The University of Kentucky is steeped in tradition, especially when it comes to basketball. Head coach John Calipari helped keep a tradition alive by chatting via Skype with deployed Kentucky Guardsmen from UK’s training facility in Lexington, Oct. 22.
From the UK practice court, Calipari began by thanking the Guardsmen for what they do and how glad he was to see the gatherings of Wildcat fans on the other end again for this special meeting. Soldiers of the 1163rd Area Support Medical Company in Afghanistan, Bravo Company, 351st Aviation in the Middle East shared the video screen and some time to discuss Kentucky Basketball with the coach.
In addition, three Soldiers from the 441st Survey & Design Team were on hand to meet Coach Cal and ask questions of their own.
“We’re very appreciative of Coach Cal to take time out of his busy schedule to give back to the state of Kentucky and the military as a whole by giving us well wishes and safe travels as we leave for our deployment,” said Spc. Jermaine Higgins, a technical engineer with the 441st. “What a send-off.”
The 441st is scheduled to depart Kentucky for Afghanistan later this month.
Calipari entertained each and every question from the Soldiers, from his concerns for the upcoming season to how he and his players manage stress. Senior Forward Alex Poythress also sat in on the conversation as an added treat for the Soldiers.
The Skype call was the fourth such event in the last five years. In 2015, a winter storm broke the streak, but Maj. Gen. Edward W. Tonini, Kentucky’s adjutant general said the meeting had to continue. He called the conversation a fun and unique way to interact with Guardsmen overseas.
“Being deployed around the globe, our Guardsmen need every reminder of home,” said Tonini. “Everyone knows Coach Cal is a member of our team and I thank him for his generosity. This special conversation could be a highlight of the deployment for many of our Soldiers, and I’m glad we could bring it to them.”
“Any chance we can get to thank the dedicated men and women of our military, we do it,” said Calipari. “They’re over there fighting for our freedoms, and if we can give them a reason to stand up and cheer or get mad at a losing a game, which last season, there was only one of those, to bring them joy, we’re honored to do so.”
— Article written by by Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs.
I’ve personally experienced many of these Cal-KYNG Soldier/Airmen interactions. During events of this nature, two outcomes are expected. First is sincerity through action. Second is grandstanding for personal gain. I can assure the BBN, that Coach Cal has always gone above and beyond when dealing with Kentucky’s military. I’ve witnessed shy Soldiers on the other side of the screen squirm from excitement and reluctant to speak. Coach Cal would always initiate conversation and many times, the discussion focused on everything but basketball. He’d ask about overseas accommodations, morale, their families, and other topics to make the Guardsmen feel at ease. Once that happened, it was on.
Cal would bring players into his office. I felt that most of the time, the hoop stars were infatuated by speaking to soldiers in overseas theatres of operation. I can assure you, the BBN that John Calipari is the real deal. His care and personal attention to our service and family members have boosted unit morale and developed into a lifetime moment for many Kentuckians. As many say, Coach Calipari gets it.