A huge weight was lifted off John Calipari’s shoulders this past season when he finally captured his elusive National Championship. And it was probably Cal’s best coaching job. While he did have loads of talent, many of them were underclassmen and he was the man responsible for getting them to buy into his system and play together as a unit. Knowing the kind of fire that Cal coaches with, if he hasn’t already, it won’t be long until he starts to think about repeating and getting his next Title. It won’t be easy though. Earlier this week, five of his players decided to enter the NBA Draft early, which of course re-opened Pandora’s Box about college basketball players not staying in school long enough.
John Calipari joined Fox Sports Radio with the Loose Cannons to talk about his players leaving for the NBA Draft, whether a weight has been lifted off his shoulders after winning a National Championship, on the added pressure coaching in a basketball state and now it shifting to Rick Pitino at Louisville, and what he thinks about Larry Brown possibly returning to coaching.
On the feeling of his players leaving for the NBA Draft this week:
“I loved it. What a great thing. You think about it as if that’s your child. They were scared to death up there. The one kid said ‘I was shaking.’ It’s a big thing for them! Here’s the thing that got me mad ‘this is bad for college athletics and student athlete…’ What are you talking about? You had these players at a young age playing for each other and not themselves, sharing the ball, sacrificing their game for the good of the team and every young player on the planet got to see it, including NBA players that thought that is neat. We all learned. Yet some nerd has got to say ‘well it’s bad for college sports.’ Why? Because they’re talented? Was it bad when Tiger Woods left Stanford? (Sarcastically) He ruined that University by leaving early! I mean what are you talking about?”
Whether a weight has been lifted off his shoulders after winning a National Championship:
“I’m walking back to the hotel or off the bus in the hotel lobby and we just won the National Championship and as I’m walking up the steps two guys say ‘we need another one next year coach! We need another one next year!’ I stopped, turned around and looked at these two and I said ‘are you two out of your mind? Are you out of your mind?’ But you know what? It makes it neat. We did a tour with the trophy and let me tell you something, it was unbelievable. Every person on this tour, this is 18 or 20 thousand people, we went to nine different cities, probably more like 20 or 25 thousand people, all of them got to take a picture with that trophy and my wife and I. It’s just a unique place that way. There’s no pro teams here and it’s all about basketball. We’re the commonwealth’s team. Louisville has a great thing going but it’s just that everywhere across the state they talk about this program.”
On the pressure of coaching in a basketball state and it shifting over to Rick Pitino now at Louisville:
“Let me say this, he’s got it on him his year. He’s got the best team, he’s got NBA players, and he should be able to do what we did this year so it’s on him. That coat just went from me to him. We did it. He’s wearing that coat this year but let me say this, when you’re coaching, I went 20 years in non-BCS basketball programs and I had a ball, but you strive for this. The only issue is be careful for what you wish for because when you get it, it’s on you 24/7. I’m telling you I’m loving this, I’m loving it. I love that kids want to come and play for us, I love that the senator from our state, Mitch McConnell, grabbed me before this season and said ‘how many players do you think you will lose this year’ and I said seven. We’re going to lose seven. Two seniors and five underclassmen. He said ‘oh my gosh, you are creating more millionaires than a wall-street firm.’ Think about that. For me, where I come from, grandparents came through Ellis Island and didn’t speak the language, parents were high school educated, my sisters and I, the first college educated in our family, we’re now in a position to change the cycle in a family’s life? For them to go onto professional careers, it’s great stuff.”
On Larry Brown possibly returning to coaching:
“He wants to coach. He’s a coach. They’ve got a great AD, they’re moving into the Big East, they’ve got to get some players, good players, but they’ve got to get Big East level players, he’s putting a great staff together, and Pat (O’Brien) you know Coach Brown. Coach Brown’s age, they say 71 but Pat how old is he really when you’re with him? (Host: 40.) Is he 55, 56, 40, you know what I’m saying? He’s not 71-years-old. When you look at me I’m 71 and he’s just a disciplined person. I’m not and so what happens is the old 71 is now 51 and if he wants to coach why not? Why not enjoy himself? He wasn’t enjoying not coaching and I will leave you with this he came to our practices and saw this team respond to coaching and he was with Kansas and saw coaching and said I want to do this again and I want to do it in college so hats off to him right?”