Men's Basketball Press Conference Transcript and Quotes
April 1, 2009
DEWAYNE PEEVY: Good morning, everyone. We'll have an introduction from UK athletics director Mitch Barnhart. After Coach Calipari's speech, we will have a question and answer session for the members of our panel. We'll start with Mitch.
MITCH BARNHART: Good morning, everyone. Sorry about the early timing. I know this is especially hard for the TV folks, but we do have a very special announcement. I understand there has been just a little bit of speculation about who the next coach might be.
I'm very proud and excited to announce John Calipari has agreed to become the men's basketball coach at the University of Kentucky.
I have a few brief comments, then coach will make some remarks, then we'll be glad to answer some questions afterwards.
Let me talk a little bit about our search process. I know the critics will say we have moved too fast. They said three weeks was too long last time. Since last Friday evening, we've been on this non stop trail.
Mike Pratt, who I thank very much, former UK player. Rob Mullins, myself, Dr. Todd, have received literally hundreds of phone calls. Mike Pratt told me he thought his cell phone was going to explode. Welcome to my world, Mike.
We have talked with coaches and representatives for anyone that was interested in Kentucky, and everyone that Kentucky was interested in. President Todd has provided guidance and input the entire way. We discussed the potential candidates with former players, professionals, and college coaches, other athletic administrators across the country and other individuals with great basketball knowledge.
We quickly zeroed in on coach, and frankly he zeroed in on us as well. We then started our due diligence, more calls and background checks. Sandy Bell and the compliance folks talked with the NCAA and checked records and facts. David Price, other people at the high level with the NCAA, assured us how much they enjoyed working with John in that process.
We have all had our critics about how we manage and lead our programs. For seven years I've had my share and I've been through it. Our commitment at the University of Kentucky to compliance and discipline has always been strong, and that will not change. John's commitment to compliance and discipline has always been strong, and that will not change.
We have a very strong compliance staff here and we will work closely together as we move forward in this process to ensure all the things we want for the University of Kentucky.
Before I outline the key elements of the contract, I think it's important to clarify for some of you, but certainly your audiences, how UK coaches are compensated.
First I'm always proud to have the opportunity to discuss how this athletic department is one of the really small number of programs that is self funded. We do not use any state appropriation or university funding to pay our coaches. Except for his base salary of $400,000 the bulk of this compensation is derived from our multi media rights contract that includes radio and television agreements, other sponsors and conference revenue sharing.
The marketplace that we operate in, to be the premiere basketball program in America, you want the best coach, you must pay a premium price. We don't mind doing that because we think it's important. If done correctly, the investment in a coach will pay for itself and yield returns for the overall program in general. We've got a lot of sports programs, 22 of them, that depend on our men's basketball programs and our football program to make sure they have an opportunity to exist. For that we thank those two coaches that lead those programs and we thank the athletes that compete and give them the opportunity to give other athletes and coaches the opportunity.
Coach Calipari has agreed to an eight year contract worth $31.65 million. And it should be noted we have a completed and signed agreement in place. It is a guaranteed contract. The base salary is $400,000. The bulk of the remainder is made up in media and television rights.
There are safeguards for both the university and coach going forward and we appreciate his commitment to get this done to make sure that we can proceed and worry about the game of basketball, the academics of our athletes, and the things that we want to do for the University of Kentucky.
Now let's talk about why we hired this guy. 2009 Sports Illustrated National Coach of the Year. Coach Calipari led the Memphis Tigers to an NCAA Sweet 16 appearance, 33 4 record this season. He also led the Tigers to the 2008 NCAA title game, and Memphis' 38 wins in 2007 and 2008 made him the winningest coach for a single season in NCAA history.
As a result, he was named the Naismith National Coach of the Year for the second time in his career. He is only the second coach to receive the honor multiple times since the award's inception in 1987.
The Tigers' 147 wins the last four seasons made coach the winningest in a four year span in NCAA Division I history. During that same time, he directed the Tigers to four straight 30 win campaigns, becoming the first coach in NCAA Division I history to record four straight 30 win ledgers.
His 104 victories in the last three seasons are the second most in NCAA Division I history in a three year span. With his successes in Memphis, his overall record soared to 445 and 140, a 76.1 winning percentage. His 445 wins is the second most in NCAA Division I history in the first 17 years of a career. He can flat out coach.
He is also a coach committed to his players and their successes off the court and after basketball. 19 of his last 22 players that completed their senior year have gone on through Memphis to earn their bachelor's degree. John, along with the administration, has developed a program to encourage former Tiger players to return and complete their degrees. John is a seasoned veteran who has built two programs to national prominence. He understands the value of constructing a base around the program and including those that love the program so deeply, former players, alumni, friends of the program included.
He has a proven track record of building fan support. I think John will tell you that the Kentucky coaching job has been on his radar for a long time. From all of our conversations, I firmly believe he understands the demands of the job and the expectations of our fans and supporters.
I will also tell you that from the information I have gotten, the Calipari family has always been actively involved and committed to the community in which they live. The Calipari Family Foundation for Children was created in support of local children's charities and community projects, from renovating public basketball courts and playgrounds to programs called Streets Ministries.
John and his family have given back to the institutions he serves. They have donated thousands of dollars to the university projects from libraries to scholarships. I don't mean to embarrass him with these examples, but my point is he gets the importance of giving back and engaging the community that he and his family are part of.
With that, it is my extreme pleasure to introduce the Calipari family to you today. John's wife Ellen, his daughter Erin is not with us, she is in graduate school or headed that way, daughter Megan, and future PGA star Bradley.
