LEXINGTON, KY (WAVE) - John Calipari is set to tip off his 4th season as the head basketball coach at the University of Kentucky. He is 102-14 in his first three years in Lexington.
For the first time in his career the 53-year-old begins a season as the defending National Champ. How did he celebrate winning his 1st title?
"I was just asked the question about how when I was on the court the first thing I was looking for was my wife. It's funny how wives basically run your house, raise your family, while you're off coaching. My wife doesn't want to be in the limelight, won't go to dinners, functions. Everybody always says, "Why doesn't his wife come?" She's invited to everything, she's like, I didn't buy into that, I'm here and I don't want to do it. I just went and grabbed her and said, "Hey, we can get on to the business of coaching kids now," Calipari said.
He has stated that a coach at a high-pressure job like Kentucky has a shelf life of 10 years max. "Here's what's really funny, we go in to show a highlight tape to recruits, and in it is my first press conference. Now, if you all want to take that picture of me there, it's only three years ago, and look at me now, you're going to say, oh my gosh! In three years it's like you're President of the United States in this job," Calipari added. "You age like, by five's. When I tell you it's a 10 year job, that's about what it is, but it may be shorter than that, it may be a little longer than that. You don't come here and say I'm going to be here, how Coach Rupp did it, but it must have been a different time. No, but I'm having fun."
He has reloaded with another talented group of freshmen, led by Nerlens Noel. Many of the recruiting analysts claim that Noel is a better shot blocker than 2012 National Player of the Year and Final Four Most Outstanding Player Anthony Davis.
"I don't think so, but I hope he is. If he is, my goodness," Cal said. "He didn't get the 8 weeks with us because he reclassified, had to finish up some academic stuff before he got here. Willie Cauley though, and Nerlens together, if they're ever out there together, 7'0", 6"11", long, active athletes, that becomes crazy. Those two together would be way longer than our team a year ago, with Terrence and Michael and Anthony and Kyle Wiltjer. This team is longer. Now, we have no experience."
Even without any experience, the Cats figure to start the season in the top 5 of most preseason polls. Indiana and Louisville are among the teams fighting it out for the preseason #1 ranking.
Calipari isn't ready to make a pick. "I don't know, but they're both really good. I've been a Peyton Siva fan since I saw him in the Derby Classic playing better than Eric Bledsoe, and I said that kid can really play. The big guy has gotten better, they're really good. Now you look at Indiana and you talk about their big guy, I mean he is really talented, that's going to be a great, do they play? I think we should schedule that game. That game for America should be scheduled, Those two going against each other would be a great matchup. They're both well coached, they're both really good teams. We were fortunate to beat both of them last year, obviously lost to one, but we also came back and beat them. They've got everybody back. I'm more concerned about my team and just trying to do what we can do to be the best team we can be."
For the first time since the 1950's U.K. will not play a home game in Louisville's Freedom Hall, a decision that Calipari said was not an easy one.
"It was hard," he said. "We'd like to play in the YUM! Center and I understand why Louisville wouldn't want us in their building, it's the state's building by the way, but that's okay. So we won't play in Louisville. I'm not scheduling for America but I am scheduling for our fans. This is a players first program, we have to do what is in their best interests first. It is a players first program, so when we schedule it's got to be about them."
Being the coach at Kentucky is different than any other basketball job in the country, the demands on your time are never ending, so how does Coach Calipari get away? One way is by watching a little reality TV, shows like "Storage Wars."
"I did, I did, I watch "Pawn Stars" which is really good," he added. "You wonder why you watch it, it's the characters in there. I'm trying to keep up with the politics right now, what's happening. The politicians and congressmen are like coaches, they kill each other, which kills the category. I was a marketing major, first thing I learned in marketing, do not kill the category. You can't kill the category. Us coaches, we kill each other, everybody is the worst human being, everybody is cheating, everybody is doing it, so now everybody thinks we all cheat and we're bad human beings and we don't care about kids. Congress, what are they rated, 12%, just don't kill each other, so I do watch politics and try to learn from it. It's hard to say just pick up and leave, because my wife says "Where are you going, you haven't been here." I'm like, yeah but everything I've done is for everybody else, I'd like to just be able to step away, "Well what about us?" You want to go with me, "Well no, I want you to stay here." So it's not as easy you think just to step off the gas."
Calipari and the Cats will hold Big Blue Madness on Friday, October 12, in Rupp Arena.
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