David Leveridge- Bluegrass Sports Nation Beat Writer – Lexington,Kentucky – Kentucky Theatre. April 10,2017
Bluegrass Sports Nation attended the Documentary on Coach John Calipari at the Kentucky Theatre in Lexington, KY. The Documentary is called ONE AND NOT DONE, and will be aired for the public to view on ESPN Thursday April, 13, 2017. The event was a one night pre screening of the coaching career of Coach John Calipari.
The event was closed to the public and was by invitation only, since Bluegrass Sports Nation has covered Kentucky all season from the first game of football till the last game of basketball. Bluegrass Sports Nation was fortunate enough to be invited to such a prestigious event. Several members of Bluegrass Sports Nation all of whom are passionate about the cats and volunteer our time to cover the cats were lucky to attend the once in a lifetime event. Brendon D. Miller co owner of Bluegrass Sports Nation and lead photographer joined , Michael Cyrus who also does photography work , Michael Wills who is another beat writer, and myself David Leveridge who is a beat writer all attended the event.
The documentary done a wonderful job on the outstanding coaching career of coach John Calipari. The documentary gave spectator’s an in depth look of the hall of fame coach. While, Coach Cal is loved by people who are Kentucky fans, however he is not very well liked by other coaches and national analysts. The documentary covers Cal’s career which began as a player at Clarion University in Pennsylvania to his current job as the Head coach of the Kentucky Wildcats Men’s Basketball team. Calipari has been successful at every stop in his coaching career, but has not been without controversy as the documentary mentions at several times during the filming. The documentary features several interviews with former players and coaches. The interviews range from Marcus Camby who was Calipari’s first premier player at UMASS to Derrick Rose another premier player at Memphis. Kentucky fans will remember John Wall, Demarcus Cousins, and Anthony Davis as three former premier players @ the University of Kentucky who are current NBA All stars also appeared in interviews.
Coach Cal’s Early days:
One part of the movie I really enjoyed was ESPN introduced you to John Calipari, before the world knew who John Calipari was. John Calipari had very humble beginnings as the documentary shows as he grew up in a very modest home in New Township, Pennsylvania. Cal grew up in a $13,000 home and his family had to work several jobs just to make ends meet. His mother was a school cook and worked 4 jobs, while his dad worked at a local airport fueling up airplanes. Coach Calipari was a gifted athlete and wanted to better his life, the one opportunity he had was basketball. Coach Cal attended a Five Star Basketball camp and spent a lot of time learning the game of Basketball. Coach Calipari was fortunate enough to be coached by several coaching legends including Rick Pitino, Rolly Massimino and others at this camp. John Calipari eventually landed a Scholarship offer from Near by Clarion University. Coach Cal spent 4 years and eventually graduated from Clarion. Now that his playing days were over and had no chance at going pro, Coach Calipari had developed a passion for coaching and developing young players. Coach Calipari volunteered at several camps in Pennsylvania and eventually got a break that would change his course and began to open doors. Calipari got the opportunity to join Larry Brown as a part time assistant coach at the University of Kansas. Cal spent a couple of years at Kansas, learning under the tutelage of Larry Brown. Cal had developed a persona and confidence under Coach Brown. Calipari could relate to a lot of inner city kids who grew up poor, just like Cal did in his early days in Pennsylvania. Coach Cal was only getting paid $15,000 per year and had just got married, to his wife Ellen. He really struggled early on and thought about getting out of coaching and trying something different, but Calipari persevered and stuck it out. Eventually better opportunities arose and Cal started making better money, making the decision to stay in coaching a better decision.
UMASS OFFERS FIRST HEAD COACHING JOB
When Calipari was 29 years old he got his first head coaching job as the Coach of the UMASS Minutemen. At the time UMASS was a very unattractive job, as the season before taking over as Head Coach UMASS won a combined 2 games, all against non division 1 opponents. Coach Cal played in front of nearly empty gyms and UMASS was perceived as a job no respectable coach was willing to take on. Temple was at the time the premiere College in Calipari’s Mid American conference. In the beginning Coach Cal attended the pre-season coaches conference where it was revealed to him that he would have 2 games all season that would be featured on National Television. Coach Cal become furious and desperately wanted to build up the Minutemen program, so Cal done what he does best Recruit. Cal began having success as by the late 1980’s he had signed Current UK assistant Coach Tony Barbee. Tony Barbee was a star for Coach Calipari and UMASS began to have success. By the Mid 1990’s UMASS had become a powerhouse and that empty gym now packed to capacity and UMASS were now Nationally Ranked. In a period from 1988- 1994 Coach Cal had turned the Minute men from a team no one respected to now a National ranked team. The documentary shows Coach Cal being a demanding coach and pushing his players to be the best they could be. When Cal started having success, controversy also centered around the Coach. Coach Cal finally beat his Rival The Temple Owls, who were the dominant team in the conference, and who at the time was a national powerhouse. After the game Coach Cal is doing his Post Game Press Conference and in walks a furious John Chaney. Chaney and Cal get into a heated argument with both coaches being restrained. This was Cal’s first controversy but would not be his last.