We welcome you. We are glad you're here in the bluegrass. With that, lastly, I give you the new men's basketball coach at the University of Kentucky, John Calipari.
COACH CALIPARI: Thank you. First of all, let me thank Dr. Todd and Mitch for giving me this opportunity to coach the Commonwealth's team. I'm humbled yet I'm excited about leading this storied program.
Is Hazel Keightley here yet? I asked that she and Karen come. I know you probably know this. Mr. Bill passed away a year ago yesterday. Was one of those true gentlemen, passionate, prideful fans that treated me unbelievably over the years. Had a hug for me, a smile for me. He talked that drawl, laughed, always was the greatest. I don't know why, but he treated me like I was a part of this program. I hope they're here and we can recognize them before I'm finished.
Yesterday I talked to Coach Hall, I talked to Tubby Smith, I talked to Eddie Sutton, and I talked to Rick Pitino about this job and the University of Kentucky. And all I can tell you is none of those coaches would trade their time here for anything in the world.
I look at the former players. I used to try to emulate Kyle Macy. As a matter of fact, one college game someone yelled at me 'Kyle Macy' and I was so excited I couldn't play the rest of the game. I spent time with Kyle at the Five Star Basketball Camp. He came up to do a shooting station and I was his assistant. What a gentleman and what a good guy. I couldn't believe it, a guy that had that much notoriety and passion, that he was that good a guy.
I've gotten calls from players, Rex Chapman. I'm looking around some of these notes. Tyshaun Price, Nazr Mohammed. I've gotten calls from a lot of the former players excited about what's going to happen or what can happen here.
This is pretty heady stuff for me. But this was a dream I had since we brought our team down here, and I believe it was 1992. We had won the Alaska Shootout, came out here to play, and I could not believe the environment. At that point I said, I'd love to coach there someday.
This decision for me was extremely hard. Let me address the people in Memphis. It wasn't coming here. This was easy. It was leaving Memphis. The support that my family and I have received over the years there from Dr. Raines, who worked here at the university. RC Johnson, all the people and fans. The friends we had to leave back in Memphis. The players who performed. And you watched them over the years; they performed at such a high level. That's why I'm sitting here, because of those players. And to walk away from that was very difficult.
But this is heady stuff. Mitch talked a lot about wins and this and that. He forgot to tell you I got fired in New Jersey. They never bring that up very much. But let me tell you, for me, we took over UMass. And I hope Bob Markham is down here, I don't see him, but I hope he is. He was our athletic director. When we took over, there was a 15% graduation rate. When we left, it was 80%. At the University of Memphis when we took over, it was a zero percent graduation rate. For six years, no one had graduated. Mitch had mentioned 19 of our last 22 seniors will have graduated in May. It's important to me.
I met the team this morning. I said, If you don't go to class, if you don't want to do the tutorials, if you don't want to treat people right, we will meet when I come back and we'll figure out where you're gonna go. I wasn't mean about it. I was matter of factly, that's how we do things.
You may want to know about me. I'm a regular guy, folks. I do not walk on water. I do not have a magic wand. I'm day to day. I told Dr. Todd and Mitch, if you want something to happen in a year, do not hire me. That's not how I do things. But when we get it right, you notice we're No. 1 in the country, we're No. 1 seeds, we're playing in Final Fours when you get it right.
My grandparents came through Ellis Island on my father's side. They were uneducated. My grandfather worked in the coal mines in West Virginia, died of black lung at age 58.
My mother's family were from Webster Springs, West Virginia. Dandelion soup. I heard all the stories. So I want you to know that my wife and I, I'm not the Grand Pooh Bah, I'm not the emperor. That's not what I want to be. We're regular people.
Let me say this. Mitch mentioned it. We will be involved in this community. Ellen tutored grade school kids in Memphis. We've gotten involved in a lot of charities. We want to be involved. Again, I can't be involved in everything. So, please, don't be upset if I have to say no to some things. But I really want to be involved. Wherever we can make a difference in this community, we'll do everything in our power to do that, including our time, our money, and whatever else we have to do.
As a basketball coach, I don't make a whole lot of promises never have. But we make commitments. The commitment being, this will be about players first. I know how big this program is. But it's only big because of the players who have gone through here. This program will be about players first.
All of our staff, we're here to serve them. That's why we're here. As the leader of this program, as the leader, my job is to serve them, serve my staff, serve my secretary, and really serve the Commonwealth. That's what I do.
I told Mitch and I told Dr. Todd, I'm a gatherer. Folks, if this happens here, my vision of this program, it's going to happen because of all of us working together. I'm a gatherer. It takes a village. I used to say in Memphis all the time, it takes a village. There's not one person that can come to the University of Kentucky and say, We're winning national titles. There's no one person out there. It means a community. It means an administration. It means everybody working together to do it.
If we do our job, if we win, it's something special. If I'm done my job, 10,000 people will say, Without me, they couldn't have done it. 10,000 people would say, Without me, they couldn't have done this.
I also make a commitment to create an environment that fosters discipline. And, most importantly, my job is to hold players accountable on and off the court. On the court, for their performance, that's my job.
Our goals will be to make the entire Commonwealth, the entire Commonwealth, proud of this team, proud of their program, proud of their team by our work on the court and our integrity off the court. I cannot tell you how excited I am to be here, how hard the decision was because of what I left behind. And you have to understand, I left a lot behind.
But to come here and have an opportunity to add to the wall. Can you imagine, they don't put banners up here for anything else except national champions. That's why you want to coach here. We want to compete every year and hopefully add to this wall.
