Calipari builds trust in a short period of time

By Brian Rickerd Published:

LEXINGTON — Fans occasionally complain that the so-called one-and-done players don’t stick around college long enough for the two sides to establish a relationship with each other.

But it’s no problem for UK coach John Calipari, who took time out from a whirlwind tour promoting his new book “Players First: Coaching from the Inside Out” to take in a Charlotte Bobcats-Chicago Bulls game Wednesday night in Charlotte.

While there, Calipari had a chance to visit with three of his former players: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Derrick Rose and Chris Douglas-Roberts.

“And it was like homecoming for all of them for me,” Calipari said Thursday morning. “And it’s amazing because people say, ‘Well, you need four years to have a relationship.’ No, you don’t. It’s do they trust that you have their back? You ask them to sacrifice ... were you there for them? And that’s basically what my book is about, talking about how you get to that point.”

That trust is especially timely now as Calipari sorts through who is coming back from this season’s Kentucky team and who is not.

Freshman swing man James Young announced Thursday afternoon that he will leave Kentucky and enter his name in the NBA Draft.

The 6-foot-6 Young is expected to be joined by freshman forward Julius Randle.

There’s been plenty of speculation that the Wildcats’ backcourt of Andrew and Aaron Harrison also will leave this spring, but when specifically asked Thursday what the twins are going to do, Calipari replied: “I have no idea.”

Calipari said he met with all of his players soon after the April 7 loss to Connecticut in the national championship game to talk about their future.

“I said, ‘Do you want me to explore the NBA stuff with you?’” Calipari said. “A couple of them said no. A majority of them said yes. I then proceeded to talk with about 19 GMs (NBA general managers).”

Calipari said he got input about one of his players who did not seek his advice — Calipari would not name the player — so the UK coach contacted the player to tell him what he’d learned.

“They said he is potentially a first-round draft pick, so I called him back in and said, ‘You need to get with your mother, and we need to talk about this, because I need you to know what you’re passing on by coming back,’”

Calipari said. “And I told him and his mother: ‘I gotta live with myself. I want you to come back, and I think you need to come back, but you need to know what’s out there.’”

Calipari said he always includes parents on such discussions.

“Because I don’t want there to be any filter,” Calipari said.

Calipari reminds the players that it’s okay to be selfish, so to speak.

“I told the kids when we met back on campus, when I had the information that I had and it was pretty accurate from what I learned, that whatever decision you make — to leave or to come back — this basketball program 50 years from now will be fine, and so will this institution,’” Calipari said. “This basketball program that Adolph Rupp built will still be what it is. His legacy lives on, and it will live for another 50 years. So make the decision for you and your family.”

And if people outside the UK program have a problem with players who decide to leave after a year, shame on you, Calipari said.

“We don’t know what each of these families are going through,” he said. “We’re not living their lives. It’s easy to say, ‘Well, he should go four years.’

“What if your son was Bill Gates? You’d make him stay in school four years? Or Jordan Spieth. You’d make him stay in school? ‘Son, you don’t need that professional golf crap. You need that degree.’ Really? He can go back and get a degree.

“So what you have to do is accept their decision, understand it’s been well thought out, and they know the downside because I gave it to them. And when they make that choice, you gotta live with it.”

All this said, Calipari said he’d like to see a rule passed requiring student-athletes to stay in college for two years.

“I think the NCAA and NBA should get together and say, ‘How do we encourage kids to stay in school longer, which is good for you and good for us and good for kids?’” he said.

But Calipari does not support the baseball rule that allows kids to go pro out of high school, or requires a three-year commitment if they opt for college.

“Would you really want to be a part of the decision that took a whole generation of ninth and 10th graders that said, ‘Forget about education, you’re going directly to the NBA,’ when, in fact, of those 50,000, one or two may do it?” Calipari said.

“Or would you want to be that person that encouraged a whole generation of young people, ‘If you want to play pro basketball, you’re going to have to go to college for two years.’ Then by the time they figure out they’re not (NBA ready), after two years and three summers, they’re only a year away from a college degree.”

Calipari scoffs at those who support the idea of allowing youngsters to go to the NBA out of high school.

“The guys that say let them go out of high school don’t want to coach against them ... it’s as simple as that,” he said. “And for anybody to say Brandon Knight or any of my kids have no business being on a college campus, you’re old, you’re grumpy, go away. You don’t understand what we’re dealing with.

“We’re dealing with young people and families that have goals and aspirations; that have done right by raising their kids the right way ... give them an academic base.”

Calipari started a tour of area bookstores at Joseph-Beth in Lexington Thursday night. He’ll appear at Barnes & Noble at 4100 Summit Plaza Drive in Louisville tonight at 6.
The other dates on the book tour are as follows:
April 19: Sam’s Club in Nicholasville (103 Bryant Dr.), 2 p.m.
April 21: Joseph-Beth in Crestview (2785 Dixie Hwy.), 6 p.m.
April 22: Barnes & Noble in Bowling Green (1680 Campbell Lane), 6 p.m.
April 24: Carmichael’s in Louisville (2117 Payne St.), 7 p.m.
April 29: Barnes & Noble in Lexington (1932 Pavilion Way), 6 p.m.
April 30: UK bookstore (Avenue of Champions), 6 p.m.

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