Welcome to Should I Listen To This?, where we deep-dive into a podcast to find out what it’s about, what works, what doesn’t, and whether or not you need to make the all-important decision to hit subscribe and add it to your rotation.
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Podcast: Cal Cast
What Is It?: Kentucky head coach John Calipari interviews a high-level individual in sports in a long-form conversation that is also revealing about coach Cal.
Who’s The Host?: Calipari takes a break from recruiting All-Americans and coaching his team to record this podcast. Surprisingly, he has a softer side.
What’s A Normal Episode Like?: It’s a podcast interview, which makes it part conversation and part interrogation. Calipari isn’t the smoothest or quickest when it comes to asking questions, though he does his research and seems to know his guests better than most hosts know their subjects. I think it is this eagerness that leads Calipari to interrupt his guests, which I do not care for. As a host, Cal should let his guests take the reigns, especially because their tangents can lead to a more interesting dialogue. If Cal Cast is about the guests, interrupting an answer puts an unnecessary spotlight on the host.
Episodes tend to last about 40 minutes, with none longer than an hour.
Who Is It For?: While the easy answer here is Kentucky basketball fans, that isn’t necessarily the truth. When Cal records with his former players, that makes sense, but only two episodes thus far have been with former Wildcats. Other guests have included Drake, Phil Knight, Ben Roethlisberger, Dan Patrick, and Geno Auriemma. With such a range of guests, it feels like a more general sports podcast that will interest Calipari fans more than Kentucky fans.
Who Is It Not For?: If you find Calipari to be a slimy individual because of his vacated Final Fours, you probably won’t care for him in any capacity. Also, if you want a host who asks cleaner questions and focuses on athletes for their on-court accolades, this show will not interest you.
Can I Jump Right In?: Some pieces of episodes can get dated, though I did not hear an episode that I consider outdated in its entirety. For example, he talks with John Wall about his time at Kentucky with DeMarcus Cousins instead of harping on the trade. He then moves onto Wall’s life, with the two exchanging stories I’d never heard before. With Mark Cuban, he doesn’t really ask him about the state of the Mavericks. Instead, Calipari focuses on Cuban’s upbringing and life’s story.
What’s Not Great?: My issue with Cal Cast isn’t necessarily about the podcast itself. My issue is with the host. Calipari, in effect, cheated his way to the top, something people seem to gloss over because of his current Kentucky success. In the episodes I listened to, the only guest to give him any legitimate pushback was Dan Patrick when they were talking about the “one-and-done” NBA rule.
I think Calipari is pretty open about his early life and is proud of his sustained success at Kentucky despite significant annual roster turnover. I wish a guest would call him out on the vacated Final Fours, or at least ask him to give the real reasons why his NBA head coaching stint went poorly. It feels like people just brush over these blemishes on Calipari’s resume.
Let me be clear, none of this is against Calipari as a person, but it is something against his style of business. Especially after listening to the Christmas special with his family, I do believe Calipari has a heart and isn’t just a ruthless recruiter.
So, Should I Listen To This?: If you are someone with little-to-no disdain against Calipari, then yes. It’s a solid sports interview podcast that lands big-name guests. Coach Cal does his homework and there are some really interesting stories.
But I have trouble moving past a host who I also consider to be an exploitative coach. He is, in some ways, the Bill Belichick of college basketball. Again, this isn’t an issue with him as a person, but with how he conducts his business.
Calipari still has two vacated Final Fours and defends the one-and-done rule because it is a major reason for his success at Kentucky. He can take these players and latch onto the NBA stars while more or less ignoring the busts (Daniel Orton, anyone?), using his annual “Kentucky combine” as a significant recruiting tool.
Is Cal Cast just that, another tool Calipari can use to sign another McDonald’s All-American? It feels like he is genuinely interested in his guests and that there is no ulterior motive here, but flaunting such an impressive guest list is a definite weapon when recruiting players.
While all of that is bothersome, it is somewhat irrelevant if you listen to the show in a vacuum, completely independent of Calipari’s coaching history. As a father and husband, he seems to be a good person. If I can think of that Calipari while listening to future episodes, I’ll stay subscribed. Otherwise, my issues with coach Cal will prevent me from continuing to listen to Cal Cast.
Bottom Line – TL;DR: John Calipari might be a shady basketball coach, but he’s a good podcaster.