DEWAYNE PEEVY: We'll continue with questions for all three gentlemen.
Q. Coach, in your opening statements, you said you wanted to represent the Commonwealth. That was one of the things that seemed like they were looking for, somebody to be an ambassador. Are you ready for that?
COACH CALIPARI: We have one of our Memphis reporters here. I think she would tell you, I enjoy really letting people know about the city I work and the university I work with and work for.
You talk about our med school here. I mean, one of the best in the United States. You talk about different things, quality of life. There will be no bigger cheerleader for this place than me.
I enjoy it. I enjoyed what I did at Memphis, promoting that way, because I really believed in the city and the university, and I'll do the same here.
Q. On Friday in Memphis, you told me you would not be leaving the University of Memphis.
COACH CALIPARI: Did I say that?
Q. Yes, you did. You stood right in front of me. What happened?
COACH CALIPARI: Did I say that?
Q. Yes. We have it on camera.
COACH CALIPARI: You have it on camera?
Q. Yes, we have it on camera.
COACH CALIPARI: Then I must have said that.
Q. Yes, you said that.
COACH CALIPARI: I went to my basketball team Sunday and told them I would be talking to the University of Kentucky. I did not want them to read on the ticker what I was doing. And I said to them, Guys, there's no college job in the country that I wouldn't leave to, but I've got to talk to the University of Kentucky. It's a dream of mine.
I looked around the room. I said, How many of you have dreams to coach or play in the NBA? A lot of them raised their hand. I said, As a family, you can understand my dream then to coach there. But I'm going to meet with them and see if it's right. If it's not right, I will not do it.
When I told them yesterday, I met with them yesterday I believe around 5:30, 6:00, and I told them as a team what I planned to do. Then I met with them individually, so they're not reading it on the ticker. They were gonna hear it first.
We were emotional. One of them was upset. But not that I did it; it's just that it happened. But they understood, because we were a family, that it was a dream of mine.
Did I plan on doing this? No. But I'll tell you what. This opportunity is one that if I had passed on, three years from now, I didn't want to live a life where I regretted, Why didn't I do this, to be in the best situation to coach basketball in the country, maybe the world, to coach basketball right here in Lexington.
Q. Will you be at the news conference in Memphis?
COACH CALIPARI: Yes, I will. Folks, I'm going to leave rather quickly because I think I owe it to the City of Memphis to get back there and have a press conference there at noon to really hopefully not get emotional. Then you're going to say, Our coach cries. But to meet with those people and talk to them.
Q. Since your buddy Pitino has one of those banners, you have to win two, correct? Seriously, you've thought about this for a long time. From your heart, what would it mean to put up a banner after winning the national championship?
COACH CALIPARI: First of all, let me address Rick Pitino. He and I talked yesterday. This thing about we hate each other, it is so crazy. I mean, we're competitive. You know what I said to him? We're not everyone in the same league now. Why should we bother with each other? We got to play a game, let's play it, get it done. But why bother with it? You're in different leagues.
Let me make a point to you. When I was hired by the University of Massachusetts, without his support, because everybody wanted the job, you had other people promoting other people, his comments and his calls got me the job. He also, from what I understood, invested in my country club, which probably cost $2,000. He says 10, I think it was 2 (laughter).
I appreciate everything. We've been competitors. We've had to play. If I remember the game we played in Detroit. Do you remember that game that we won? I don't remember the Final Four game. That one passes my mind. I don't remember that one. But he and I will get along fine.
This is the Commonwealth's team. What he's done at Louisville in the Big East has been phenomenal.
Folks, you got to believe me when I tell you this, this isn't personal for me. If it were personal, I would have jumped off a bridge when we lost that game up 9 with 2:12 to go. So my feeling, and my wife will tell me, I'm a gatherer. My high school coach was there. My college coach was there. My family was there. So if that happens, I'm going to be so proud and so happy for every one of the people that helped.
Do I want this to happen? Let's double these. Let's double 'em. But you know what, it's hard. It is hard. And the challenge of being here is competing for national titles, but winning them. But that's what you buy into when you come here.
As a coach, what's better than every year competing for national titles? And you win it when you least expect it. You know what, we're going to chase. I'm not going to make promises. I'm not going to do that. But I'll tell you what, we're going to run a program that we're proud of. You'll be proud of the players.
What I told the players today, I want them to have fun. I'm gonna raise the bar, but I want them to have fun. I don't want them to look miserable. If you watch them, I want up to say, Wow, are they enjoying playing. If I've done my job, that's what you're gonna see.
Q. You mentioned you met with the players earlier. What do you know about the team you're inheriting, the current players on the roster?
COACH CALIPARI: I know that Jodie scored a ton against Tennessee. I saw that game. And I know Patrick Patterson, how good he is, Miller. I'm going to be honest, folks, I don't know the team that well. I watched them a few times, half games. You had to watch the Tennessee stuff, because he was out of his mind. It was exciting to watch. But I told them, I am excited about this opportunity. My job will be helping them reach their dreams. That's my job.
This program will be about them. It's about them. My job will be to help them reach their dreams, challenge them to stay on course on everything else so they have Plan A and Plan B. You don't quite make it, you get injured, you have a chance with a college degree.
In this state, in this Commonwealth, they embrace these players. I saw Jeff Shepherd doing commercials on TV. They told me Richie Farmer, who scored against us, is the secretary of agriculture. They take care of these kids. The guy scored baskets; he's going to be governor. It's crazy (laughter).
