John Calipari, Rick Barnes point to transfer portal as reason for SEC coaching changes
There will be at least 2 new SEC basketball coaches next season as Georgia’s Tom Crean and Missouri’s Cuonzo Martin have been fired. Two of their peers, John Calipari and Rick Barnes, believe the fired coaches are victims of the transfer portal.
Calipari said it is hard for coaches to overcome the loss of players in the portal.
“He is a terrific coach. He is a terrific person, and he will get another job,” Calipari said of Martin. “The issue that’s going around right now is the transfer portal. Tom Crean lost 4 really good players. Now all of a sudden, he is out.”
Calipari continued on the portal, eventually circling back to the departures of Martin and Crean.
“I said this would happen if we didn’t do this right. So you’re going to have coaches lose jobs because they’re going to lose players. If I were still at UMass, I wouldn’t recruit freshmen because I would have them for one year and someone would take them. I just wouldn’t do it.
“In our league, you’re going to have guys that are going to bounce around. … What happens, the kids — I got a couple of freshmen that are going to be terrific players, but I’m not — I can’t play them as much because the guys in front of them are better, but a year from now, they’re going to be ridiculously good, but we’re all facing this. …
“Look, I have great respect for Cuonzo Martin. I have great respect for Tom Crean. I can remember (Crean’s Hoosiers) beating us in Indiana, and it became an ESPY, and then we played them in the NCAA tournament and beat their brains in pretty good that same year. I have to — let me make sure I throw that in there.
“You know, they’re coaches that can really coach, and as an AD, you have to look at situations and say, why did this happen? Is he the kind of person, the kind of coach we want? I think that it’s a totally different way of thinking about even hiring coaches that were ‘fired.'”
Barnes similarly identified the transfer portal as a factor in the coaches’ dismissals.
“I think you see this year where the transfer portal a year ago stripped some programs where they had some things going, and you build to a point where like you’re asking me right now where we are, it’s hard not for me to sit here and think in three weeks, four weeks, whatever the season with that next part is going to happen, and we don’t know,” Barnes said when discussing Martin’s firing. “I can’t tell you one thing about what I think would happen with our program. Coach Martin and Tom Crean, both of those guys, one thing I know they’re both terrific basketball coaches.”
Branes said he was “disappointed” to hear of Martin’s firing, sharing stories about his off-court interactions.
“I think this year you’re going to see some — first of all, there’s not a finer person in the business than Coach Martin,” Barnes said. “If I had a son, I have said it before, I would love for him to play for him.
“I can tell you this, I’ve got two adopted black grandchildren, and I called (Martin) one day and said, ‘Help me through this. Tell me what I need to know as a grandfather,'” Barnes shared in his press conference. “My daughter was having some issues that she wanted an answer to, and Cuonzo’s wife talked with my daughter, and so I look at him in a whole different light.
“I know this, if I were an AD somewhere, he would be the first guy I would want to go get him because I know him, and I know where his heart is in terms of the game of basketball. He has always done it right.
“Again, I said when I went to Tennessee that I thought that he had walked into a tough situation there and handled it with great class. Again, when I went to — the first time I saw Coach Martin after I had accepted the job at Tennessee, he had nothing but glowing remarks about Tennessee and said, ‘Hey, they have a great basketball base. You’re going to love it.’ So, I have great respect for him.
“It saddens me, to be honest with you, because, again, he is not just a guy that I have competed against, but a guy that, like I said, has given me wonderful advice over the years in a lot of different areas.”