John Calipari knows many believe he acted unethically in pursuing Terrence Jones after he'd already committed to Washington, so the Kentucky coach defended himself Monday during an appearance on a Portland radio station.
According to Calipari, Jones called less than an hour after donning a Washington cap at his news conference and told the Kentucky coach, "Cal, I made a mistake. I don't know what I was doing." A surprised Calipari said he then promised to hold a scholarship for the McDonald's All-American and encouraged him to take his time and make the appropriate decision.
"When the young man calls you and says, 'I made a mistake, coach, I want to reconsider this,' it changed everything," Calipari said. "If he had committed to Washington and that was the end of it, then we wouldn't have done anything. But this was a unique situation now. I have never been in anything like this."
If Calipari's version of the story is accurate, then even the most ardent Washington fan shouldn't complain about Kentucky's pursuit of Jones. If Calipari initiated contact with Jones or pursued him more aggressively than he's letting on, however, then go ahead and criticize him as long as you're also willing to admit that his actions are no worse than what most of his peers do as well.
The commitment of a teenager may once have signalled the end of his recruitment, but that unwritten rule has grown antiquated in today's cutthroat business of college basketball. Many coaches make indirect contact with players on opposing rosters to inform them a scholarship is available if they're interested in transferring, so of course some coaches are also going to pursue committed recruits until the moment they sign their letters of intent.
Washington coach Lorenzo Romar has taken the high road on this whole saga, choosing to focus on the recruits he's landed rather than the two former commits he lost to Kentucky. In an interview with a Seattle radio station last week, he too insisted that he would not recruit a committed player unless that player reopened his recruitment, adding that in that scenario he'd first make sure the opposing coach was aware the situation had changed.
"I don't mind that Washington fans are upset and upset with me ... but I think Lorenzo knows and their staff knows this was not our doing," Calipari said. "It is about (Jones) making a decision that was best for him not for fans and teammates. It is about what is best for Terrence Jones. I think at the end of the day that is what he tried to do."