Q. You've always been at programs where you were trying to build them and break through the top. Now you're at the top.
COACH CALIPARI: No, no, don't say that yet. We have a program that has a storied history. But we have struggled here in the last. You know what I mean? We're not where we want to be. We have to build. We have to build. You build through players.
Go ahead. I'm sorry.
Q. So much for that premise (laughter). How do you feel about being second guessed, having every one of your decisions dissected?
COACH CALIPARI: My whole life?
Q. Just as coach.
COACH CALIPARI: Well, the Final Four championship game, where the decisions I made were questioned by everybody. Coaching is this: If you foul and you win, you're a genius. If you don't foul and a kid throws one, it's a hook from halfcourt, you lose, why didn't you foul?
You call a timeout, and it works, you're a genius. You call a timeout and it doesn't work, Why did you call the timeout? So you're not gonna win unless you win.
So you have to accept that people are gonna ask questions and talk anytime you lose. Whatever you did, they were going to do the opposite.
I'll tell you this: when I was 35, and I'm at UMass and we're trying to win national titles, that stuff bothered me. I'm slightly older than that. Am I still in my 40s? I don't believe I am. That makes me so mad. But I'm a little bit older and I understand I'm going to be questioned and I'm fine with it.
I deal in truths. I don't deal with innuendos. Folks, for all of you out there, I can't get in a computer, so I don't know chat rooms. I don't know how to get in a chat room. I don't know any of that stuff.
I don't listen to talk radio. If you send me mail that does not have a return address on it, it won't get to me. A return address I will always respond, usually in a handwritten note. But if it doesn't have a return address, it's not even opened, even if you were being kind to me.
So to deal with all the stuff, I try to head on face it. I've been wrong before. I think it was '77, 1977, something like that. Maybe '78. You just deal with it, and you know that's what part of this is.
Do they question coaches here? Do they? Okay (laughter).
Q. I think the fan base has been taking a crash course on the dribble drive. What is it you like about that offense? Will you automatically implement that here or do you look at your personnel?
COACH CALIPARI: We're going to implement it and use whatever portions of it we can use. The dribble drive offense, Vance Walberg came to watch our team's practice at the University of Memphis. He wanted to take some things from our practice. He was a junior college coach. I went to dinner with him, Tell me how you play. He said, You don't want to know. Really, I want to know. We started talking. It was the craziest thing I'd ever seen. We don't set screens unless we're really running something. You know the old game of pass, pass, pass. This is dribble, dribble, dribble. This is your man. This unleashes players. This lets players get to the level they want.
I just told the team, if you cannot play, come and see me because this is not the right program. I can't hide you. You have to be able to put it on the floor and make basketball plays and do things. If you can, you're in heaven. If you can't, it's hard to play you.
Defensively we won't change what I've done over the years. We've been one of the best defensive teams in the country. This team, if things hold true, I would expect us to be a good defensive team.
Now, it takes time to change that culture, to set plays, high low offense, passing game to this offense. It will be sloppy early. We'll turn it over. We'll take too many threes. We'll take too many quick shots. You all will question me. What in the world? Coach Rupp, is he here? Your father will be turning over when he watches some of this, okay? But it's different.
But let me say what it does. Kids watch it and they want to play that way. That's why so many kids listed Memphis and that's why we'll get tons of calls about Kentucky. Yeah, maybe they want to play for me, but it's not me. They look at us play and they say, That's how I want to play. Give me the freedom to go do what I want to do. But if you can't play, you can't bounce lefty, it's hard to play in this offense.
Q. What are the challenges of either building on or rebuilding a program? What are the short term issues you're going to have to deal with to right the ship?
COACH CALIPARI: First of all, you got to get in and of out who really wants to be a part of team, who wants to do it the way we have to do it. I have to get my staff in here and get started.
The key to winning, winning in the NCAA tournament, this is for coaches out there, this is the key. There's three keys to winning, winning championships. The first thing is have really good players. The second thing is have really good players. And I hate to tell you that's the third thing.
So we've got to go out, look at who's out there. I'm here because I can recruit the best of the best here. That's why I'm here. I would love to get the best players in Kentucky that can come here and perform and play. No question about it. We want those guys. But we can go get who we need. Then it's changing the culture.
Again, I don't know what the culture has been here the last three, four, five years. But I know what I want our culture to look like. Changing a culture takes time. Gnawing at the teeth. Some people have to go. You're not willing to change. This is how we do things. I'm going to be patient. I told the players I would meet individually with them when I come back. I'll meet with staff and all the other things to figure out why we go next. Changing a culture is not easy. It's painful because people have a change.
For me, please bear with me when I stub my toe. I'm new here. I called Dan. I need help. You need to talk me three. Rex Chapman and some other people have called. I don't know some people. Wait a minute, I should know. I don't know anybody. So if I don't greet you the right way. He should know who I am. I don't know anybody. I know these two guys. That's who I know. So please bear with me for a while and let me get accustomed, and my wife, get accustomed.
Just know we're going to do everything we can to treat people respectful. It's one of the things I told the team. How do you treat the managers? Guys, I asked the managers, How do they treat you? They treat you good? Yeah, all the managers went, They treat you good. You can't say anything else. You're sitting here with them. That's important to me.
Q. I'm assuming you said you're going to bring your staff with you. Talk about those guys. What about scholarship numbers? Do you anticipate any guys that were committed to you at Memphis maybe will come here?
COACH CALIPARI: Well, this has been 48 hours of emotional, painful. I haven't spent much time on any of that.
What I'll tell you is at the beginning of the next year, we'll have 12 or 13 guys on scholarship. Have to have individual meetings, figure out where everybody stands, how they feel about things. What I would hope is all the players that signed at Memphis will go to Memphis. That's my hope.
