John Calipari will be UKâ€™s 22nd menâ€™s basketball head coach.
UK Athletics sent an e-mail at 9:41 p.m. on Tuesday, which officially announced the signing of Calipari to an eight-year deal. He will be announced as UKâ€™s head coach during a Wednesday news conference at 9:30 a.m.
Former UK great Tony Delk, who played against Calipari while he was at the University of Massachusetts in the 1996 Final Four, said he attended Calipariâ€™s coaching retreat last year in Tunica, Miss., where he learned more about the coach.
â€œHe is the best hire UK could have,â€ Delk said. â€œHeâ€™s definitely enthusiastic about the game, loves the game and loves to win. He puts the best product on the court, which is something we havenâ€™t had the last four or five years.â€
The lack of product on the court is something Big Blue Nation has also seen over the last few years. Serur Dawahare, 44, of Lexington, was waiting forâ€ˆCalipariâ€™s arrival at Blue Grass Airport on Tuesday night. Dawahare has been a UK fan his whole life â€” attending games at Memorial Coliseum, where he had the chance to sit next to former UK head coach Joe B. Hallâ€™s wife.
However, lately Dawahare said he realized UKâ€™s talent is down. Dawahare said that should change though, if Calipari truly understands what he has to work with.
â€œI think we have a product here thatâ€™s valuable,â€ Dawahare said. â€œItâ€™s built on over 100 years of tradition and I think that needs to be carried on and the way you do that is you recruit to that level and coach to that level and expect the best. If a coach comes in here and expects the best out of a player, whether the playerâ€™s ability is up to that caliber or not, we should expect our coach to get us that player.â€
Delk said Calipari shouldnâ€™t have a problem recruiting here as long as he doesnâ€™t get relaxed. While at Memphis, Calipari was able to recruit Derrick Rose, Dajuan Wagner, Shawne Williams and Rodney Carney, all of which went on to be first-round draft picks in the NBA. Many Web sites also have his recruiting class at Memphis ranked No. 1 in the nationâ€”including top recruits Xavier Henry, DeMarcus Cousins and Nolan Dennis.
Delk said he expects Calipari to keep his high recruiting rate because heâ€™s able to help players achieve their dreamâ€”play in the NBA.
â€œYou donâ€™t want to get complacent with recruiting just because youâ€™re at a basketball Mecca,â€ Delk said. â€œI think heâ€™ll be able to still do it and do it well though. Heâ€™s a great fit here. He knows most importantly for kids is the dream of playing in the NBA and he puts guys in the NBA.â€
Besides reaching out to recruits, Calipari has already begun to reach out to former UK head coaches. Calipari called Hall to talk about becoming the head coach and what expectations are like.
Hall said the two had a cordial phone conversation in which Calipari asked Hall about his personal feelings on the job and even Calipari himself.
â€œHe asked me how he would fit at Kentucky,â€ Hall said. â€œHe asked me my personal feelings about the position and if I have any negatives about becoming the head coach at UK, which I do not.â€
While Hall said there are no negatives to coaching at UK, Delk warned Calipari to be prepared for pressure from fans. Delk said he expects Calipari to handle the media fine.
â€œHeâ€™s going to be facing tough pressure from the fans, but he has tough skin and is up for the challenge,â€ Delk said. â€œI think heâ€™s going to do excellent.â€
And not even 24 hours into his career in Lexington, fans made it known what they see in the future for Calipari and the Cats.
â€œIâ€™ve been wrong before but I donâ€™t think Iâ€™m wrong on this, and Iâ€™m probably going to put myself in a bad light with some people, but I like to make predictions once in awhile,â€ Dawahare said. â€œIâ€™m making a prediction that if heâ€™s here ten years, I personally think heâ€™ll win at least two championships and take us to at least four Final Fours at the least, thatâ€™s my personal prediction. It could be better than that, he could be here 20 years.â€