LEXINGTON — John Calipari is always giving back.
Despite his stature as coach at the University of Kentucky, Calipari’s newest venture — the John McLendon Minority Leadership Initiative — is geared toward helping minorities develop into future leaders and decision-makers.
“That's what we're trying to do,” Calipari said. “And the biggest thing is access and opportunity for minorities who may not apply for the job because they may say I'll never get it. Well, let me just say this: apply, apply. We are looking for the next wave of leaders and decision-makers who are minorities in our profession. This, we're seeing it now and we believe this will be different. “
Calipari, the ‘idea man’ has athletic officials at Kentucky, including athletics director Mitch Barnhart and associate athetics director DeWayne Peevy, moving full speed ahead when it comes to instituting the initiative at Kentucky.
“DeWayne Peevy has taken the lead role,” he said. “Mitch (Barnhart) is behind it. Mitch loves it. Mitch said to DeWayne, ‘I will do anything I can to help with this.’
Others at Kentucky, including football coach Mark Stoops is on board with the program as well as other college coaches in the nation, including Harvard coach Tommy Amaker. Calipari hopes other prominent coaches such as Michigan State men’s basketball coach Tom Izzo and Alabama football coach Nick Saban will join the project in the future.
“I (called) Mark (and) he said, ‘Yeah, I’m all in. Tell me what you want me to do.’ So, across the country basketball coaches are approaching other coaches to say, ‘Will you join me on this? Will you help invest in this with me?’” Calipari said. “And I think all coaches know that diversity, lack of diversity in college athletics, not on the fields, but within the administrations, it's an easy call you just look.”
It’s no surprise Calipari has taken a lead role, considering his concern to young people, especially minorities. The latest venture gives him a chance to help produce leaders to honor McClendon, who studied basketball under James Naismith, won three NAIA national titles at Tennessee State University and also coached at Kentucky State.
“(Late North Carolina coach) Dean Smith got the four-corner offense from him,” Calipari said. “He was a pioneer in this and a true gentleman that, to be able to house this there is huge.
Calipari hopes the initiative will give minorities an opportunity to succeed in the workforce.
“This is about access and opportunity,” he said. “This is about a springboard to something good. This is not everybody. We all know, has to earn your way, and has to prove your worth. But you have to have access and opportunity to be able to do that.”