When I talked to every player on the Memphis team, anyone that had that I don't know what, let them hire a coach, then look at things, but you're going to be fine. I told two of them, You'll be the best player on the team. Why would you think about anything else? You got to sit out.
The other thing I talked to them, for some of them it's good that I left. I told two of them, It's better that I left. You weren't playing enough. You thought you should have been playing. I didn't agree. Since I was calling the shots, you weren't playing as much. Now with me gone, it's not me now, it's right squarely on your shoulders, go get it done.
But I hugged every one of them, told them I was going to miss them. They can call me for help on anything they want to do. At this point now, I cannot call any players, nor will I, that have signed with the University of Memphis. I'm not allowed to. It's against the NCAA rules. The minute we signed yesterday, I could not call any of those kids.
Where we go from there, I don't know.
Q. What about your staff?
COACH CALIPARI: I think the staff, I have a good idea of who I want to hire, but we've got to post the jobs. Is it appropriate to talk about who I'd like to hire or not?
MITCH BARNHART: They said no.
COACH CALIPARI: The only thing I can tell you, let me tell you, when I was at the University of Memphis, anytime a job opened, I had calls from every league, from the PAC 10 to the Big East, to the SEC, about coaches wanting to leave those leagues and come and work at the University of Memphis. Two of the staff members I hired last year, Orlando Antigua, worked at the University of Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh is a great program, not a good program, a great team. Not a good team, a great program. He graduated from Pitt. He worked at his alma mater, called me, said, I want to work for you at Memphis.
Josh Pastner, a graduate of Arizona, worked for Arizona for 10 or 12 years, called me and said, I want to work. He was a graduate, an alum of Arizona where he was working. Again, not a good program, a great program. Jim Livengood may be, Mitch, the second best AD in the country, let me say that.
No one laughed. Do something. Cheer.
But I think we will have the best assistants there are in the country because they want to be head coaches. They want to become head coaches. Some of it is they want to learn the system of play. So we will have the best.
Rod Strickland has been with me. 17 year vet in the NBA. John Robic has been with me through all of the UMass days. Took on his own job, came back with me. He's unbelievable. But Rod is one of those guys that every player on any team he played for in the NBA loved him. Great teammate.
What I do when I recruit or hire people, I look at their heart. When I go recruit a young man, I want to know what kind of heart this young man has. If he's disrespectful to his mom or anything like that, I walk out. We're not recruiting that young man. When I hire staff, a lot of times I bring them in together to see how they get along. We all recruit everybody. No one is recruiting. He got this guy, I got that guy. I don't do that. You know why? Because when the game starts, in my ear, he's telling me put in his guy, he's telling me put in his guy. Will you stop? We all recruit everybody.
But I had as good a staff as there was in the country in my entire time at the university and I would expect the same here.
Does that answer your question?
Q. What are some of the things about Memphis, take us on a geography tour, that made it difficult to leave and the things that you've learned about Lexington that makes it inviting?
COACH CALIPARI: Every job that I've accepted, the biggest thing that I think about is, Can I make a difference? If I don't believe I can make a difference, I would never accept the job. When I went to the University of Memphis, I looked at the situation and said, You know what, I can make a difference, not only on the basketball court, but in the community.
Memphis is diverse, has issues like any other urban city. But the great thing about Memphis is they don't hide them. They're out there for everyone to see, and they deal with them.
The basketball program at Memphis brings everybody together. It doesn't matter where you're from. You could have blue hair and from Collierville, or from Orange Mound, one of the oldest black communities in our country, and that basketball program brought everybody together.
I felt I could make a difference there. The community is one. Like I said, my wife tutored at one of the elementary schools. We started a program. The Yes Foundation, doing great work with middle school kids, tutoring middle school children, extra time after school. Paul Jones runs the Robinhood Foundation in New York said, If you're doing things for one week with the children, it makes you feel good, but it doesn't do anything for the children. You have to do something year round to have an impact. That's where we started the Yes Foundation that does tutoring throughout the year.
Making a difference is important to me. I don't know here where I can make a difference yet outside of this basketball program. I'm hoping in this basketball program I can make a difference by gathering people and bringing people together and getting everybody to work arm in arm to understand I don't walk on water, I'm not the only guy. We need to do this together, and everybody's got to work together to get this done.
Does that answer your question?
Q. From a geographic standpoint, take us on a tour of Memphis, the things you like about Memphis.
COACH CALIPARI: What I liked about it was the diversity. I loved the people. They were so genuine. They weren't my friend because I was the basketball coach. Very few of them said, We're behind you, coach, win or tie. They weren't that way.
They supported what we did in the community. Anything that Ellen and I tried to put together, the community jumped behind. It was a rallying point for the entire community. I will miss that. I will miss the impact that I hope our family had with children in that town. I'm going to miss it immensely.
That's why I say, when we get here, we'll try to figure out, are there things in Lexington that we can make a difference with?
Q. You mentioned a little bit about what the last 48 hours were like for you. Could you walk us through the process when you first got involved with Kentucky, how it all played out from there.
COACH CALIPARI: Well, I got the call, Would I have an interest in this job? I said, I absolutely would have an interest. But I also said, If it takes a long time, I have no interest. If there's any doubt, I have no interest. But if you guys want to do this, I do have an interest because it would be a dream job for me.
