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Oct. 3rd, Coach John Calipari, University of Kentucky, Men’s Head Basketball Coach

Posted on Oct 1, 2019

LEXINGTON, KY – The Rotary Club of Lexington held its weekly meeting Thursday, Oct. 3rd,  at the Grand Reserve, Manchester Street. The program’s guest speaker was  John Calipari, Men’s Head Basketball Coach, University of Kentucky.

A “players-first” coach with a penchant for helping people reach their dreams, John Calipari, a Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, has guided six teams to the Final Four, led one to a national championship and helped 49 players earn selection in the NBA Draft during his 27-year college coaching career.

Calipari guided Kentucky to its eighth national championship and his first national title in 2012. In becoming only the second coach in NCAA history to lead three different schools to the Final Four, he has racked up more than 700 on-court victories, 20 NCAA Tournament on-court appearances, six Final Fours and numerous national coach of the year honors.

From UMass to Memphis and now Kentucky, Calipari’s career has been successful throughout, but his most recent run in Lexington has been the best stretch of his career. During Calipari’s 10 seasons at UK, he leads all coaches in total wins (305), NCAA Tournament wins (31), Final Fours (four), Elite Eights (seven) and Sweet 16s (eight).

In 2015, Coach Cal led college basketball’s first ever 38-0 team, and became one of just three coaches to make four Final Fours in a five-year span. At the end of the season, Calipari became the 96th coach to join the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

While building a program out of obscurity at Massachusetts, laying the foundation at Memphis and restoring luster at the sport’s greatest program at Kentucky, he totaled the second-most wins in NCAA history in the first 20 years of a college coaching career.

Quite honestly, though, Calipari’s on-court success overshadows a much more significant picture.

In his goal to lead a players-first program, he has helped more than 50 young men realize their dreams and reach the NBA level with 49 players earning NBA Draft selections, including a record five first-round draft picks in 2010. Two years later, six Wildcats heard their names called at the 2012 draft, the most in the two-round draft era. UK, with Calipari’s help, would tie those six picks again in 2015, including a record-tying four lottery selections. His four No. 1 overall picks are more than any other coach, and he’s had 38 players drafted during his first 10 years at Kentucky, including 29 first-round picks.

Calipari’s players have entered the league NBA-ready. His players have garnered 20 All-Star selections, with Anthony Davis winning the game’s MVP honor in 2017. Derrick Rose was named NBA MVP in 2011. Five of his players have been tabbed All-NBA, three have been named NBA Rookie of the Year, and 12 players from Calipari’s first nine teams at Kentucky have made the NBA All-Rookie teams.

Much like he did at UMass, where his players graduated at nearly 80 percent, Calipari has stressed academics. Fifteen of his last 18 seniors at Memphis earned their bachelor’s degrees, and all 18 players at UK who were eligible to graduate by the end of their senior years walked away with a diploma in hand, including four players who earned their degree in just three years. Calipari’s teams routinely have posted a combined team grade-point average of 3.0 or better.

His foundation, The Calipari Foundation, has raised millions of dollars to help the lives of those in need in the Commonwealth and across the country. In 2010, he used a telethon to raise more than $1 million for victims of the devastating earthquake in Haiti. He organized another one in 2012 for victims of Superstorm Sandy and another one in 2017 for victims of Hurricane Harvey.

In 2013, Calipari developed the idea of hosting an annual alumni weekend around his basketball fantasy experience with the intent to raise money for charity. After generating $350,000 for selected organizations and charities during the inaugural game, the weekend (the game and the fantasy experience) has generated more than $1 million for charity every year since, including in 2014 without the funds from an alumni game and 2016 with a celebrity softball game in place of the traditional basketball game.

In 2017, Coach Cal was named the head coach of the 2017 USA Basketball Men’s U19 World Cup Team, which finished third at the 2017 FIBA U19 World Cup in Cairo.

Author of five books, including the New York Times Best Seller “Players First: Coaching from the Inside Out,” Calipari is a master of communication and maximizing talent. He lives by the motto that “it’s never a matter of how far you have fallen, but instead it’s about how high you bounce back.”



For additional information, or to attend this meeting, please contact Peggy Trafton at 

401 West Main Street • Suite 305 • Lexington, KY 40507 • (859) 389-8100

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