When you think of what Kentucky Basketball was prior to 2010 you think of all the great teams, Rupp’s Runts, The Unforgettables, and the Untouchables. You think of the great coaches such as Adolph Rupp, Joe B. Hall, and Rick Pitino. You wouldn’t think such a storied program could become any larger.
Enter John Calipari.
What the Coach has accomplished during his initial seasons as the leader of the Men’s Basketball program is nothing short of spectacular. He has transcended the basketball program to an elite level. In a digital world where every aspect of the program is instant information thanks to updates via Twitter and Facebook, Coach has a stranglehold (over 1.2 million followers on Twitter @UKCoachCalipari and his Facebook page has 362,867 likes). In his first three years at the helm he has an Elite 8, Final Four, and the 2011-2012 Men’s Basketball National Championship. He has had fifteen players drafted to the NBA including two of the last three #1 draft picks and has had his last three recruiting classes considered by many recruiting sites as the top overall class.
To say he has created excitement in the Bluegrass would be like saying I have a receding hairline (haven’t been to a barber in 15 years). When he first arrived on campus he said his goal was to make the Men’s Basketball Program the “Gold Standard” of college basketball. After three years on the job, this writer is starting to believe that Calipari may be King Midas in disguise; it seems everything he touches turns to gold.
Now, as it has been said multiple times before, the head coaching job at Kentucky goes deeper than X’s & O’s. It means connecting with fans, making public appearances, knowing the business side of sports, and knowing how to touch people’s lives by helping however and whenever possible.
John Calipari knows a thing or two about giving back. As I am writing this piece and looking out at the roughly 10,000 people in attendance for this John Calipari Fantasy Basketball Experience charity event I am in awe at how not only has Calipari given back, but he has inspired thousands of others to give back. Whether it’s the people sitting in the upper level of Rupp Arena who gave $20 to sit there or the NBA players participating in this event today that will be giving, over $350,000 will be donated, Calipari has inspired us all.
The proceeds from today’s event will be distributed across six charities; West Liberty Recovery Fund, Samaritan’s Feet, 4 Paws for Ability, Everfi Financial Literacy, Starkey Hearing Foundation, and The Urban League of Lexington.
Samaritan’s Feet is a nonprofit organization that gives shoes to those that need them worldwide. Their message is clear, “10 million pairs of shoes on the feet of 10 million children” and they have 70,000 volunteers worldwide.
4 Paws For Ability is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to place quality service dogs with children with disabilities and veterans who have lost use of limbs or hearing; help with animal rescue, and educate the public regarding use of service dogs in public places
Everfi Financial Literacy is the leading education technology company focused on teaching, assessing, badging, and certifying students in critical skills.
The Starkey Hearing Foundation’s mission; Bringing understanding among people through hearing care by focusing on awareness, education, protection and treatment, so the world may hear.
Calipari “gets it”. He has captured the hearts of Big Blue Nation with his charm, charisma, and caring. He has inspired all of us to set our own “Gold Standard” and after seeing the good that comes from events like today it’s easy to call Calipari “King Midas” or “King of the Bluegrass”. I think I’m going to stick with King Midas. With all of the good that he does it’s evident that John Calipari has a heart of gold.