We have now entered a brief period of near radio-silence when it comes to John Calipari as he recovers from his hip replacement surgery. Save from a few photos, tweets and Facebook posts from the beach, Calipari has flown as far under the radar as he has since his arrival in Lexington in 2009. We’ve been devoid of Calipari’s near-weekly soundbites about players first, pooping ice cream, being the needle, etc. As we trudge through this period of rest for Calipari, one in which we know he will come back roaring from in a few weeks, it’s time to take a moment to look back upon some of the most intriguing and impactful quotes from Cal during tenure so far as the head coach of Kentucky. These are the most significant quotes in terms of: being memorable, changing the way we think about something, stirring the pot, etc. Feel free to add to the list if you’d like…
(On the 2010 draft) “The biggest day in the history of Kentucky’s program.” – John Calipari (June, 2010)
The proclamation of 2010’s NBA Draft as the biggest day in the history of Kentucky basketball certainly sent shock waves through the Big Blue Nation. Kentucky made NBA draft history by being the first team to play 5 players in the 1st round of the NBA draft. At the moment, calling that night the biggest night in UK history seemed completely absurd, and perhaps even a bit insulting to many lifelong Kentucky basketball fans. After all, how could NBA draft picks stack up against national championships? Final Fours?
John Calipari may have been off base at the time, and he has since backed off on that sentiment. But Calipari was definitely on to something. That night certainly changed the trajectory of Kentucky basketball for the near future anyway, making Kentucky THE PROGRAM for elite high school talent to go in order to reach their dreams of being drafted in the first round of the NBA. For Calipari’s future recruiting, that night was huge.
“We don’t just play college basketball… We are college basketball.” – John Calipari (October, 2013)
For most Kentucky fans, it was a rallying cry and something we could all get behind. For the rest of the world outside of BBN, Calipari’s comments smelled a bit overly confident. Calipari took Kentucky from a very dark place (the Billy G days) and placed it back on the map as one of the most talked about and successful programs sitting atop the college basketball throne once again. Kentucky has played in 3 out of the last 4 Final Fours. I think it’s safe to say that while Calipari’s quote might have been a tad overzealous, Kentucky is a major representative of college basketball at the moment.
“Tweak.”- John Calipari (March, 2014)
Calipari’s tweak was the tweak heard round the world. Whether or not the “tweak” really existed or held much weight, or whether it was simply a way to put some of the attention on himself rather than his team in a time of great need… Kentucky turned the season around awfully late. And it was around the time of the tweak. Everyone had an opinion on the tweak. Everyone was anxious to see what the tweak really was… Calipari had us all in the palm of his hands on this one…
“Are you kidding me? Have a chance to coach the best player in the world? Yes, I would love to coach him. But what’s happened in our careers is criss-crossing without crossing. I’m not in a position where I would leave Kentucky right now. …But I would tell you if I had a chance to, I would absolutely.”- John Calipari (May, 2014)
I would argue that this is certainly one of the more intriguing Calipari quotes, even though it came about on a random phone call from a Cleveland writer. This was the first time Calipari openly acknowledged his desire to coach LeBron James– something that has been whispered and wondered about for years. Calipari did not say he was leaving Kentucky, but for the first time– he spoke about how the chance to coach James could be the luring factor, if ever a luring factor could exist.