Calipari builds lifelong relationships while building up a young team


Kentucky head coach John Calipari yells on the sidelines during the game against Fort Wayne on Wednesday, November 22 in Lexington, Kentucky. Kentucky won 86-67. Photo by Olivia Beach | Staff

Chase Campbell

Ahead of Saturday’s UK basketball game against Harvard, head coach John Calipari spoke to the media about recruiting, the extra practice time and Harvard’s team.

When asked if he still enjoys recruiting, Calipari said that he loves it still because he gets to hear the stories of the people that are interested in the program. He said that he wants to help the young men and their families, and that he likes seeing how Kentucky fits into the life plan of these families.

He also said he enjoys building lifelong relationships with his players.

“I was on the phone with Derrick Rose for 40, 50 minutes the other night. He and I just talked about life in general, different things. If you’re doing this for any other reason, would you look at the end of your life and say ‘Man, I just wasted 60 years’,” Calipari said.

Rose was coached by Calipari at Memphis when the Tigers went on a run to the National Championship game that they eventually lost. Rose is currently taking a break from the NBA to evaluate his future.

Calipari also said that for his wife Ellen Calipari’s birthday, former Cat Kyle Wiltjer texted Calipari, saying he wished he could bring her brownies from Greece, where he is playing professional basketball. Wiltjer transferred from UK before the end of his collegiate career.

The Cats have also experienced a lower frequency of games, now that the season is in full swing. They’re currently in the middle of their longest break in between games so far this season, at seven days.

Calipari said that the extra practice time has been valuable to the team, because they don’t just have to prepare for the next game.

“We’re probably experimenting a little bit more than just preparing for the next game. So we’re trying some different things, both on defense and offensively,” Calipari said.

Before this stretch, the Cats couldn’t go longer than two or three days without a game for their first six competitions, including one in Chicago when they returned to Lexington at 3 a.m.

Forward P.J. Washington also said that Calipari has taken the time to meet with every player individually throughout the season and during this break, saying that his head coach has emphasized “more motor” with him personally.

Finally, Calipari talked about the challenge that Harvard will bring the young team.

He said that the main challenge the Crimson will bring to Rupp Arena is their post play, saying that the team puts in effort to “explore” the post.

The Cats will take on Harvard at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Rupp Arena.