The Dagger: College Basketball Blog

John Calipari responds to his rivals’ social media stances, sells his program in the process

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

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John Calipari (Getty Images)

Disagreements among college basketball coaches aren't what they used to be.

Instead of squabbling over recruiting battles or scheduling arrangements, now they're debating social media philosophy.

Only a few days after Tom Izzo urged his players to get off social media and Rick Pitino likened athletes reading their Twitter mentions to a healthy person "going into a smoke-filled room and inhaling," Kentucky coach John Calipari weighed in. He began by painting Izzo and Pitino as less social media-savvy than him only to eventually arrive at a similar point to the one they were making.

"This is no disrespect – the coaches you mentioned, I respect them all – They know nothing about social media," Calipari told ESPN Radio's Mike and Mike show Thursday morning. "Nothing. They don’t do it. They feel it’s another job. What I’m trying to tell our players, we train them, we bring in professional people, we talk about it, we oversee, we watch what they put out. If they put out something dumb, we talk to them and tell them why [it's dumb]. ‘Why would you do that?’ We tell them, if you’re into reading the responses, don’t go on Twitter.

"We’re trying to tell those kids, you build your brand or you break your brand down. You are who you are through social media. I always say I’m not going to hold my team back from Twitter or Facebook, I’m going to teach them. How do you use it for a positive. I don’t read one response on twitter or facebook. I don't read one. There are a lot of bullies and haters on twitter. I don’t read them, I don’t see them. I give out information."

Calipari's message is not all that dissimilar to Izzo saying that negativity on Twitter has put too much pressure on Spartans guard Gary Harris and played a role in Oklahoma State star Marcus Smart's altercation with a Texas Tech fan. Nor is it unlike Pitino urging Russ Smith to stop wasting his time reading the racist or critical tweets he receives.

The difference is Calipari doesn't frame it from an anti-social media perspective that might turn off prospective recruits who enjoy Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Instead he starts by discussing how Kentucky helps its players build their brands via social media, a far better soundbite for a 17-year-old NBA hopeful than Pitino's line about the "great class of underachievers" living on social media.

Three coaches made similar points. Credit Calipari for being the only one who managed to sell his program while doing so.

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