This past week, former Wake Forrest player/ former Louisville Cardinal commit Tony Woods made a visit to Lexington and met with the UK coaching staff but also met with athletic director Mitch Barnhart and President Lee Todd. Now I am not sure what was discussed in that meeting, but I would say that Wood’s character and past transgressions were brought up; stemming from Wood’s arrest for assault of his girlfriend on Labor Day weekend in 2010. Although I think there is absolutely nothing out of the ordinary with the A.D. and the President wanting to get a feel for a young man with a somewhat checkered past, it does show that the Kentucky program is going to maneuver this situation very carefully, if in fact that they do want Woods. With caution is how they should proceed with Woods because of the potential backlash from the community. Not to mention it may heighten the NCAA allegation lighting rod that is John Calipari. But in the end if Cal does see something in Tony Woods that can help the program, and Barnhart and Todd don’t see it as a PR nightmare, I trust John Calipari one hundred percent.
When it comes to Public Relations John Calipari does not have an impeccable record. The Derrick Rose SAT fiasco, Tyreke Evans being present during a murder committed by his cousin, and the 2007 Memphis Men’s basketball bar fight that lead to the arrests of then players Shawn Taggart, and Jeffery Robinson. But we all know by now that Calipari isn’t in this business to win a popularity contest, he is in it to win basketball games. He doesn’t care what people say or write about him to almost a fault, and he won’t care about the criticism he will get if he takes Tony Woods.
One area where it is hard to find critisim about Cal is the product that he puts out on the floor year in and year out. Not just the fact that his teams at both Memphis and Kentucky have won and won a lot. His teams seem to demonstrate certain chemistry and have not had the locker room problems that plague so many major college teams. Which shows that in the locker room, in practice, and out on the floor, Cal is in Control. In a sport where teenage premadonna egos run rampant control is sometimes a very difficult and fragile thing to have and John Calipari knows this. So why would Cal risk the control that he has for a player like Tony Woods, when he seems to have the team that can give him his first national title? The answer is he wouldn’t. If Cal believes in any way that Tony Woods will be a problem on the court or disrupt the chemistry of this team they will not take him. Cal knows how to manage egos and big personalities, look at the success he had with DeMarcus Cousins. The questions about his character were almost as prominent as his talent. Yet Cal was able to work his magic and prevented any major issues with Cousins, while Cousins was just a beast on the court, and helped lead Kentucky to 35-3 record and elite eight birth. While Woods is in no way the talent Cousins is, but if Cal could keep Cousins in check I don’t see Tony Woods as problem under Cal and the fans and naysayers should see this too.
Big blue nation should have that faith because in Cal’s two seasons at the helm he has done nothing to show that he doesn’t know exactly what he is doing when it comes to winning basketball games. If Kentucky were to take Tony Woods it would be for that reason, because Cal and the staff think he can help them win games. Now there have been rumblings that taking woods would seem desperate, this thinking is just absolutely ridiculous. Although all coaches may not admit on the record, but I would say most of them if the decision was left entirely up to them would take Tony Woods past and all. That is because the coaches know that 6’11’ 250 pound players with a skill set that Wood’s has don’t just fall out of the sky, and they usually help you win games. With all the talent that Kentucky will have next year if there is one hole it will be a in the middle, where they lack a true center. Tony Woods can possibly fill that void plain and simple, and could possibly the difference maker in a tournament game when Kentucky needs a big rebound or to make a big stop. If that were take place and Tony Woods character stayed at a high level, all the rumblings about Tony Woods would cease. If Kentucky needs to take that gamble it is John Calipari’s decision, and no matter what it is I have complete faith that it will be the right one.