John Calipari: More Than Just A Great Recruiter?

With Saturday’s win at Alabama, John Calipari etched 23 consecutive seasons with at least 20 wins.

John Calipari took the job at Kentucky before the 2009/2010 college hoops season. While at Memphis, Coach Cal had the pleasure to instill his basketball knowledge to Derrick Rose as well as Tyreke Evans. During their time at Memphis, both of those players took college basketball by storm. Rose and Evans would go on to become Rookie of the Year in their respective first seasons.

It was announced that John Calipari was leaving Memphis and headed to Kentucky on April 1, 2009. In what seemed like an eternity ago, Cats fans didn’t know what they were getting. Per Andy Katz, Calipari would go on to sign an eight-year, $31.65 Million contract plus a $2.5 Million signing bonus. This would make Coach Cal the highest paid coach in college hoops.

Starting With a Bang

Prior to the 2009/2010 season, Calipari managed to recruit some of the best prep talent available. Signings included,eventual NBA Superstars, John Wall, Demarcus Cousins, and Eric Bledsoe. Also included were Darnell Dodson, Kentucky native Jon Hood, and big man Daniel Orton. Little did Cats’ fans know, this class would start a revolution.

Five players from John Calipari’s inaugural team at Kentucky were taken in the first round of the NBA Draft. Wall, Cousins, Bledsoe and Orton were selected in the first round after playing just one year at Kentucky. Junior forward, and fan-favorite Patrick Patterson was also taken in the first round of the 2010 NBA Draft.

That team went on to reach the Elite 8 of the NCAA tournament. A great disappointment indeed. Kentucky Basketball doubters would go on to say that Calipari can’t coach, he just recruits the best talent. Well, half of that is true.

Numbers Don’t Lie

John Calipari has coached at three major schools. His stint at The University of Massachusetts began in 1988, spanning eight seasons. In 1991, Coach Cal’s UMass team would begin a streak of their own. From 1991 to 1996 (five seasons) Calipari took the Minutemen to five consecutive NCAA tournaments. Those NCAA births were thanks to five straight Atlantic-10 regular season and conference tournament titles.

While at UMass, Coach Cal would begin his reign as a winner ending his final season in 1996 with a 35-2 record and a trip to the NCAA Final Four. The Minutemen, led by superstar Marcus Camby (20.5 PPG, 8.2 RPG) were defeated by Kentucky with the help of Tony Delk and Antoine Walker. Kentucky went on to win the National Title under Coach Rick Pitino.

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The next nine seasons, John Calipari would call The University of Memphis home. While at Memphis, Cal reached six NCAA Tournaments. Also noted, Memphis went on to claim the NIT Tournament title in Cal’s second season at the helm. The final four seasons at Memphis proved to be the same story as Cal’s stop at UMass.

With four consecutive Conference USA titles, four straight trips to the NCAA tournament and one Final Four appearance (2008) in which the Tigers lost to the Kansas Jayhawks in the NCAA National Championship. Memphis lost just 14 games in Calipari’s last four seasons as the Head Coach.

At Kentucky

At Kentucky, John Calipari has earned a record of 237 wins and 52 losses. For you math buffs out there, that means that Coach Cal has won 82 percent of his games for Big Blue. To compare, Tubby Smith’s winning percentage at Kentucky was 76 percent. Rick Pitino won 81 percent of his games as the Cats’ head man.

The knock on John Calipari will always be his number of National Titles. Coach Cal has just one title to his name (2012). Other coaching greats of today’s game include Coach K (5 Titles), Roy Williams (2 Titles), Bill Self (1 Title), and Tom Izzo (1 Title).

John Calipari is a Winner

In his 25 year career, John Calipari has managed an overall record of 682-192. That amounts to a winning percentage of .780. He has won 16 conference regular season titles, 13 conference tournament titles, and has made 17 appearances in the NCAA Tournament. His resume also includes six Final Fours and one NCAA National Championship.

Coach Cal has had the opportunity to coach 11 Consensus All-Americans. According to, John has gotten 39 players drafted by NBA Franchises in his collegiate coaching career. He is the ONLY coach to have four players selected as the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft. Cal is the only coach to have five players selected in the first round of the Draft as well as the only coach to have players go No. 1 and No. 2 in the same draft.

To say John Calipari, is just a recruiter is simply absurd. The difference that he makes for young athletes’ lives has no place in basketball. He teaches his players to play hard and play together. Getting 5 superstar freshman to play as a team is difficult, but John Calipari does it every year. He makes families’ dreams come true. John gives his players the best chance to be successful outside of the game of basketball and that is what real coaches do. He is truly a players-first coach.

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