If you’ve followed college basket for any length of time, then most certainly you are familiar with the coaching tale of John Calipari. The media coverage on his switch from the University of Memphis to the University of Kentucky for a cool $32 million was a story that was blasted on every sports news network for days on end. But before we delve into the latest adventures of Coach Calipari, let’s take a look at the steps that lead up to this point.
John Calipari – The Beginning
Born in Moon Township in 1959, a suburb of Pittsburgh Pa, Calipari went on to attend the University of North Carolina in Wilmington where he lettered in basketball as point guard in his first 2 seasons. For an unknown reason, Calipari transferred to little known Clarion University where he finished out his basketball career and graduated with a degree in marketing.
Calipari landed his first coaching job as an assistant after graduation at the University of Kansas where he worked under Larry Brown for 2 seasons. He returned to his home state in 1985 to become an assistant under then head coach Paul Evans at the University of Pittsburgh. Things really didn’t start to happen for Calipari until he became the head coach for the University of Massachusetts in 1988.
John Calipari – The Time At UMass
There was no secret involved that Calipari was brought into turn around a struggling program at UMass and that is exactly what he did. Although not everything went as smoothly as one may think. But more on that in just a minute. After 2 uneventful seasons with the Minutemen, Calipari seemingly could do no wrong for most of the decade. A quick recap shows the Minutemen winning the Atlantic 10 Conference 5 straight times from 1991 through 1995. They appeared in the NCAA Tournament 7 times with a final four appearance in 1996. But here is where Calipari’s star gets a bit tarnished. It was discovered that during the season Marcus Canby accepted both cash and prostitutes from a sports agent. Calipari was never officially charged, although it did happen on his watch, and Calipari left UMass after the controversy was exposed.
John Calipari – The Brief Stint In The NBA
With many schools hesitant to bring Calipari in after the 1996 season, he was able to land the job of head coach with the floundering New Jersey Nets for the 1996-1997 NBA season. Needless to say, although experiencing some success with the franchise, a 43 win season in the 97-98 campaign and a trip to the playoffs, it was soon followed by a season where the Nets started 3-17 and Calipari soon found himself out of a job. A year later, Larry Brown, then head coach for the Sixers, offered Calipari the position of assistant coach. After serving for a year under Brown, Calipari once again was given a head coaching job in the collegiate ranks.
John Calipari – The University of Memphis
The program at Memphis was is shambles and it needed a new direction. The graduation rate of its basketball players was zero and above all else, the attendance, which at one time was ranked among the nations best, was dismal. What to do? Enter the energetic and charismatic John Calipari. The turnaround began almost immediately and just seemed to gain momentum in each of the following seasons. The awards for Calipari were as numerous as the on court victories. So what do you do for an encore after such a stellar run? Well, obviously, you sign one of the most lucrative contracts in the history of the sport and see if you can repeat the formula at the University of Kentucky!