This week Coach John Calipari appears on David Novak’s podcast “How Leaders Lead” to discuss a variety of topics centered around leadership, including how the dribble-drive was born, his friendship with celebrities such as LeBron James and Warren Buffet, and how he makes the magic at Kentucky.
Cal begins with a statement he continuously refers back to throughout the interview:
You can have bad deals with good people, because bad things happen. But you can never have good deals with bad people. It simply doesn’t work.
Cal relies on this framework in all aspects of his life, including his professional role as a coach, connecting with recruits’ family, and his relationship with former players, the most successful of which he says are genuinely “good guys.”
Novak questions Cal on his relationships with people like Warren Buffet and LeBron James, with a shocking revelation regarding his meeting with Buffet. Cal describes his excitement meeting the billionaire, expecting a lavish lifestyle, an exquisite office building, and five-star dining. What he got was an old Lincoln town-car, a singular secretary in a bland office building, and a lunch at KFC, in which he said Buffet “heavily salted” his food, to the point that Cal thought that he had forgotten he was salting his chicken breast in the first place.
On LeBron James, Cal describes him in one word: loyal. Loyal to his friends, family, and hometown of Cleveland through his public service there. He describes LeBron as not afraid to help others, but at the same time hold them accountable and put them to work, a trait Cal also shares. He says they share a text here and there. LeBron is busy, after all.
When asked what his most challenging year as a coach has been thus far, Cal gave an answer that may shock the BBN: the platoon era.
Throughout the podcast, he describes how challenging it can be to motivate the young people that he works with, especially in a year when there is so much talent, you have a player like Devin Booker coming off the bench. However, the answer to the motivation is simple: winning. They kept winning, and winning, and winning. In fact, they won 38 straight, and Cal begrudgingly states that they “should have won them all.”
Yeah, we know. We remember, Cal.
Cal attributes his success to his family, his superstar wife Ellen (or “roommate” as she lovingly refers to him), and those who coached him, both on the court and in life. When finally asked to describe himself in three words, Cal answered: “He’s got heart.”
Heart is at the center of everything Cal does, and his track record exhibits this. As Cal says, “If you care about people, you will always have a job.”
Let’s hope he sticks around in this particular job for a while.
Listen to Cal on “How Leaders Lead” with David Novak on November 19th here.