From the time I first began to follow John Calipari as a coach and a person in 2009, I immediately came to realize the kind of person he was underneath his suit. With big thanks to the age of social media and the convenience to stay updated with many big personalities around the world, I got the privilege to follow alongside Coach Cal as he took on his new role as head coach at the University of Kentucky. I noticed he had real goals of maintaining the excellence this program has come to be known by. Aside from the achievements on the court, he took priority in recruiting athletes with character and molding them into solid young men who could take their talents to the NBA in as little as one year.
Some examples of the character building exercises he’s brought to the University of Kentucky are made into tradition. For example, University of Kentucky’s basketball team do not get the convenience of a Thanksgiving break like other college students because they are busy practicing for the Atlantis Crown Invitational in the Bahamas, an annual tournament that the Wildcats attend every year. On top of the several charity events Calipari and his team attends, the one tradition that sticks out to me is when Cal takes his guys to the local Salvation Army to donate their time, as pictured above. I love this tradition because it focuses on molding these young men into fine adults, and not just talented basketball players.
Calipari has also made it a point that even though many of his talented guys will only spend one year with the team, he wants to create a family enviornment within the program. On top of having Associate Head Coach Kenny Payne’s son Alexander Payne, and his own son Brad Calipari on the team, he’s extremely good at creating an unbreakable bond between his players. Every current player on the roster receives ‘birthday brownies’ on the day of their birthdays from his wife, Ellen. Not only does he treat his current players, he makes sure to wish each and every former player a happy birthday on social media when the time comes.
On top of being an extraordinary coach that is able to develop fine NBA talent in only one year, Coach John Calipari is an exemplary man. As seen above, Calipari goes above and beyond to ensure his guys are comfortable in their situation while also pushing them to constantly become better on and off the court. I find it astonishing that he is able to not only coach his players for a year and send them to a successful NBA career, but also develop a brotherhood that includes a bond that cannot be broken. Coining the hashtag #LaFamilia, former UK players are constantly involved with the program. The biggest event for Kentucky basketball, ‘Big Blue Madness’ held in early October is used as a preview for the current years team but is also utilized as a key recruiting tool for Calipari. Many writers call this a ‘Kentucky basketball reunion’ as many former players under Calipari attend and make the event much more special.
In a time where recruits can go to virtually any big name Division 1 school and have a chance to get drafted, Coach John Calipari is doing something special at the University of Kentucky to develop a bond between teammates with many of them spending only a year together. There has even been friendships developed between players from different years under Calipari, simply because they’re Kentucky alumni. Say what you want about John Calipari, but his ability to develop and coach young talent while also molding them into fine young men is a trait that cannot be topped in college basketball across the country.