The nationally televised discussion of the image of the black athlete probably wasn’t in the contract that Coach Cal signed when he joined Kentucky two years ago, but, as is the case with nearly everything he gets involved with, Calipari represented the school in an amazing fashion. He didn’t try to be something he’s not, which is something that can be tough to do in these types of settings. Instead, he just did what he always does and spoke to the importance of the student-athlete and, in doing so, put together a peformance that Jason Whitlock compared to “shooting a recruiting documentary” and called “brilliant”. Calipari’s mastery of the forum was so perfect, I’m pretty sure the rest of the panel ignored him during commercial breaks and was afraid to look at him between questions.
But, as is the case with all perfect games, there was a single moment that signified how masterful the performance was. Last night, it was this answer to Bob Ley’s question about graduation rates – a metric that Calipari had reached 100% before leaving for UK.
Here is his response:
“Let me say this first. I look at this from my own background. My sisters an I are the first college educated in our family. When I go in and recruit a young man, I look at the young man and know he’s going to be the first college graduate in his family. And that means something to me because it meant something to me. I look at so many kids and say ‘because of his background like my own, I was never able to look at being a doctor or lawyer because we had none in our family’. There were no professionals in my family. They were all laborers. My sisters and I had an opportunity to go to college.
My hope is that as I bring players in, some have the opportunity to go to the league. If they leave after a year or two, they reach their dream. But, we’ve graduated over 80% of the kids that stayed four years. The others went and became professionals. My hope for these kids that come in – not Brandon Knight, though. He’s a 4.3 student, gets all As all the time, scored 91 on a test, still and A, and got mad. But my hope for the kids that are first generation is that maybe they won’t be a lawyer or a doctor, but their children now, because they’re a college graduate, have that opportunity. And I’m proud to say my daughter Erin is going to be a doctor – I hope in 2 or 3 years, she’s going to Wake Forest – she’ll be the first doctor in my family.
So when you look — I’m not looking to say ‘I want everyone to have all A’s’, ‘I want everybody to be the best student’. I don’t mind if a kid is a little marginal, but I watch him and he’s a good kid and has a good heart and is willing to work. So, yeah, I want to have 100% graduation rate. But you know whose ego that’s for? Me. But the reality of it is, I want them to enjoy learning, get into good habits and so I’m like Randy (Shannon). Not every kid is born on third base. Some kids are born outside the stadium. Someone better give them a chance. Give them an opportunity.”
You think his players and their families don’t love him. Well said, Coach. As an added bonus, here’s a clip of the panel’s thoughts on LeBron James.