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John Calipari Biography

There may be no current college coach that is more stigmatic than is current Kentucky head basketball coach John Calipari. Over his years as a head coach for a number of institutions at a number of different levels, two things have become jarringly apparent. One is that John Calipari is a heck of a college basketball coach. The other is that he is one of the more polarizing figures you will ever meet, not so much because of how he carries himself personally, but rather because his style of coaching and recruiting has been known to come a little closer to the lines of "fair game" than most.

John Calipari had a marginally successful playing career. He played sparingly for two seasons at UNC Wilmington before eventually transferring to a smaller school, Clarion University. While at Clarion, he became a more reliable and regular contributor, eventually garnering the starting point guard position.

Shortly after graduating from Clarion with a degree in marketing, Calipari moved into the coaching ranks, where he received a very plum assistant coaching opportunity for a young, up and coming coach., He was named to Head Coach Larry Brown's coaching staff at Kansas as an assistant coach. Calipari stayed in this position for 3 seasons, where he had the opportunity to get his feet wet in some very high profile games and learning from a very high profile coach. After his stint at Kansas, he moved on to the University of Pittsburgh, where he served as an assistant coach for three additional seasons.

John Calipari coaching a game for the Kentucky Wildcats.
John Calipari coaching a game for the Kentucky Wildcats. Thanks to wikipedia for the picture.

In 1988, Calipari received his first head coaching opportunity, at the University of Massachusetts. UMass had never been a hoops power, and was looking to change that, convinced that even within the Atlantic 10, a non-traditional power conference, a team could be groomed to make a deep NCAA run. Calipari worked wonders at UMass. Over his tenure at UMass, from 1988 through 1996, Calipari led the team to five consecutive conference titles and associated NCAA Tournament berths, and even took the team to the top of the national rankings at one point. The culmination of this run was the 1996 NCAA Tournament, when he brought UMass to its first and only Final Four appearance.

Following this run, Calipari took the opportunity to try his hand in the NBA, where he was named head coach by the New Jersey Nets. While his tenure had some positive moments, generally speaking Calipari struggled as an NBA head coach. His energetic attitude, which worked so well among college aged players, just did not seem to translate in the NBA. He was fired as head coach in 1998.


In 2000. Calipari was named head coach at the University of Memphis, and he immediately went to work in building a program very similar to the one he built at UMass. However, in many ways, he even achieved more at Memphis. Season after spectacular season, he brought Memphis deep into NCAA Tournament play, and his successes at Memphis culminated wit the 2007-2008 season. It was during that year that his team, behind an NCAA record 38 victories, advanced to the national championship game for the first time ever (losing to the Kansas Jayhawks).

In March of 2009, Calipari accepted the coaching assignment at the University of Kentucky. And through the midway point of his first season, he seems to be coaching at his highest level yet. His Wildcat team is undefeated at the moment (Jan 2010) and ranked #1 in the nation. Certainly, UK is now widely considered to be the one of the 1 or 2 best team in the nation. And they are young. Look out!

Here's our link to the current Kentucky Wildcats Basketball page and Kentucky Basketball History.

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