I got the call that Dr. Todd and Mitch wanted to meet with me on Monday, and I said no, we're going to have to meet earlier than that. We went through the process of having a meeting. Mike Pratt was there. Do you mind me telling? He was a former coach. I see him in the back. We had things in common in people that we worked with, had worked with Mike. From that meeting, it was, Call me, get back, then from there it went fast.
With all did our due diligence. I did mine. I did mine. What I was leaving behind, it wasn't like I had to leave a job to take another job. That's not what I was doing. And what you find out when you look deep is that this is the right place if you're trying to win national titles, if you're trying to recruit the best of the best. And you'll have the support that you need.
For me, I needed to sit in front of people and say, Can we work together? This is gonna take more than one or two years to get where we're trying to go. And I felt really comfortable. I talked to Dr. Todd. Our people from Memphis will know. I do not throw kids under the bus at the first sign of trouble. That kid did this, he did that, that kid was this, why did he keep this kid. I just ask you, if it was your son and he screwed up, would you want me to throw him out of school? Well, my son wouldn't do that. Oh, you got the one with the halo. The rest of us got those others.
So I told Dr. Todd of a situation with Jeremy Hunt, who I love to death. You know the whole situation. We went through it. He screwed up. He screwed up. He screwed up twice. I threw him off the team. He stayed and graduated. He begged me to come back. But I had said, it's an indefinite suspension that will never change. I used the term, and I can't remember what I said, permanent. He came back to me and said, A changed man, changed.
I went to the president, Dr. Raines, who is just a wonderful woman. She looked at me like, What? I said, I had the same feeling you had, but let's talk it through. But you said permanent. Semantics. If they want to attack me, that's okay. This is this young man's life.
The university, because of that decision we made, wasn't going to change in 50 years. But that young man's life changed. He was a sixth man. He wasn't a starter. He's now playing in Europe. He's got a college degree. He calls me once a week. His mother sees me and hugs me. We made the right choice. Wasn't popular, was it? It was not popular. But what's popular isn't always right, and what's right isn't always popular.
I will not throw kids under the bus the first time they screw up.
Now, I walk a hundred steps, if there's a time, I'll let go of the hand, which I do. Very rarely, because usually they change, sometimes they don't. But I needed to know, looking across at this man, that, yes, this program is big and this university, it's not bigger than the kids. The program is about these young people. And when we left, if that wasn't set, I knew they weren't calling me back, and I was fine with that, too.
Q. You were talking about the kids. There are recruits committed to UK up to 2012. Will you honor those or hasn't that been addressed?
COACH CALIPARI: Hasn't been addressed. I'll watch every player and I'll be honest with them. We already have a commitment with a 12 year old. Stand up, 12 year old. As you see him, he can really shoot. Little bit like Richie Farmer. Can really shoot. We're going to have to play zone, and we will, 'cause he will play. You don't want to be in his position if you're on my team.
What were we talking about?
Q. Honoring commitments.
COACH CALIPARI: I will watch every one of those kids play and then I'll be honest with them. I'll be honest with them. If they're good enough to play here and help us win national titles, I want you here. If they're not, I'm going to tell them. I'm just gonna be honest.
I think the greatest policy is to tell the truth. This is where it is. This will not be for every player in the country. This will not be for every player in this state. This is gonna be one of those places where you accept that people we're the biggest game on everybody's schedule, would you say? Does it matter who's in the uniform? When that uniform is put on and it says Kentucky, you become the biggest game on the other team's schedule.
I lived that at Massachusetts for four years and my last five years at Memphis. We were the biggest game on everybody's schedule. I know what that feels like, how you have to be as a coach and a player to deal with that. So this place will not be for every player.
Q. You know there are people in Memphis who think you do walk on water and you are the Grand Pooh Bah. There are some people that may feel betrayed by this. How do you try to soothe them and comfort them with this decision?
COACH CALIPARI: What I hope is that they look that we gave every ounce of everything we had for nine years. Those aren't dog years. Nine years. Nine years. Everything we had to that community, to the people in the community. And I hope they respect that this was a dream for me and my family that was hard.
Let me say it again. It's easy to say, I want to be at Kentucky, but leaving was hard. Some of them will feel betrayed. Some of them are going to be angry. I just hope when that all subsides, they look and say, He made the place better. He made the place better. We're not here for a long time. So hopefully in the time I spend in that city, on that campus, I made the place better or helped bring people together to make the place better. I'm going to address that today at noon at the press conference.
Q. You say you're not Pooh Bah, but look around. You have people would go you with untold riches. I know it's not about the money.
COACH CALIPARI: I would have made more money at Memphis next year, folks, just so you know that.
Q. How do you keep all this in perspective to teach young people lessons you want them to learn?
COACH CALIPARI: One, I'm grounded the minute I walk in the door of my home. Stop patting yourself on the back, you're going to break your arm. Stuff like that, I get it. But I understand that my job is to make everyone around me better, that it's less about me and it's more about everybody else.
You know what, when you do it that way, life's easier. You don't have to spend as much time. So our secretary, Lanetha (phonetic), putting her daughter in private school, was important to us. And you deal with it in those terms. This isn't about me. I'm telling you, when you meet my wife and I, you're gonna say, Oh, my gosh, this is just a regular guy. Can he to this job? We need the Grand Pooh Bah. I mean, our success has been about the people we've surrounded ourselves with, about getting the administration. Michael Hooker was our chancellor at the University of Massachusetts. He passed away. Went to the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He was the reason the program went to the top 10 in Final Fours because he said, at a meeting like this, I want the program to be in the Final Four within the next decade. When I got up to speak, I said, I wish the women's coach well, I think she can do that.
