The Student News Site of Saint Xavier High School

Xavier News

The Student News Site of Saint Xavier High School

Xavier News

The Student News Site of Saint Xavier High School

Xavier News

End of an Era

“The superior team all season long is the superior team tonight. The Kentucky coronation is complete, champions 2012!” That exact line by Jim Nantz had seven-year-old Tyler Carr jumping around his basement with a smile that has not returned since that jubilant April evening.

John Calipari’s move to Arkansas sent shockwaves not just through the Bluegrass State, but the whole country. Coach Cal redefined college basketball when he took over the Kentucky Men’s Basketball program in 2009. He brought a style no one had seen before: the One and Done.

Since Cal arrived in 2009, Kentucky has been an NBA recruiting farm. The 2010s marked a period of dominance for John Calipari and the Kentucky Wildcats, with seasons marked by championship runs. It wouldn’t take long for Cal to win the fan base over or reach the mountaintop as he won the National Championship in 2012.

In 2014, the Wildcats had a tough start to the year. Entering the NCAA Tournament as an 8 seed. Aaron Harrison ultimately went on to solidify his name in March Madness history after hitting three straight game-winners. The first matchup was against cross-state rival Louisville in the Sweet 16. I remember watching this game in my basement sitting at the edge of my seat until that clock hit zero. I immediately called Joe Karem at least 50 times before he blocked my number.

The second game was against Michigan in the Elite 8. I attended this game in Indianapolis. I vividly remember sitting on my dad’s shoulders and couldn’t even explain the joy we felt that night. The third game came against Wisconsin in the Final Four. I was in Atlanta for this game with my parents. I remember starting a C-A-T-S chant in a random Atlanta restaurant after the game. The season would end with me crying on the floor of my basement watching Kentucky lose in the National Championship.

Nine year old Tyler at the Kentucky Michigan Elite 8 game

The following year in 2015, Kentucky displayed one of the most dominant years in the history of college ball. They went undefeated all year with impressive wins like a 72-40 win over Kansas or a 42-6 lead going into the half against UCLA in the Champion’s Classic.

On April 4, 2015, John Calipari was the king of college basketball. He brought Kentucky to the Final Four for the fourth time in five years with an undefeated 38-0 record. This guy was a superhero to the kids around this state. When I think about that 2015 team, the one word that comes to mind is shocked. When Kentucky lost to Wisconsin in the final four and ended our perfect season, a piece of me died. The feeling in my gut was legitimate, gut-wrenching, and unexplainable.

Two seasons later, Kentucky had the most explosive backcourt in the country. Everyone remembers the iconic 49 points from Malik Monk against UNC or the De’Aaron Fox game vs UCLA where he went for 39 to knock out Lonzo Ball and the Bruins. The season would end in heartbreak in the Elite 8 as Luke Maye crushed the hearts of Kentucky fans.

I can recall the moment when my family and I were watching on the couch–the eruption when Malik Monk sank the three to tie the game; we we all jumped and cheered in disbelief. It wouldn’t last long though, as Luke Maye went on to hit the most clutch shot of his career, leaving a pointless 0.2 seconds on the clock. In an instant, my elation snapped to depression. I can still feel the weight of that sudden shift as I collapsed to the ground.

The 2018-19 season was fun but looking back now was the last real run we had under Cal. The season had some very high highs like drumming top-ranked Tennessee at home, Keldon Johnson hitting a half-court buzzer-beater vs Seton Hall, and Tyler Herro’s three in Sweet 16 vs Houston.

Tyler Carr

This team had all the potential to reach the final four effortlessly. They dominated the same Auburn team that beat them in the Elite 8 by a whopping 40 points earlier in the season. I sat in Destin and couldn’t help but feel shocked by the wild turnaround in just a few weeks. But ultimately, this unpredictability is what gives March Madness its name.

In 2020, When the season was canceled, the Cats were ranked top 10 in the country and won the SEC regular season by three games. The Cats were primed for a deep run before COVID shut down everything and started the demise of Cal at Kentucky.

I vividly remember the moment when the nation went into lockdown due to Covid. It was March 12, 2020, around six o’clock. I had SportsCenter on my TV to learn that the tournament was being canceled for the first time. I was utterly stunned, to say the least. March Madness has always been my favorite part of the year. What made the ache even worse was knowing that Kentucky had a roster capable of winning the National Championship.

The year after Covid might go down as one of the worst teams in Kentucky basketball history. Watching that team play as a loyal diehard fan made you want to punch TVs and pull your hair out, to keep it short. In 2021, the Cats had a bounce-back year, finishing at 26-8, beating Kansas by 18 in Allen Fieldhouse and UNC by 29 on a neutral court, the two teams that played in the National Championship.

As we all know, Kentucky didn’t play in the National Championship. They were stunned by the number 15 seed, St. Peter’s. The emotions that followed this game were indescribable. I was sitting in a tree in my backyard for hours, contemplating just how we could have possibly lost that basketball game. Sadly, this wouldn’t be the last meltdown I experienced.

The following season was derailed by injuries and opt-outs; the roster never got to see its full potential. With players like Shaedon Sharpe not playing and Skyy Clark not staying committed. It was yet another frustrating early exit. After this season, I had questions about Cal, but the excitement for the next year was real.

The 2023-24 Kentucky Wildcats had the most talent since the 2015 team in my eyes. Kentucky could not get off the injury bus and played their first game with a full roster on February 24th.

The year was highlighted by beating North Carolina on a neutral site and beating Auburn and Tennessee on the road. The Cats also scored 119 points vs. a Final Four team in Alabama. As we all know now, Jack Gholke and Oakland shocked Kentucky for the second time in three years, which would end up ENDING the legendary tenure of Cal at Kentucky.

I don’t think I have genuinely been more mad or upset in my life. Two years ago I had this feeling, but it was worse because it had just happened again. I broke multiple things in my basement. I then walked around my neighborhood for three hours in complete befuddlement. I didn’t think a team with that talent could ever lose a first-round game. I didn’t sleep that night. This game was the end of the straw for me and Cal. I supported that man when he was hated by everyone. Defended when the “can’t do anything with talent narrative” inevitably came up. This game changed everything for me. It was his time to go.

18-year-old Tyler depressed at the Kentucky Texas A&M game at the SEC Tournament

Kentucky hasn’t been back to the final four since 2015. Multiple teams from the span of 2015-20 were probably one play away from making a Final Four, but that’s how March Madness works. 2019 was the last time the Cats made the second weekend.

At the end of the day, Kentucky Basketball is defined by its March success. After eight disappointing postseason appearances from Cal and his teams, it was time for a fresh start.

In his tenure at Kentucky, John Calipari’s coaching legacy has been a rollercoaster. From exhilarating tournament wins to deflating early exits, Kentucky fans have felt all the emotions. His ability to recruit talent consistently kept Kentucky among the nation’s top group of blue bloods.

Cal was Kentucky basketball to my generation’s childhood, and it’s going to look a little different with him not on the sidelines. But just remember, the Kentucky basketball program (8x National Champion, 31x SEC Champion, 2,398 wins all time) will always be bigger than a coach.

About the Contributor
Tyler Carr
Tyler Carr, Staff Writer
Tyler Carr is premier golfer who can pure it past William Lewis. He is a proud guest of Barstool pizza reviews. He wants to revive the mullet hairstyle back to the national treasure it once was. He also believes that Da Bears are winning it all this year and that Justin fields is the MVP.
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