By Steve Ginsburg
NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - The master of the so-called one-and-done, Kentucky coach John Calipari has a solution for keeping the nation's best basketball players in college for more than a single season before jumping to the National Basketball Association (NBA).
Calipari believes schools should take care of disability insurance, which currently the players have to pay, and that the NBA should give some credit to students who stay in school.
Currently, players must be in the NBA for several years before being eligible for big-money contracts, an incentive, some say, to leave college early.
"I want (freshman Marquis Teague) to come back and be my point guard next year, it's what I really want.
"There's only two solutions to it: either I can recruit players who are not as good as the players I'm recruiting or I can try to convince guys that should leave to stay for me."
Calipari often recruits the nation's best players to come to Lexington but they leave for the NBA after one year.
He had four players drafted from his 2011 Final Four team but recruited so well the freshman-laden Wildcats are playing in the championship the very next year.
The NBA mandates players must be 19 years old during the calendar year of the draft and at least one year removed from the graduation of his high school class.
Calipari has been a lightning rod for criticism of the "one-and-done," yet has repeatedly said he would like the rules changed to make it easier for players to remain in school.
Now that other schools are being slammed by kids jumping to the NBA, Calipari thinks fans could be more vocal about changing the system."
"Now, what's happened is North Carolina lost three underclassmen, Duke is losing them," he said. "Now it's different. But that's okay.
"I'm going to do what's right for our kids. At the end of the day I don't apologize for anything we do."
One of Calipari's freshmen, Anthony Davis, is the consensus player of the year in college basketball, one of three first-year players starting for Kentucky.
Calipari has had three other teams reach the Final Four although two of those squads had their results vacated for using an ineligible player. The 53-year-old coach, who has a 101-14 record since arriving at Kentucky three years ago, has not been implicated in either case.
"We had a 3.0 grade point average last year (B), 2.8 last term," Calipari said. "We have the highest APR (Academic Progress Rate).
"How they judge our retention and our academics, the highest in the Southeastern Conference. They go to class, do what they're supposed to do.
"I mean, Steve Jobs left, Bill Gates left. The integrity of their schools were at stake when they left. They should have stayed and not changed the world."
Calipari, who has frosty relationships with several of his coaching brethren, said he does not care if he is liked.
"Some like you, some don't," he said. "I'm not here for a popularity contest. I coach young people. I'm worried about those 13, I'm worried about their families, I'm worried about the campus, I'm worried about the city I live in, the state I live in. Other than that, I'm not.
(Reporting By Steve Ginsburg; Editing by Frank Pingue)