Marcus Camby Arrival changes the world’s perception on Calipari
In 1994 a young lanky freshmen arrived on campus, that player was Marcus Camby. Marcus grew up in the inner city and was exposed to a lot of bad things on the street, poverty, drugs, and gangs Marcus was a highly rated recruit, but also considered a developing player. Coach Cal challenged Camby and adopted the attitude of Refuse to Lose. Cal was passionate and the documentary done a great job of showing the intensity that goes on in one of his practices. By the end of the 1995 season Cal reached his first Elite 8 with Camby, but were defeated by the Arkansas Razorbacks. Camby had become a premiere player in the country. Camby returned for his sophomore season and in the 1995/1996 season UMASS opened the season as the number 3 ranked team in the country taking on Rick Pitino and the Kentucky Wildcats. UMASS would defeat UK in this game with a large margin. UMASS become the number 1 team in the country the next week, the first in School history. UMASS would go on to be a number 1 seed in the NCAA tournament and have a rematch with UK in the Final four. The game was close but Ultimately UK would win the game and go on to win the National Championship. The Documentary showed a close game UK pulling off the victory based on a controversial technical foul that tilted the game in UK’s favor. Cal was angry and felt that because he wasn’t at a blue blood school such as UK, Duke, or UNC he would never win a championship. At the conclusion of the season Marcus Camby declared for the NBA Draft and was eventually selected second overall by the Toronto Raptors. Camby was Calipari’s first house hold name and started the trend of leaving school early. During the time from the end of the season to draft a report come out that Camby had accepted gifts from an agent while playing collegiately. This was a direct NCAA violation, and eventually caused UMASS their season. Camby later on admitted to taking gifts from an agent, the school was fined $150,000. Camby paid back the money as he was now a star making Millions playing professionally. Calipari denied any knowledge of Marcus being in the wrong, but become scrutinized by National Media as being dishonest and coach that was willing to do anything to get a player. The 1996 season was also Calipari’s last season as the coach of UMASS, Cal accepted the head coaching job of the New Jersey Nets of the NBA.
Calipari fails in the NBA , faces first major set back of Coaching career:
Calipari left the College Ranks to become head Coach of the New Jersey Nets of the NBA. Many National media thought Cal left UMASS as he knew the NCAA was investigating Camby and was likely to take away the 1996 season, thus affecting recruiting and putting the program on probation. Coach Cal brought the same energy and demand he did in college, but his coaching style wasn’t well received by NBA players. Sam Cassell was interviewed during the filming of the documentary, recounting a memory of CAL demanded he dive on the floor for loose balls. Cassel responded with “this is the NBA we don’t dive for loose ball’s in the first half”, thus refusing to listen to Coach Cal. Cal did have some success in the NBA as the Nets made the playoffs in the second year, but were defeated by Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls in the first round. The Next year was the NBA lockout, Cal’s team started out 2 and 17 and Cal was fired by the Nets. Cal stated he felt like a failure and this was his last coaching job, He even locked himself into a room and didn’t come out for 3 days. Getting fired devastated Calipari and was the first time he ever failed at anything.
