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Calipari Visits Carson Center: Speaks on Leadership, Criticism

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Calipari Visits Carson Center: Speaks on Leadership, Criticism

It took only two steps in silver-buckled loafers and a casual wave for the Carson Center’s Big Blue audience to give their coach, and guest speaker John Calipari a standing ovation on Sunday.

Calipari had barely emerged beyond the curtain when a crest of blue rose in applause for the Wildcats coach, who has been touring the Bluegrass state to promote his book, “Players First: Coaching From the Inside Out.”

“Players First” is a detailed retrospective of Calipari’s first four years at one of the nation’s most storied, and critical athletic programs. The New-York-Times best-selling-book discusses the mercurial nature of coaching, lessons on leadership, and Calipari’s on and off-court philosophies—particularly the instilment of selflessness in a high-ego environment.

“Caring more about the other guy,” was a consistent theme throughout Calipari’s speech on Saturday. Anecdotes of sacrifice by present and former Wildcats were used by Calipari to augment his point---that the Wildcats cannot succeed unless a team mentality supersedes “me” basketball.

“I’m getting the kid who has always been the star,” Calipari said. “If I’m asking guys to give up something up for all of us, it’s a hard thing for them to do.”

The enormous weight of expectations by Kentucky’s fan base is another stressor, Calipari said.

“The hardest thing you will ever undertake is playing at Kentucky,” Calipari said. “There’s more pressure on the games during the year than the NCAA tournament. That’s why we go to the tournament and do well---we’re under the gun from day one.”

Calipari sometimes took lighter pokes at the rigor of Wildcat fandom.

“Kentucky is a different animal,” Calipari said to the audience. “You people are crazy. There are 9,000 of you who stay for a radio show.”

Members of the audience laughed in self-deprecation, especially when Calipari asked who watched game film.
Several people raised their hands.

“How many of you watch it more than once?” he said.

The same individuals extended their hands even higher.

“That’s more than I watch it!” Calipari said, in faux-exasperation.

Expectations by Wildcats fans are likely to increase for Calipari, who just signed a seven-year, $52.5 million contract extension with the University of Kentucky---making him the second-highest paid college basketball coach behind Mike Krzyzewski of Duke.

Calipari’s contract loyalty was a subject of controversy earlier this month after news surfaced that the Cleveland Cavaliers had offered the Kentucky coach a ten-year offer valued at $80 million.

From the paper rustlings of upper-management to the squeak of sneakers on the hardwood, Calipari said his barometer for success is the level by which he can improve others.

“Some people climb the ladder of success, and they turn around to pick it up,” Calipari said. “Special people turn around and pick up the next person, and the next. Let’s all try to pick everyone up and make someone happy each day.”

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