Seth Greenberg delivers a harsh truth to his dear friend, Kentucky Wildcats head coach John Calipari. Screen Grab: First Take

The criticism of John Calipari in the wake of Kentucky’s first-round NCAA Tournament exit at the hands of a 13-seed is that the Wildcats head coach has failed to adapt to the modern era of college hoops.

While Calipari partially blamed youth for his team’s 80-76 loss to Oakland, he’s the one who buys the ingredients and cooks the food. And as Jay Wright put it, you can no longer build a team around young talent in this era of college basketball.

So, Calipari has to be willing to adapt to change the narrative for a team that hasn’t made the Final Four or even been a No. 1 seed since 2015. And someone who shares that sentiment is a close friend of Calipari’s in ESPN’s Seth Greenberg.

Greenberg has cultivated a strong bond with Calipari, having coached at Virginia Tech, South Florida and Long Beach State. This is evidenced by Greenberg’s regular participation in Kentucky’s summer camps, his on-air ESPN interviews with Calipari, and his vocal defense of the coach when criticism surfaces.

But even Greenberg has acknowledged that it’s time for Calipari to return to his coaching roots. Appearing on Friday’s First Take, Greenberg didn’t shy away from the Wildcats’ disappointing results, calling for Calipari to return to his roots.

“The last five years are unacceptable,” said Greenberg. “Unacceptable in terms of John Calipari’s standard for his program and unacceptable for the Kentucky program. And John Calipari, he’s always been ahead of the curve. In the last five years, he has not been ahead of the curve. In fact, he’s been behind the curve because he talks about getting old and staying old. He’s been late to the portal. He hasn’t shown the agility to adjust to the new culture and environment of college basketball.”

“And here’s the biggest problem,” Greenberg continued. “And as you know, John Calipari is one of my dearest friends — 47 years, absolutely love the guy. The biggest problem is that ‘Swaggy Cal’ needs to go; ‘Old School Cal’ needs to come back. And what I mean by that, ‘Old School Cal,’ you defended, you rebounded, you were physical, you were tough, you competed at a high level, you drew a line in the sand every single play. That’s the John Calipari at UMass. That’s the John Calipari at Memphis. That’s the John Calipari in his early Kentucky years.

“‘Swaggy Cal,’ yeah, we bring great talent; that’s great. Talent without toughness does not win. Those guys are all going to be great pros—that’s great. They don’t help you win in the moment. So, to me, I think the biggest thing is, Cal’s gotta go back to ‘Old School Cal.’ Cal’s gotta go back to being demanding. Cal’s gotta go back to starting and finishing on the defensive end with physicality.”

While Calipari’s ability to adapt to the changing college basketball landscape remains unproven, the decision ultimately lies with the Kentucky athletic department. Criticism from a respected colleague and friend, combined with a championship drought stretching over a decade, suggests Calipari may need to re-evaluate his approach. The pressure is mounting, and Kentucky’s patience may be wearing thin.

[Tristan Pharis on Twitter/X]

About Sam Neumann

Since the beginning of 2023, Sam has been a staff writer for Awful Announcing and The Comeback. A 2021 graduate of Temple University, Sam is a Charlotte native, who currently calls Greenville, South Carolina his home. He also has a love/hate relationship with the New York Mets and Jets.