Already a Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, Kentucky men’s basketball head coach John Calipari will join another distinguished list when he’s awarded the National Association of Basketball Coaches’ Metropolitan Award at the Final Four in April.
Calipari has been selected as the 2018 recipient of the storied award and will join basketball legends John Wooden, Dean Smith and Phog Allen, among others, as winners of the award. Kentucky greats Adolph Rupp and C.M. Newton have won the award as well, in 1966 and 1995, respectively.
A complete list of past award winners can be found at nabc.org/awards/metropolitan.
The award will be presented to Calipari at the annual NABC Guardians of the Game Awards Show on April 1 at 7:30 p.m. ET at the Lila Cockrell Theater in the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in San Antonio, site of the 2018 Final Four. The awards show will be live streamed on Facebook.
The Metropolitan Award, presented by Nike, has a long and storied history, which began in New York City. The Metropolitan Basketball Association presented its first Metropolitan Award in 1941 to legendary City College of New York coach Nat Holman and followed that a year later with Ned Irish, who first brought college basketball to Madison Square Garden.
The honor certainly won’t be Calipari’s first major national award. In addition to being enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2015, Calipari has accumulated the following national and conference honors throughout his 26-year college coaching career:
Three-time NABC National Coach of the Year
Three-time Naismith National Coach of the Year
Three-time Sporting News National Coach of the Year
Two-time Adolph Rupp National Coach of the Year
Nine-time conference coach of the year (league or media in Atlantic 10, Conference USA or Southeastern Conference)
2015 Associated Press National Coach of the Year
2012 Nell & John Wooden Coach of the Year Leadership Award
2009 Sports Illustrated National Coach of the Year
Located in Kansas City, Missouri, the NABC was founded in 1927 by Allen, the legendary basketball coach at the University of Kansas. Allen, a student of James Naismith, the inventor of basketball, organized coaches into this collective group to serve as Guardians of the Game. The NABC has nearly 5,000 members consisting primarily of university and college men’s basketball coaches. All members of the NABC are expected to uphold the core values of being a Guardian of the Game by bringing attention to the positive aspects of the sport of basketball and the role coaches play in the academic and athletic lives of today’s student-athletes. The four core values of being a Guardian of the Game are advocacy, leadership, service and education.
About Coach Cal
A “players-first” coach with a penchant for helping people reach their dreams, Calipari has guided six teams to the Final Four, led one to a national championship and helped 42 players get selected in the NBA Draft during his 26-year college coaching career.
Calipari guided Kentucky to its eighth national championship and his first national title in 2012. In becoming only the second coach in NCAA history to lead three different schools to the Final Four, he has racked up more than 700 on-court victories, 18 NCAA Tournament appearances, six Final Fours and numerous national coach of the year honors.
In 2015, Coach Cal led college basketball’s first ever 38-0 team, and became one of just three coaches to make four Final Fours in a five-year span. At the end of the season, Calipari became the 96th coach to join the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
While building a program out of obscurity at Massachusetts, laying the foundation at Memphis and restoring luster at the sport’s greatest program at Kentucky, he has totaled the second-most wins in NCAA history in the first 20 years of a college coaching career.
Quite honestly, though, Calipari’s on-court success overshadows a much more significant picture.
In his goal to lead a players-first program, he has helped 42 players realize their dreams and guided them to NBA Draft selections, including a record five first-round draft picks in 2010. Two years later, six Wildcats heard their names called at the 2012 draft, the most in the two-round draft era. UK, with Calipari’s help, would tie those six picks again in 2015, including a record-tying four lottery selections. His four No. 1 overall picks are twice as many as any other coach, and he’s had 31 players drafted during his first eight years at Kentucky, including 24 first-round picks.
Calipari’s players have entered the league NBA-ready. He’s coached an MVP, four All-NBA players, three Rookie of the Year winners, five NBA All-Stars, an All-Star Game MVP and 11 players from Calipari’s first seven teams at Kentucky have made the NBA All-Rookie teams.
Much like he did at UMass, where his players graduated at nearly 80 percent, Calipari has stressed academics. Fifteen of his last 18 seniors at Memphis earned their bachelor’s degrees, and all 17 players at UK who were eligible to graduate by the end of their senior years walked away with a diploma in hand, including three players who earned their degree in just three years. Another Wildcat, Dillon Pulliam, is set to graduate in May of 2018. Calipari’s teams routinely have posted a combined team grade-point averages of 3.0 or better.
His foundation, The Calipari Foundation, has raised millions of dollars to help the lives of those in need in the Commonwealth and across the country. In 2010, he used a telethon to raise more than $1 million for victims of the devastating earthquake in Haiti. He organized another one in 2012 for victims of Superstorm Sandy and another one in 2017 for victims of Hurricane Harvey.
In 2013, Calipari developed with the idea of hosting an annual alumni weekend around his basketball fantasy experience with the intent to raise money for charity. After generating $350,000 for selected organizations and charities during the inaugural game, the weekend (the game and the fantasy experience) has generated more than $1 million for charity every year since, including in 2014 without the funds from an alumni game and 2016 with a celebrity softball game in place of the traditional basketball game.
In 2017, Coach Cal was named the head coach of the 2017 USA Basketball Men’s U19 World Cup Team, which finished third at the 2017 FIBA U19 World Cup in Cairo.
Author of five books, including the New York Times Best Seller “Players First: Coaching from the Inside Out,” Calipari is a master of communication and maximizing talent. He lives by the motto that “it’s never a matter of how far you have fallen, but instead it’s about how high you bounce back.”
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