ESPN’s new 30 for 30 documentary “One and Not Done” follows John Calipari’s controversial coaching journey and recruiting practices through his induction into the Hall of Fame.
John Calipari’s path to the Hall of Fame wasn’t built off a one-hit wonder, which often best describes the players he’s recruited to help forge his success. During that time, he’s been cast as a villain and a genius, a trailblazer and a roadblock.
ESPN’s newest 30 for 30 documentary, One and Not Done, will air to the public for the first time Thursday night and give viewers a balanced behind-the-scenes look at how Calipari rose from a young counselor at a prestigious high school basketball camp to one of the most successful coaches in college basketball history. Campus Insiders was invited to the world premiere Sunday at the Final Four in Phoenix.
Director Jonathan Hock, who also has directed three other films in the 30 for 30 series, told Calipari’s story through rarely scene footage and interviews from his supporters, critics and Calipari himself, with the documentary centered around Calipari’s 2015 induction into the Hall of Fame. It not only highlights Calipari’s accomplishments, but also sheds light on the controversies surrounding his Final Four appearances at UMass and Memphis being vacated.
The film is not a simple view of Kentucky’s perceived basketball factory that Calipari has built through recruiting high school superstars with the potential to play one season of college ball and move on to the NBA. Hock told a more personal story, going back to Calipari’s time as an assistant under Larry Brown at Kansas and then at Pittsburgh, where he pulled off his first major recruiting coup – getting highly touted Atlantic City prospect Bobby Martin to flip his commitment from Villanova to Pitt in the late 1980s.
Former UConn coach Jim Calhoun, who has strong opinions throughout the film regarding Calipari’s one-and-done approach, described a young Calipari as a successful recruiter yet arrogant and brazen on the recruiting trail who ruffled feathers among Big East coaches.
That attitude helped transform UMass from a downtrodden program into a college basketball powerhouse led by Marcus Camby, who helped the Minutemen reach the Final Four as a junior. The film doesn’t hide from the controversy that followed, with Camby admitting he took illegal benefits from agents without Calipari’s knowledge and Calipari bolting shortly after for an unsuccessful stint as coach of the New Jersey Nets.
Not until Calipari’s recruitment of Dajuan Wagner at Memphis in 2000 does the film begin to delve deeper into Calipari’s perceived one-and-done philosophy. Calipari is open about his relationship with William Wesley, otherwise known as Worldwide Wes, who is Wagner’s uncle and remains a major figure on the high school AAU scene.
Wagner’s interview gives overwhelming support to Calipari as more than a recruiter, portraying him as a caring, loving coach. The account is backed up with interviews from former one-and-done players like John Wall, Anthony Davis and Derrick Rose. The film gives an inside look into Rose’s recruitment, which has been marred with controversy after Memphis had its Final Four appearance vacated with little evidence that Rose and/or Calipari broke NCAA rules.
What those aforementioned players all have in common is that they came from rough backgrounds, and they praise Calipari for his honesty – that if they play for him, they’ll get to the NBA as soon as possible in order to earn a living. A monumental scene shows Calipari inviting his Kentucky players to his house when the Powerball lottery jackpot reached $1.3 billion. He offers them to put down $2 to buy a ticket for a shot at the prize.
But soon after, Calipari tells each player that their ticket to a financially secure life is themselves and their talent, informing them if they believe it, to take back their $2 and put the lottery ticket back in the box.
The NBA’s collective bargaining agreement states that players must be 19 years old to declare for the draft, essentially creating the one-and-done era. The film doesn’t exactly state that Calipari has taken advantage of that rule, but highlights that he’s looking out for players’ best interests, which hinge on playing basketball professionally. Calipari is adamant that he helps young kids get jobs, which is overall what college (not just college athletics) is supposed to provide.
When he tells former Kentucky standout Jamal Murray that he’s projected to be a lottery pick following his standout freshman season, Calipari says, “You better have a great story for why you’d want to come back (to Kentucky).”
Some like Calhoun believe Calipari is ruining the college game, to which Calipari and his supporters respond that Kansas coach Bill Self, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski and other top-tier coaches began recruiting perceived one-and-done players more heavily after seeing Calipari’s success on the recruiting trail.
Hock hit a home run with One and Not Done, and anyone who views Calipari as a villain for his recruiting practices might have a change of heart. Then again, they might also end up hating him more, which shows the balance Hock created throughout the documentary on such a polarizing figure.