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John Calipari expands on new McLendon Minority Leadership Initiative

Following a Monday morning announcement, Kentucky Men’s Basketball head coach John Calipari took to Zoom on Tuesday as he talked to reporters about the inner workings of the new-founded John McLendon Minority Leadership Initiative, a coach-driven program designed to create opportunities for minorities within college athletics.

Working with fellow head coaches across multiple sports, including Mike Krzyzewski, Herm Edwards, Bob Huggins, Tom Izzo, Mark Few, Rick Barnes, Frank Martin, and a slew of others, Calipari has helped design the program that will start small with hopes of massive growth down the road. The idea is that, over time, the initiative will help create more jobs within athletic departments for minorities and diversify the working environment at the top.

Anywhere from 50-70 different head coaches–according to Calipari–across the country have committed to help the program, including Kentucky Football head coach Mark Stoops. Calipari’s Zoom call with reporters on Tuesday gave even more details about what is hopefully to come.

“These are not coaching positions. That’s not what these are,” Calipari said on the Zoom call. “These are the future leaders and decision-makers. We’re trying to develop those. We’d like them all to be ADs, but let’s just say in 20 years we have five times as many minority ADs as we have today. But you can also have leaders in the SWA, in whatever area within the athletic department. Decision-makers and leaders. That’s what we’re trying to do.”

In the wake of George Floyd’s murder back on May 25, Calipari said he felt an obligation to fight back against the senseless violence consistently happening against minorities. As someone who has made a living mentoring and coaching young–mostly Black–men, Calipari is in a position that not many have ever experienced. He acknowledged that he needed to sit back and listen in order to gain a better grasp of what is happening to these same young men in everyday society across the United States. The program isn’t just for men, either; Calipari said he wants women just as much as men to participate.

Calipari believes this is something that should have happened decades ago, but that now it is more important than ever. Real change happens with larger numbers. If more minorities are working at athletic departments, they’ll have a more commanding say in regards to what’s happening.

“Some people said, ‘With all this going on, why wouldn’t you wait a year?” Calipari later added. “With all the uncertainty, why wouldn’t you wait a year?’ Well, here’s my answer: Two pieces. One, the momentum right now we have, the wind is that our back. Winds change. At the beginning of next year, we may not have the momentum. I may not be able to gather the coaches, Tommy (Amaker) and I together to say let’s do this. That’s one thing. The second thing is, I mean, we want to show the ADs that this means something to us coaches.”

The plan right now is for the initiative to accept five positions per year over the next six years with the idea that smaller classes can help streamline the teaching process. In his mind, Calipari’s goal over the next five or six years is for athletics departments to “look a little different.” The longterm goal is much more optimistic.

“We’re going to use the term ‘look.’,” Calipari said about what his definition of ‘success’ would be. “Athletic departments would look a little different. That’s what I would say would be success (in) 10 years. Twenty years would be we have five times the number of minority IDs that we have right now (in) 20 years. Five times. That to me would be success.”

In reality, success hinges on the interest of other head coaches. Calipari said it would be fine if just Kentucky did this program with five individuals, but it’s going to take the 50-plus coaches each getting personally involved to make a legitimate impact that can be felt, seen, and heard.

Wins and losses are great for personal glory, but this is something Calipari knows could have an ever-lasting impact on society. If you want to check out the entire transcript from Calipari’s call, click here.

Article written by Zack Geoghegan

Recruiting reporter for KSR. Follow me on Twitter: @ZGeogheganKSR