Since Saturday I have to say that I've had a strange feeling having lost in a championship game. For the first time ever I feel very little in the way of disappointment, and more just pride in the way this team and program have handled business in recent years and throughout my life.
Yes the Jayhawks have come up short on occasion, but we've also won quite a bit and more recently we've exceeded expectations. But in general, the way that business has been handled has always been something we can be proud of.
That point feels all the more important at this moment considering the plethora of articles that seem to point to Kentucky and John Calipari as a potentially damaging model to college basketball. I'm not really interested in arguing that point because at this point in time there isn't anything that can be done to stop that change. What I am interested in is the perspective from the Kansas side.
The Jayhawks won a championship in 2008. That team was filled with players that identify with the University of Kansas. The subsequent years have been just as enjoyable and have featured players that also identify Kansas basketball as a family and view Kansas as a special stop on their journey. Generations of players identify themselves as Jayhawks and embrace the Kansas tradition and that includes this most recent group as much as anyone.
That brings me to a post from "A Sea of Blue" by Glenn Logan titled Kentucky Basketball: When Winning at All Costs Isn't. First off let me say that I sat by Glenn during the championship game and he's a very cordial, polite and wonderful fan of the game of basketball. I am not pointing to this in ANY way to talk poorly about Glenn or Kentucky for that mattter. I just want to point to a contrast that I see based on one main point in his article that I found interesting. I'm curious as to how this is viewed through the perspective of our run this year and the pride that Kansas fans have had in this team.
Logan points to Calipari's method and views the Kentucky perspective as follows:
Today's kids could care less about what UK has done; they only want to know what UK can do to further their dream. That's honest. That's the truth. As usual, the truth hurts, but UK fans have come to the decision that they prefer a tradition of winning to a tradition of tradition, where winning takes second place to some kind of faux moral superiority.
So chalk us UK fans up as idealists recently converted to the reality of pragmatism.
True statement? Maybe that is the way that Kentucky and Calipari have chosen to go, but I don't believe that to be true at Kansas and I don't believe that to be true for many other schools either. Oddly enough Kentucky could argue a better tradition than almost anyone.
Flip this around to Kansas and does it not seem that Kansas still prefers a tradition surrounding our tradition AND a tradition of winning? How many Kansas players continue to spend the offseason in and around this program? How many claim second homes in Lawrence? How many call this a Kansas family? How does a group come together and achieve at such a high level with perhaps just one NBA players? I'd argue that it's because they do care.
They care about Kansas basketball as a program, they care about the Kansas tradition and they care about the Kansas family. Kansas cares about tradition and that can foster a winning program. If things play out differently and Kansas wins this game we aren't talking about Calipari changing the game and reinventing the way things are done. Instead we're talking about a group of players from Kansas that care about Kansas basketball and a group that embraces their team.
These last two days have been filled with articles painting a picture of doom and gloom brought about by Calipari and it's also brought about a good number defending the model, the system and his way of winning. He does win and he deserves credit for working his model better than anyone in the country. Bill Self alluded to that very model in his post game presser and even hinted that his approach might change. If that happens, so be it. I'm not trying to claim moral superiority or pretend that I'm not going to support what Bill Self chooses to do if he continues to produce.
However right now, at this point in time, Self hasn't had to go that route and he has still been putting a quality basketball team on the court at Kansas. I think my lack of disappointment following this championship game is due to the fact that, for now, Kansas still embraces Kansas and that also seems to be enough to put us in a position to make some memories while winning along the way. I hope that continues, even if and when "the game" continues to evolve.