When Brad Calipari, son of University of Kentucky Coach John Calipari, announced he would be playing for his father next year as a Wildcat, the Big Blue Nation heaved a collective sigh.
With the news the younger Calipari would be coming home to Lexington, Wildcat fans knew Coach Cal was here to stay, at least for another five more years. Cal went as far as to say in numerous press conferences after Brad’s announcement, that with the arrival of his son at Kentucky, he considered making this his last coaching job and retiring here. Essentially, putting a stop to rumors that he might take an offer from NBA teams who were courting him to be their new head coach.
“First of all, my wife has already told me if he decides to come, ‘You’re not leaving,’ so that would mean I’m here five more years,” the UK coach said at the time. “If I’m here five more years, why not stay ’til 70, why not sign a new contract and I’ll be 70 when I leave. Seems like everyone coaches until 70, I was thinking 60, but maybe I’ll coach until 72, maybe 73.
However, shortly after the good feelings died down, speculation about how much playing time the younger Calipari will receive under his father’s wing began to crop up at numerous watercoolers and online message boards.
Brad, who committed to Kentucky in March, will have to fight for playing time as he joins a roster of all-stars chock full of top-notch talent. And both Caliparis have been quick to dispel any rumors that Brad will receive special treatment.
“He knows he’s walking into a program with really good players, that he’s going to have to earn everything he gets, and that he’s going to have to strive to be his best,” Cal said of his son.
Brad said he understands, better than most, the passion of the fans and the honor it is to don a blue and white jersey for Kentucky basketball. The younger Calipari said he has worked hard for his position and received scholarship offers from other program before deciding to be a walk-on at Kentucky.
“A lot of people just think I’m in the spot I am just because of who my dad is. And that’s not the case.” Brad said in an interview with the Herald-Leader in April.
Brad finished his final season at the McDuffie School in Springfield, Mass., shooting 47 percent from behind the 3-point line while averaging 15.3 points. He played his first two high school seasons at Lexington Christian Academy before transferring. The 6-foot guard has been credited with his ability as a shooter.
As Coach Coal and Brad try to navigate the somewhat tricky question of playing time this year, one can start to see the parallels of another Kentucky basketball father and son duo – Adolph Rupp and his son Adolph “Herky” Rupp Jr.
Herky, who passed away earlier this week, played three varsity seasons at UK for his father scoring just 11 points in 14 career games from 1959-1962.
Brad, like Herky, basically grew up surrounded by the aura of Kentucky basketball with a father who was both beloved and hated with the Bluegrass State. Both sons watched the passion of the fans and their father’s triumphs and pitfalls on a national stage. Now Brad will also play for a father when the spotlight is burning the hottest. But will Coach Cal really give Brad a chance in the face of possible backlash?
The elder Rupp said this of his son before the 1961-62 season, “If I think he can help us, he’ll play. If not, not even his mother could persuade me to use him.”
However, a decade later Rupp wrote a letter in December 1972 to Jack Sutherland, basketball coach for Lafayette High School at that time, expressing regret at not allowing Herky more playing time and encouraging Sutherland to give his own son a chance despite the naysayers.
Last week I read an article concerning you and your son in the newspaper. By all means don’t be stupid like I was — play your son and give him a chance, which is one thing I did not do in all fairness to my boy. In fact, I have felt all along that I did not give him the same opportunity that I gave many others that did not have any more ability than he.
Play your son. It is a great honor to be able to coach him; and put him in the game; and to hell what people think about playing your own son. If he can play and help the team by all means give the boy a break.
Seems I heard you want to get back into college coaching. If you do, and I can be of assistance, I will be more than glad to do it anytime.. Just let me know.
With kindest regards,
Adolph F. Rupp”
If a case can be made for more Brad Calipari playing time next season, this would be exhibit A.
A legendary coach in the same situation encouraging another father to let his son have a fair shot.
So if Coach Cal wants to give #20 a shot on the floor, I say let him. I think he knows what he is doing.
And in the words of Coach Rupp, “to hell what people think.”