Stop me if you’ve heard this before.

A coach with an outdated offensive philosophy could very well watch a championship window slam shut after consecutive disappointing seasons that started with sky-high expectations. That coach’s crowning achievement was his lone championship that happened a decade ago. Hence, how he got an extension which initially included a buyout closer to $100 million than $0. His stubbornness isn’t exactly winning him any votes in the court of public opinion and there’s a daunting, all-too-real question that’s being asked with each deflating loss to a lesser-talented team.

How does this not end horribly?

Now ask yourself another question — did I just describe John Calipari or Jimbo Fisher?

Trick question. It’s both of them.

The 2 well-paid SEC head coaches have never been more similar. And sure, while there are differences — Fisher actually gets along with athletic director Ross Bjork while the Calipari-Mitch Barnhart feud has them reportedly no longer on speaking terms — it does feel like they’re living parallel lives in the SEC.

It’s strange because once upon a time, Fisher and Calipari could do no wrong. They were on top of the world at powerhouse programs. Any list of the top coaches in the country would’ve had them in the top 5. Even at the time when each got their extensions and new 10-year contracts — Calipari’s was billed as a “lifetime deal” while Fisher’s might as well have had that tag with a fully guaranteed $95 million — it was seen as a “cost of doing business” move to lock down premier coaches for the 2020s.

Fisher’s breakout 2020 season at A&M was reminiscent of Calipari’s 2021-22 regular season that saw Kentucky earn a 2-seed in the NCAA Tournament. To date, though, those are the lone bright spots of the 2020s decade for them. Outside of that, Fisher is 13-11 overall and 6-10 in SEC play while Calipari is 26-25 overall with a 16-14 mark in SEC play (that’s combining the 2020-21 and current 2022-23 seasons).

Of course, the more significant angst in Lexington stems from the fact that UK hasn’t won a game in the NCAA Tournament in the 2020s. This year’s team, which started No. 4 in the country, is now firmly on the bubble just to make the field heading into the home stretch of the regular season. Sure, that 2019-20 squad likely would’ve been set up for a deep run if not for the COVID cancelation. Then again, one would’ve assumed the same thing about the 2021-22 squad … and we all know how that turned out.

The A&M equivalent of that was the 2022 preseason No. 6 team lose to Appalachian State in Week 2.

Actually, let’s pump the breaks. We can’t seriously compare one of the most stunning results in NCAA history to an early-September rock fight in College Station.

Nonethless, Calipari and Fisher both suffered incredibly embarrassing losses to programs who shouldn’t have had any business sharing the court/field with them. Yet did either coach change their offensive philosophy? Nope. Calipari’s refusal to acknowledge modern spacing is similar to Fisher’s refusal to acknowledge modern up-tempo offenses. Both appear to be on the wrong end of the “adapt or die” mantra, though Calipari would argue that UK is failing him there as long as Barnhart refuses to sign off on a new practice facility.

And if you didn’t know any better, you’d think Calipari and Fisher are the only coaches in America who deal with injuries. Lost on them is the self-awareness needed during a trying time. Fans don’t want to hear that, especially when talent acquisition isn’t an issue at either place.

Speaking of talent acquisition, it’s the “yeah, but” for any sort of argument why Calipari and Fisher will climb out of their respective holes. For Calipari, the 2023 class is an all-timer. Four top-10 recruits earned UK the No. 1 class in America. It’s seen a throwback to the one-and-done days that fans ultimately became frustrated by when it started to lead to disappointing endings in the latter half of the 2010s, wherein UK lost to a lower-seeded team before the Final Four in 3 of 4 seasons from 2016-19 (the lone exception was an Elite Eight loss to eventual national champ and No. 1 seed UNC in 2017).

For the fans still holding out hope that Calipari can right the ship, it’s “yeah, but wait until that 2023 class comes in.”

For the fans still holding out hope that Fisher can right the ship, it’s “yeah, but wait until that historic 2022 class is developed.”

The historic 2022 A&M recruiting class was met with the well-documented accusation from Nick Saban that it was “bought,” which prompted Fisher to go scorched earth on the Alabama head coach. Needless to say, the entire situation shined an even brighter light on that group, which already lost 5 of its 17 top-100 recruits to the transfer portal.

Still, it does feel like A&M’s 2022 class and UK’s 2023 class are being billed as potential saviors. “Savior” is a strange word to use about a pair of coaches who aren’t going anywhere unless historic buyout figures are paid. For now, that’s not a conversation. You can say there’s “pressure” on Fisher and Calipari to win now, but only if you acknowledge the fact that if fired at season’s end in 2023, they’d be owed approximately $76.8 million and $45 million, respectively.

One could point out that despite the “I’m not going anywhere” buyout blocking any sort of imminent firing, Fisher and Calipari both took small steps toward adapting.

At the end of 2022, Fisher finally turned to 5-star freshman quarterback Conner Weigman. At season’s end, Fisher hired Bobby Petrino to be his first offensive play-caller (allegedly). Calipari got tighter with his rotations, and he finally went with the fan favorite starting 5 of Cason Wallace, CJ Fredrick, Antonio Reeves, Jacob Toppin and Oscar Tshiebwe. Of course, then Fredrick suffered a cracked rib against Florida and once again, the rotations are out of whack for the struggling Cats.

In the short term, that could impact UK’s razor thin margin for error just to make the NCAA Tournament. They’ll have to play well in the SEC Tournament. In the long term, it could add to the ever-growing angst surrounding a coach staring at a 4th consecutive season without an NCAA Tournament victory to speak of. The ever-growing angst surrounding Fisher is tied to the impending 2024 arrival of Texas and Oklahoma. The climb to Atlanta is only getting steeper, which is a tough pill to swallow for a program that’s still trying to play in its first conference title game in the 21st century.

Fisher and Calipari are staring at a crossroads in their prolific, but unfinished careers. In an ideal world, the conversations about their insane buyouts would be pushed to the back burner and they’d both get back to where they were in the 2010s. In this current world, the 2020s has been mostly unkind to Fisher and Calipari.

Well, I suppose their bank accounts would beg to differ.