Cal gets second chance, Takes the Memphis Tigers head coaching job: One and Done Reborn
After Cal took some time off and got over being fired by the Nets, he returned to College as the Head Coach of the Memphis Tigers. Cal took over a program similar to UMASS, a program that hadn’t been to the NCAA tournament in years and was at the bottom of the barrel in their conference. Cal was now back in his element, and was able to do what he does best recruit and motivate his players. Coach Cal quickly become acquainted with World Wide Wes, a controversial figure no college wanted to attend events. In Cal’s early years at Memphis he recruited Dejuan Wagner, Wagner was the nephew of World Wide Wes. Wagner was a premiere high school player and lead the Tigers in scoring, once he got to college. After 1 year Wagner decided to go pro and was drafted 6th overall. Cal had now reestablished himself as a coach that could get players to the NBA, and the ONE and DONE attitude was reborn. Memphis was now competitive and Nationally Ranked. In the 2006/ 2007 season Cal had another great team with another top recruit to coming in. Derek Rose was the number one player ranked in the Nation and was pursued heavily by every major college. Rose burst onto the scene, and national media started to believe Calipari could win his first championship with the talented point guard. The Tigers team was a number one seed in the NCAA tourney, making it to the final four while winning 38 games. Memphis would eventually lose a close game to the Kansas Jayhawks, in an epic come from behind win. After one year in college Rose would declare for the draft and eventually become the #1 overall draft pick of the Chicago Bulls. Rose was Cal’s first ever draft pick taken #1 overall. Rose set the tone for future players John Wall, Anthony Davis, Karl Anthony Towns who have also went # 1. Another Controversy come out as Rose was leaving college. Rose was also a recruit, World Wide Wes had helped Calipari recruit and was like Camby from the inner city. Rose had someone take the ACT test for him, thus making him ineligible. Calipari would again deny having any knowledge of what Rose was involved in. National Media also treated Cal in the same manner as they did over Camby , he was perceived as a cheat and dirty coach. Memphis would be put on probation and would loose the 38 wins Cal achieved with the Memphis team. Any records of Memphis Magical season was wiped clean from the record books, This become Cal’s biggest controversy and become the second time in his career that a Final Four Banner come down from a team that he coached. Cal is the only Coach to ever have this happen to in the History of NCAA basketball. Cal would stay one more season at Memphis after the Rose Scandal, until getting his dream job and current job the HEAD COACH OF THE KENTUCKY WILDCATS.
Cal takes dream job: Perfect relationship for School and Program.
In April of 2009 after Memphis Season was over, Cal got the opportunity of a lifetime for his dream job as the head coach of the Kentucky Wildcats. Calipari had desperately wanted to land a job of Kentucky’s caliber. Kentucky offered Cal resources and recruiting advantages that he has never had before in his career. Kentucky offered a passionate fan base, resources, and a rich tradition. Once Cal got to Kentucky he severed his ties with World Wide Wes and has been free from any major controversy. During Cal’s first season he brought in talent to Lexington, that hadn’t been seen in years. Eric Bledsoe, Demarcus Cousins, and the #1 player in the nation John Wall had all signed with UK. Bledsoe, Cousins, Daniel Orton, Patrick Patterson and John Wall, all declared for the NBA draft the next year and all were first round draft picks. Five Players drafted from one team has never been done before and has not been done since. Calipari who grew up poor, was now one of the highest paid coaches in the NCAA and using private planes to go on recruiting trips. The One and done Mentality has now become a reality at Kentucky. Every year Cal has been at UK at least one player has left Lexington, after only year playing collegiately. Cal has produced three number one draft picks, John Wall, Anthony Davis, and Karl Anthony Towns have all been the #1 overall picks. This year’s team is going to lose several players to the NBA draft, De’Aaron Fox, Malik Monk, Bam Adebayo, and Isaiah Briscoe have all declared for the draft. Fox and Monk continue the trend and are both projected as top ten draft picks. The documentary showed how intense Cal is as motivator and coach. He challenges his players with every ounce of energy in them, his passion to help kids live their dreams and makes each one a better player and person in life. In 2012 Cal won his first and only NCAA championship with a group of One and Done Freshmen combined with the experience of a couple upper class man.
Hall of Fame Induction: Shows a side of Calipari not often seen during games:
In 2015 Cal was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame as a Coach. The documentary showed the soft side of Calipari, that isn’t often seen during basketball games. Cal was amazed at being inducted into the hall of fame, and for the first time in his career was a loss for words, having to read from the teleprompter during the induction. The documentary shows a teary eyed Coach who has accomplished a lot during his coaching tenure, Cal is not without controversy as Memphis and UMASS have some what tainted his reputation. At his HOF induction Calipari would bring up all of his former players he has ever coached as he acknowledged he wouldn’t be there without them. Cal is beloved as the coach of the Kentucky Wildcats, National Media have a unfavorable bias against him and has become one of the most scrutinized topics in American sports. Cal’s motto of the one and Done mentality has been adopted by other premiere colleges as Duke, and Kansas have all had players leave after one season in college. Cal is the originator and has changed the way schools recruit from this point forward. The event was attended by several former players and this year’s UK team were also in attendance.