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John Calipari has one mission as the UK menâ€™s basketball head coach: to serve the players and constantly recruit.
Calipari said while the ultimate prize is to win the NCAA Championship, he is here to make sure his players achieve their dreams â€” be it the NBA or a post-graduate job.
â€œThis is their program,â€ Calipari said. â€œMy job here is to serve those players and to continue to bring players in here that are talented, that will graduate and that will do what theyâ€™re supposed to do.â€
Calipari, who in almost three weeks as the head coach has already received a letter-of-intent from DeMarcus Cousins, the No. 2 ranked recruit in the nation, said he is making sure he is always recruiting â€” either personally or in the media.
Another way Calipari plans to recruit star players is by UKâ€™s jerseys. UK fans can expect a bit of teetering to the uniforms sometime soon, but it will be what the players want it to look like.
â€œI want to have the hippest uniforms ever. It will be the classiest, neatest uniform that players want to wear,â€ Calipari said. â€œI donâ€™t care if people in the stands donâ€™t like them, I need players to like them. That uniform is based to present it in a classy way that those players really want to wear.â€
Another aspect of UK Calipari wants to change â€” or rather get back â€” is the dominance of the program, not just in the game but in recruiting as well.
Calipari said 10 years ago when someone from UK walked into a gym, the other coaches would just drop their heads before asking him if UK was recruiting a certain player. Once the UK coach said yes, Calipari said the other coaches would shake their hands and leave the building because they knew they had no shot of competing with UK.
â€œThe program doesnâ€™t have the brand it used to have, itâ€™s just a fact,â€ Calipari said. â€œIt doesnâ€™t have the aura outside this small area it used to have. Thatâ€™s not the case lately. Hopefully, it is now. We need to get that back. If you get that back everything else kind of falls into place.â€
Calipari said the way to get it back is by the style of play, coaching, developing players and the ability to be seen on national TV. He also said itâ€™s different to recruit at UK, where he said you can recruit the â€˜best and the brightest,â€™ saying he now has the ability to recruit from Texas to North Dakota.
Calipari, who has been successful at getting his players drafted, including last yearâ€™s No. 1 pick Derrick Rose, said the fans of UK basketball need to get used to having players leave after one and two years.
â€œYou just keep getting a great talent pool every year,â€ Calipari said. â€œ(Players leaving early) doesnâ€™t hurt you. It helps you. Weâ€™ve had four players at Memphis go after one year. Itâ€™s because of how we played. If youâ€™re a player that has a chance to go pro, you look at a program and say thatâ€™s where youâ€™re going.â€