John Calipari, a crucial NCAA tournament and the pressures of Kentucky basketball

In 2012, Calipari won a national title in his third season at a school that does not hold ceremonies for teams that only reach the Final Four. That perennial hunger for a national championship can fuel the support and also turn up the pressure on the leader of the program. The eight-year Final Four drought at has made the fan base antsy, and Calipari’s lifetime contract (he has a $40 million buyout) did not stop the tweets and late-night phone calls to local radio stations calling for a change earlier this season.

“I think basketball is like a religion in the state,” said Jack “Goose” Givens, an at in the late 1970s. “I can get fan mail from a kid who is 8 years old or a woman who is 80 years old. It affects them the same.”

Some of the tension around Calipari had simmered when it became clear that would be safe on Selection Sunday. Then Kentucky lost its first tournament game against Vanderbilt, its second loss to Jerry Stackhouse’s squad in nine days.

Per the team’s supporters, this could all descend into chaos again if gets bounced early in the tournament for a second year in a row. Every coach in the NCAA tournament feels that pressure. The head coach of Kentucky’s program, however, endures a level of scrutiny no other men’s basketball coach in America faces. Because he’s not just a coach. He’s closer to royalty in these parts. But that crown comes with a cost. Read full article here.