But his vision and his support, and Bob Markham's support, led that program to those levels. The same is true at the University of Memphis. Dr. Raines made a decision for her to do her job, the way she wanted to do it. She needed this program to do well. Wait a minute, within the rules. Wait a minute, we need to graduate kids. Michael Hooker said the same thing to me. I need you to graduate kids, do it within the rules, but we need a top 10 program. That's the challenge of this.
I'm excited about this. Rick said it's hard. You go to the supermarket, someone wants to know who you're recruiting, they're going to ask your wife about recruiting. I accept all that. They're going to ask you for autographs when you're eating. Let me just explain. You know what the option is? You're 1 20 and no one's asking you for anything. You know what, that goes with the job here.
In Memphis, it was no different. When I first went to Memphis, somebody's on a radio show, they call me. I'm in a Starbucks. I love Dunkin Donuts, by the way. I haven't had coffee for three months, no caffeine. Trying to get my life together here. I'm sitting at this Starbucks, and the guy calls me and says on a radio show they say you're sitting at Starbucks. You're at Starbucks, right? It was just on the radio.
It's no different in Memphis than here. I've lived it. How about trying to win every game you play? Wait a minute. By 20. You win by 10, What's going on? I lived it. I lived it at UMass. Let me say, very hard. This is a hard job and a hard life. It's a challenge I am so excited about taking on. I know it's going to be hard. There's no givens here. We're not just walking and waltzing. It's not going to happen that way.
Q. For a kid from Pennsylvania, why was Kentucky the dream job?
COACH CALIPARI: When you're from Pittsburgh, I don't know if you meant like Philly, Pittsburgh is a small, blue collar town near the mountains. When we played down here and I was looking, I just said, This is it. I also knew Kyle Macy when I played. Coach Hall was coaching. Jack Givens. Come on. It was unbelievable players here, great program. When we played, Rick Pitino was here, I saw what was going on, I was like, Man, that would be a dream for me.
Q. How did you feel two years ago when the job was open and John Calipari wasn't on the radar?
COACH CALIPARI: Well, I was on the radar (laughter). But I called my wife every day for six days. Did they call? Did they call? Then I kind of figured out, They're not calling.
I'm going to tell you. You say, You're their second choice now. I was Ellen's second or third choice, too. It worked out fine. I'm okay with that.
DEWAYNE PEEVY: That concludes our question and answer session. Thank you.
Quotes from Current Players
#1 Darius Miller, Fr.
Obviously you weren't able to be at the news conference today. How tough was it for you having to sit through class knowing what was going on?
"It was pretty tough. All my friends were talking about it and some of the things he said. I didn't even get a chance to see it, but I'm really excited about it."
You had a meeting this morning with Coach Calipari. How did that go?
"It was real nice, especially talking to a coach of his prestige. I've never talked to him before really, so it was a good chance to meet him. He seemed like a real cool, down-to-earth guy. He seems like he'll be a nice fit for us here."
What did he say to you all in the meeting?
"He just talked about how we were going to work hard this season and talked about the expectations he had for the team. He just talked about how we were going to grow as a family."
Can you talk about his style of play and where you fit in his system?
"Hopefully I fit in pretty well. I really don't know because I really don't know a lot about the offense or the defense yet, so hopefully I'm a good fit for it."
What were your first impressions of the hire and Coach Calipari?
"I'm pretty excited about it. A coach of that prestige, he seems like he knows what he's doing. He's been to a lot of Final Fours so I'm pretty excited about playing for him."
#2 Matt Scherbenske, So.
On how he feels about John Calipari taking the head coaching job ...
"I think it is awesome. I'm from Kentucky and I remember when his team played UK in the 1996 Final Four. I really enjoyed watching him coach. I want to be a coach so I'm really looking forward to being around him and learning from him. He's a great basketball mind and one of the best coaches, if not the best basketball coach in the nation."
On if he's worried about Coach Calipari's evaluation of the current team ...
"He said that he will meet with us individually and then go from there. I'm not worried because he's a great coach and will make the best decisions for the team."
On what he thinks about Calipari's evaluation of recruits...
"I think it's fair because it's his job to do that. If they're good enough, he'll keep them and if not they'll part ways. I'm sure he'll do a great job."
#10 Landon Slone, Fr.
On Coach Calipari's meeting with the players...
"He was just talking about how excited he is for the job. He's a pretty straightforward guy. Like he said, he is going to get to know all of us and meet with us individually. He just said that this was a dream of his. He was really honest with us. It was a really good meeting."
On what he did for the program at Memphis...
"His record speaks for itself. It's amazing what he has done there. (Memphis) has been in contention every year. It's exciting. I can't wait to start getting to know him."
On the team's feelings about the hire...
"Everyone is excited. We just can't wait to see what it's going to be like. We've been waiting around, so we're just excited and want to get started as soon as possible. We want to see what his system is like and get to know it. It's going to be fun."
On the difference in Coach Calipari's system than what the team is used to...
"I think it will be a big difference. Because I was a freshman last year, I was just getting used to a system. Now I will be starting over and learning this one, which should be pretty fun."
On the team's reaction to the hire...
"We were just really excited. We knew what he did at Memphis and UMass. It's a really big excitement in Lexington. We can't wait. We're ready to start the season tomorrow. We're just ready to start working, get better and learn his system."
On if there are any similarities between him and Coach Calipari with the dream to come to Kentucky...
"This is the greatest program in the history of college basketball. I think it's the best thing in sports. (Coach Calipari) spoke today about this being his dream to come here, just like it was my dream. I have a love for this university. If it was his dream to be here, then he has that love too."
