Kentucky hadn’t even won the national championship game Monday night and coach John Calipari was already hearing the rumors that after they did win he’d head to the NBA. When the Wildcats did pull it off, winning Calipari his first title and the program’s eighth overall, those rumors only escalated.
Calipari says in the following interview, however, that he’s not going anywhere. He says very bluntly that he doesn’t need the money that he would make if he went to the professional ranks, but also talks about an interesting goal. The Wildcats are now three national titles shy of UCLA’s top mark of 11, a number the Calipari dreams of challenging.
John Calipari joined ESPN New York with Mike Lupica to discuss winning the championship, rumors of him going to the NBA, challenging UCLA’s 11 national championships, why he would stay put in Lexington and the surprise of how good Anthony Davis became this season.
On winning the national championship:
“Before the game, one of the guys, one of your brethren, said to me, ‘Right now, Coach, you’re known as the best coach to never win a national title, how do you feel about that?’ … I will say this, they are not stealing the joy. No one will. It doesn’t matter what is written, said, done, too much joy. And the sadness I have is I’m not coaching this team anymore.”
Were you surprised when the wheels had barely touched down in Lexington and rumors had already begun that you would coach the New York Knicks?:
“It’s amazing. You know what? This is the greatest thing. People are writing as though they know me. Now, if you wrote it, people know Mike knows, because he knows him. But there are people that I wouldn’t know them if they walked in my office. … Yet you’re going to tell people you know what I’m doing. I’ve got the best job in basketball. Why would I leave that? They want to say, ‘Well, he’ll go for money.’ I can’t spend what I have right now and I’m not sure my kids could. No. We just won a national title and we’re chasing UCLA.”
Kentucky has eight national titles now and UCLA has 11. Are you really wanting to go for that number?:
“You know what, it’s like dreaming big dreams. A guy hit me this morning with an unbelievable text and kind of teared me up a little bit because my mother passed away last November. ‘Thank goodness for your parents who taught you to dream big dreams.’ … But here’s the thing, isn’t it neat that, yeah, I’m not afraid to dream? I said after, I still want to coach a team that goes 40-0. Obviously it was done last night by Baylor, but I still want to coach a team because they say you can’t do it. … I’m not sure we can catch [UCLA], but I’ll tell you this, it’s fun dreaming about it.”
So you’re not going anywhere?:
“No. Well, I go recruiting and I leave tonight. And here’s the other thing, I’m not changing my lifestyle because of rumors. So I’m going to NBA games. You know how many of those coaches are friends of mine, how many players played for me and I know. I’m going to NBA games. And guess what? I’m going to one tonight. … It doesn’t mean anything. It means that I enjoy watching basketball. But I’m coaching at Kentucky.”
Did you know how good Anthony Davis could be?:
“No. And let me tell you why. His high school team his junior year won six games. His senior year, now, he knocked it out of the park. They won seven games. How can a kid that won six or seven games go dominate the sport, be the number one pick, be the next Bill Russell, what? He won seven games in high school. Well, he played on an unbelievable team where he could do what he did well and everybody else would do their thing and no one was held back and they all played to their strengths and they fit together. … But, when you’re a 6-3 guard and you go to 6-9, you have guard skills, and that’s what this kid has.”
Listen to John Calipari on ESPN New York here (Interview begins at 14:00)