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John Calipari leads virtual coaches panel about new Minority Leadership Initiative

John Calipari announced the John McLendon Minority Leadership Initiative (MLI) Monday morning, and he’s certainly fired up about it. The 12th and final edition of “Coffee with Cal” aired Monday evening, and Coach Cal was joined by a handful of the prominent college coaches who have already gotten involved with the new coach-driven initiative. Calipari also took some time to further explain the program and its goals.

“This isn’t to fill coaching positions,” Calipari said in the Zoom call. “This is the hierarchy of college athletics – how do we get the pipeline filled? How do we create leaders? How do we create men and women who are the next decision leaders of college athletics. That’s what this is about.”

Throughout the hour-long episode, Calipari is joined by Michigan State Head Coach Tom Izzo, Gonzaga Head Coach Mark Few, West Virginia Head Coach Bob Huggins, Tennessee Head Coach Rick Barnes, Pittsburgh Head Coach Jeff Capel, Missouri Head Coach Cuonzo Martin, and South Carolina Head Coach Frank Martin.

Currently, the McLendon MLI has over 50 collegiate coaches committed to being “all-in” as mentors and financial contributors, including UK football coach Mark Stoops. Calipari says this number gives his team a chance to create about 70 new positions. For now, Calipari wants to “start small and get it right,” but he hopes to expand the program in the years to come. This year, it will be available across a number of Division I schools; eventually, Coach Cal wants to see it extend down to Division III.

In his conversation with some of the sport’s most high-profile coaches, Calipari also emphasized these positions won’t mean stuffing envelopes or getting coffee. Each position will have experience requirements and/or education requirements; some positions will require a college degree or even a master’s degree. He also emphasized the program isn’t about immediately putting athletes to work in the same athletic department they’re already familiar with from their playing days.

“This isn’t about keeping Kentucky players at Kentucky. If we have [former Kentucky] athletes who want to be in this program in track, tennis, basketball, whatever, we’ll have you go to another school… You’ve already been trained by us. Now, you get your feet wet somewhere else,” Calipari explained. “If it’s one of our athletes, we’re going to try to get them to go to another school. It’s not just about creating coaching positions, and it’s also not just about our own schools.”

Their conversation isn’t all serious. These coaches know each other very well after years of competition, and they have no problem making fun of one another. At one point, Calipari even poked fun at himself for always getting ejected from Colonial Life Arena in Columbia, South Carolina.

“Bob [Huggins], do you know how many times I’ve been thrown out of [Frank Martin’s] arena? Every time he’s about to beat me, I just leave. I just get thrown out at South Carolina. There I go!”

Earlier in the episode, ESPN basketball analyst and “Coffee with Cal” host Jordan Cornett announced the 12-episode series has raised over $1.5 million for COVID-19 relief nationwide. It was watched by over 12 million viewers and made over 99 million social media impressions worldwide.

You can watch Monday’s full episode here:

More information about the initiative as a whole – including pre-application information, a list of current ambassadors and how other companies can donate and get involved – is available on the foundation’s website, linked here.

Article written by Maggie Davis

I love sports, podcasts, long walks on the beach and Twitter (@MaggieDavisKSR)