Calipari’s storied career continues to rise

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It’s been a long way to the top for John Calipari.

After his fifth season at UK, Calipari’s overall on-court record is 597-166, giving him the third-highest winning percentage (.771) among active NCAA Division I coaches, trailing only Mark Few and Roy Williams. He is only one of two coaches that has led three different programs to the Final Four. He has led his teams to 15 NCAA Tournament appearances, five Final Fours, three national title games and won one national title.

First, however, they have to beat Wisconsin Saturday night in the Final Four, and then they’re only one win away from perfection. Does this team have the talent to win Cal’s second NCAA Championship?

Playing & Coaching Career

His college career started as a player at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington where he lettered two years before transferred to Clarion University of Pennsylvania and graduated with a degree in marketing.

After graduating, he started his coaching career in 1982 as an assistant for Ted Owens and Larry Brown at the University of Kansas. In 1985, he left Kansas to coach under Paul Evans at the University of Pittsburgh for three years. While he was there, he was offered the head coaching job at the University of Massachusetts where he stayed
for eight years, coaching the Minutemen to five consecutive regular and conference season championships.

He spent the next three years as the Executive VP and head coach of the New Jersey Nets, and then reunited with Larry Brown with the 76ers for one year.

After his stint in the NBA, Calipari decided to head back to college and took on the head coaching job at Memphis where he led the Tigers to their first national championship appearance. After the success he had during his tenure at Memphis he left to take over Billy Gillispie’s position at Kentucky in 2009.

Kentucky highlights … and lowlights

  • 2009-10: The number one seeded Kentucky upset by West Virginia in the Elite 8, finishing the season at 35-3.
  • 2010-11: Kentucky fell to UConn (which would later win the national championship) by one. Kentucky ended the season at 29-9.
  • 2011-12: Kentucky won the national championship over Kansas, going 38-2.
  • 2012-13: Robert Morris upset Kentucky in the first round of the NIT. The Wildcats ended their season with a 21-12 record.
  • 2013-14: Kentucky made it to the national championship game where the Wildcats lost to UConn and ended their season with a 29-11 record.
  • 2014-15: Kentucky has gone 38-0 and is currently in the Final Four, about to face Wisconsin on Saturday night.


Coach Calipari isn’t the best X’s and O’s coach in the NCAA, but what he can do is recruit his tail off. Six out of the last seven years, he has had the number one recruiting class, and the one year he didn’t get the number one spot … he got the number two spot.

He has become the so-called father of the one and dones, but he doesn’t have to rebuild his team every year; he reloads his team every year. Calipari is someone who prides himself off helping his players make it to the next level, which attract McDonald’s All-Americans to fill his ranks each year.

Coach Cal has placed 31 players in the NBA during his career, 19 of them coming from his 5 seasons at Kentucky (which is a NCAA record high).

Strange, But True

  • Calipari had three No. 1 overall selections (Derrick Rose, John Wall, and Anthony Davis) from 2008-2011. No coach has had more than two No. 1 picks.
  • In the 2010 NBA draft five of Coach Cals players were drafted in the first round.
  • Six of his players were drafted in the 2012 NBA draft.
  • He is the only coach to produce the top two picks in the same draft.
  • One of his players have been a top-10 pick since the 2008 draft.

NBA Selections

Calipari’s players that went on to be drafted into the NBA:

  • Lou Roe (1995) – 30th pick
  • Marcus Camby (1996) – 2nd pick
  • Dajuan Wagener (2002) – 6th pick
  • Earl Barron (2003) – Free Agent
  • Antionio Burks (2004) – 37th pick
  • Shawne Williams (2006) – 17th pick
  • Rodney Carney (2006) – 16th pick
  • Chris Douglas-Roberts (2008) – 40th pick
  • Joey Dorsey (2008) – 33rd pick
  • Derrick Rose (2008) – 1st pick
  • Robert Dozier (2009) – 60th pick
  • Tyreke Evans (2009) – 4th pick
  • Daniel Orton (2010) – 29th pick
  • Eric Bledsoe (2010) – 18th pick
  • Patrick Patterson (2010) – 14th pick
  • Demarcus Cousins (2010) – 5th pick
  • John Wall (2010) – 1st pick
  • Deandre Liggins (2011) – 53rd pick
  • Josh Harrellson (2011) – 45th pick
  • Brandon Knight (2011) – 8th pick
  • Enes Kanter (2011) – 3rd pick
  • Darius Miller (2012) – 46th pick
  • Doron Lamb (2012) – 42nd pick
  • Marquis Teague (2012) – 29th pick
  • Terrence Jones (2012) – 18th pick
  • Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (2012) – 2nd pick
  • Anthony Davis (2012) – 1st pick
  • Archie Goodwin (2013) – 29th pick
  • Nerlens Noel (2013) – 6th pick
  • James Young (2014) – 17th pick
  • Julius Randle (2014) – 7th pick

Coach Calipari already has the number one recruiting class this year, which he will need due to half his team going to the NBA in early mock drafts.

Coaching Tree

Not only have players benefited from learning from Coach Cal, but a number of his coaching assistants have too. He has shaped four of his former assistants into Division I head coaches:

  • Orlando Antigua – South Florida
  • Bruiser Flint – Drexel
  • Derek Kellogg – Massachusetts
  • Josh Pastner – Memphis

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