#23 Jodie Meeks, Jr.
Jodie, you were in class when UK introduced your new coach. Were you able to speak with him at all today?
"Yeah, we actually had a brief meeting beforehand. We got a chance to meet him, got a chance to know what he had planned for us. Everybody is really excited on the team and ready to get to work."
What was your first impression of your new coach?
"It's just exciting. I've seen his style of play for years at Memphis. Bringing that to the University of Kentucky is very exciting for me and also for the whole team. We're just ready to get started and can't wait to see what his philosophy is coaching."
How will his hiring affect your decision to go to the NBA or come back to Kentucky for your senior season?
"I really haven't given it that much thought yet. That's something my family and I have to discuss. We discussed it a little bit, but haven't made a final decision or even close to that. I'm going to give him a fair chance. He seems like a really good guy and I'm really looking forward to being under his coaching."
If you do come back, he'll be your third head coach at Kentucky. What do you think he'll be able to do differently to help Kentucky contend for a national title again?
"I just think he's a great coach overall. Everybody has their own way of coaching. He has the reputation of a great coach and a great recruiter. Coming in, everybody is excited on the team and we're just looking forward to getting to work as soon as possible and looking forward to the way he plays."
At the press conference, he referenced the banners in the rafters and the winning tradition. How much of a pressure cooker is it for coaches and players in Lexington?
"I think you always have pressure anywhere you play, but especially at the University of Kentucky. You know going in you're going to have that, so it's not that big of a deal. We're just looking forward to getting after it in the practice gym and looking forward to what he has to offer. We know he's a great coach and everybody is excited about playing. The pressure thing, we normally don't worry about that. We just worry about our team as a whole and the coaching staff that comes in."
#54 Patrick Patterson, So.
Obviously you weren't able to be at the news conference today. How tough was it for you having to sit through class knowing what was going on?
"I really haven't had a chance to see it all. I got to see bits and pieces of it online, but I was in class, so I wasn't able to be there with a couple of my teammates that were able to see it. It was real tough on me not being there. He told us that he had a press conference and they told us they were setting up chairs and teammates were talking about going. They told us the time and I was like, `I have class, I have to get ready for a presentation,' so unfortunately I wasn't able to make it."
Can you just talk a little a bit about the meeting the team had with Coach Calipari this morning?
"It was pretty cool. It was really straightforward. He just told us what was going to happen in the next couple of weeks. He said he had to go back to Memphis and give a press conference with the people there. He still feels special about the people back there because that's where he started to really get rolling after UMass. He said he felt like he owed those people there and it's just a real tough time for him. I understand that. He's handling his situation back there and said he would be back and we'll start to get this thing rolling. We'll start having some meetings, getting to know each other - he'll start to get to know us, we'll start to get to know him. He said his wife will be here and that will probably be the next person we'll meet. We introduced ourselves to him one-by-one, shook his hand, listened to him talk about how we'll get prepared for the season and what he has to do as far as going back to Memphis. He said he wants to live as close as possible to campus. He's just excited to be here and we're excited to have him."
How does the hire affect your decision to come back next year?
"(Jodie and I) haven't made up our minds just yet. We know the possibilities that could be next year. Jodie and I always talk about the future. We always talk about what could be, what could possibly be in the future with Kentucky and with this great coach we have in Calipari right now. We're just looking forward to it and I'm sure we'll come to a decision soon."
Can you talk a little bit about his style of play and coaching?
"It's pretty much four people spacing around the perimeter, just tremendous spacing. That's one of the things I notice when I watch Memphis games, is the spacing that they have. Every now and then they have a post player down low on the block and people penetrating to the basket. He always talks about taking advantage of your man. If you have a one-on-one matchup situation, the offense is just all for you to take it to the basket and just utilize your talent and skill to get around them. If you have a matchup or you're hot, you're able to keep scoring. From what I've seen, it's just a tremendous offense."
If you come back, where do you see yourself fitting into that offense?
"I know I need to improve my game with him. I know he can help me out tremendously, not only just as a post player inside, but he can help me on the perimeter as well, driving to the basket, working on my ball handling and my jump shot. I know that if I stay another year, I will most likely improve tremendously. I know that those are areas of my game that I need to improve on whether it's here or at the next level. It's just something I need to think about."
With Calipari arriving today, people's expectations for next season are already soaring. Do you let yourself look ahead to next year and think about what could be if you return?
"I have thought about it. I've thought about the possibilities of an NCAA championship, the possibility of a Final Four or being one of the elite teams in the country if everything works out how everyone wants it to."
Scott Padgett (1995-99)
On what kind of change he thinks Calipari will bring to Kentucky ...
"Obviously the style of play is going to change from day one. The demeanor is going to change and I think the attitude and confidence level will change. When you bring in a guy like John Calipari, you have confidence in him because he has the track record and the background to know he's going to steer you in the right direction."
On if he thought Calipari won over the press conference ...
"I thought he did a great job. He came in, he was funny and he answered the questions honestly and straight forward. He did what we expected him to be, the guy that won't have a problem sitting in front of the press and say what he feels like he needs to say. I don't expect him to have a problem with the media or the fans. That's the last thing I would worry about with this coach. As a recruiter, he's as good as everybody right now. This is an exciting day in college basketball."
On how he feels about Calipari's belief in putting players first ...
"I agree. Coaches' jobs to me are to put you in a position to succeed, but at the end of the day a player has to perform. I think what he's going to do is go out and get the best players and put them in a position to succeed. When you can put good talent with a good coach, it makes a good recipe to succeed."