington on April Fool’s Day in 2009, John Calipari has elevated the program back to national prominence, leading the Wildcats to three Final Four appearances and one national championship during the past four seasons.
 
Former Kentucky guard and ESPN analyst Larry Conley hasn’t been surprised by Calipari’s success with the Wildcats and addd the Kentucky coach has been the right fit for a program that slipped during Billy Gillispie’s two-year tenure prior to Calipari’s arrival.
 
“He’s been terrific,” Conley said. “He was the right prescription at the right time. He came in and has done exactly what those Kentucky fans wanted. He got them really good players, has gotten them back in the Final Four, with one national championship and a chance at a couple of others, too. He’s exactly what the Kentucky fan wants, and that’s a winning basketball team. That’s what they live for year, after year, after year, and that’s a good thing.”
 

 “He was the right prescription at the right time. He came in and has done exactly what those Kentucky fans wanted." — Larry Conley

“He was the right prescription at the right time. He came in and has done exactly what those Kentucky fans wanted.” — Larry Conley

 
No one knows the expectations of Big Blue Nation better than Conley, who played under late legendary coach Adolph Rupp and was part of the school’s national runner-up team in 1966, a squad known as “Rupp’s Runts.”
 
Conley credits Calipari’s ability to “change with the times” as a big reason behind his success at Kentucky and the ability to land top-tier recruits.
 
“A lot of people have made a great deal about the one-and-done situation, and I think he, realizing it wasn’t going to change, he embraced it,” Conley said. “He said listen, ‘if that’s what I’ve got and that’s what I have to do to be successful, I’m going to go out and get the very best players I can and make sure that one year I’ve got them, maybe two years, that they’re prepared to go on and play professional basketball at the highest level.’
 
“I don’t think there’s any argument he’s done that better than any college basketball coach since he’s been at Kentucky. “
 
Although Calipari has enjoyed more success since he’s been with the Wildcats than he achieved at UMass and Memphis, Conley said Calipari has always been a solid coach and recruiter.
 
“I knew him when he was the head coach at Massachusetts,” Conley said. “I did a lot of his games and at Memphis and knew he was a good basketball coach there. The success he had with those two programs, probably put him in the upper echelon, certainly in the Top 15. Once he got to Kentucky with an ability to coach and recruit, he just went off the charts. He put himself up there with all the other great coaches. If there’s any indication, it’s the fact that he just went into the Hall of Fame. That would tell something. He’s in there with all the other college coaches that have been placed in there in coaching.
 
“He’s done a terrific job, I will tell you that.”
 


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