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Excerpts from Cal’s new book “Players First” released



Coach Cal, the ever-evolving renaissance man that he is, has another book coming out in April. As you can see in the above picture, it’s called Players First: Success from the Inside Out, and will focus almost exclusively on Calipari’s years in Lexington. Here’s part of the description, courtesy of its publisher, Penguin Press:


In Players First, John Calipari relates for the first time anywhere his experiences over his first four years coaching the Kentucky Wildcats, college basketball’s most fabled program, from the doldrums to a national championship, drawing lessons about leadership, character, and the path to personal and collective victory.

At its core, Calipari’s coaching philosophy centers on keeping his focus on the players–what they need to get the best out of themselves and one another. He is beloved by his players for being utterly honest with them, not by making promises, but by making commitments that he always keeps. He knows that in this age, they come to Kentucky to prepare for the NBA; every year he gets players who in a previous era would have gone directly into the pros from high school but now have to play college basketball for one year. Calipari has fought against this system, but he has to play within it, and so he does, better than anyone.


Penguin also released a few choice excerpts from the book, which is slated to be released on April 15, 2014. So, basically right after he hangs his second banner. Here’s Cal on being at UK with long-time assistant John Robic:


In my office at the University of Kentucky, I can stand in front of a huge window and look right down on the hardwood floor of our practice court. I can also see the eight banners representing eight national championships–starting with 1948, the first of Adolph Rupp’s four titles, to 2012, the one that I added to the collection.

One day I was looking through that window with John Robic, a Pittsburgh kid like me and one of my assistant coaches going all the way back to the University of Massachusetts, which ranked 295th among 300 NCAA Division 1 teams when we took over. We turned to each other and both said a version of the same thing: Can you believe we’re coaching at this place?


And his ‘players first’ coaching philosophy:


I coach for the names on the back of the jersey–not the front. My players. They’re sent to me by their fathers, their mothers, their grandmothers, their aunts–whoever in this world raised them and loves them. Others look at their NBA bodies and consider them lucky. Future millionaires, just stopping through before they cash in. That’s not what I see. They’re kids, some of them as young as seventeen. They all need me in a different way. Some want my affection, others my approval. It’s a burden to be responsible for other people’s children, sometimes a heavy burden.


And, finally, this gem:


But I’m also a sinner, as we all are. If you come after one of my players, I come after you twice as hard. If you kill one of mine, I burn your village. It’s the Italian in me. I’m not proud of that, but it’s who I am.


Brilliant. I’m sold, just tell me where to pre-order. You can read the excerpts in their entirety right HERE.



Article written by Andrew McCarthy

17 Comments for Excerpts from Cal’s new book “Players First” released

  1. pfife
    7:12 pm July 23, 2013 Permalink

    The burn your village line is epic.

  2. Ridge Runner
    7:14 pm July 23, 2013 Permalink

    Pre ordered this last week when KSR ran the first story of the book. Can’t wait till April 2014 for more than 1 reason now!

  3. hersheyisabear
    7:27 pm July 23, 2013 Permalink

    I coach for the names on the back of the jersey–not the front.
    That line just makes me feel weird. I know it’s a player first concept but don’t underline the name on the front. Am I the only one?

  4. Ridge Runner
    7:31 pm July 23, 2013 Permalink

    3, I think it’s somewhat normal for our “Kentucky-feathers” to be ruffled as true fans when we first see that perhaps…but knowing Cal and that he was trying to emphasize that he can’t coach a “university” –just the “players”…it makes sense. Cal knows the tradition and what Kentucky means and that is an understatement.

  5. Pat_Wren
    7:41 pm July 23, 2013 Permalink

    If you get the name on the back right…..the name on the front will take care of itself. What do I mean? If the player is functioning as Cal likes his players to preform i.e. selfless, playing for what is best for the team, (Davis, MKG)…..then the name on the front gets a great big National Championship!

    I understand totally what he means. Quoting from Platoon….free your mind….your ass will follow!

  6. hersheyisabear
    7:44 pm July 23, 2013 Permalink

    I agree with you totally 5. That line just rubs me the wrong way. It always has.

  7. jalo
    8:09 pm July 23, 2013 Permalink

    it means what it says…..its all about business. He is the owner(coach) so he gets the best workers for the his business. You would do the same, if you was in his position.

  8. Lil,c
    8:25 pm July 23, 2013 Permalink


  9. Never
    9:48 pm July 23, 2013 Permalink

    8) never

  10. Eric Bledsoe
    9:49 pm July 23, 2013 Permalink

    I am going to hire some ones to reeds it too me. Dose words look big.

  11. AGREE WITH 3
    10:13 pm July 23, 2013 Permalink

    I agree with 3. That quote has bothered me since the first i read it last week.

  12. SHEPARD J.
    10:26 pm July 23, 2013 Permalink

    Give me Ricky P. any day over this fat piece of dogpoo! Hey COW, its called the UNIVERSITY of KENTUCKY you stupid Pig….. its NOT about the Players, ITS ABOUT THE SCHOOL!!! (although you could care less if YOUR players go to SCHOOL (ie Rose, Bledsoe, Orton) . . . . its just PATHETIC for what you stand for . . . . .Coach Rupp would KICK YOUR @$$ out of Lexington if he were alive. You are an EMBARRASSMENT to this fine state and UNIVERSITY!!!!!

  13. SadState
    11:38 pm July 23, 2013 Permalink

    Running ads disguised as articles violates the Society of Professional Jourslists Code of Ethics. Just sayin’.

  14. Johnny Quest Chen
    7:29 am July 24, 2013 Permalink

    So in one excerpt, he can’t believe he’s coaching at KENTUCKY.

    Yet, in the next he say’s he coaches for the names on the back of the jersey (not KENTUCKY).

    Conclusion: Cal may as well be coach at Alice Lloyd – and bring the one and dones there. That’d be a bigger challenge for Cal – and player’s first story.

  15. really?
    8:36 am July 24, 2013 Permalink

    do you people really not realize that the “coach for the name on the back of the jersey” line is just Cal recruiting? he knows that the high school kids are going to hear this and want to play for him… pretty obvious to be honest

  16. Kently
    11:53 am July 24, 2013 Permalink

    “It’s a burden to be responsible for other people’s children, sometimes a heavy burden”.

    That to me says it all. That is the most important job he has.

  17. come on
    12:06 pm July 24, 2013 Permalink

    Get Bledsoe to read the amount of his new contract to you and your accountant.