During his 11 years at Kentucky, he holds a winning percentage of .811, an SEC regular season or conference tournament title in eight out of 11 seasons, six Elite Eight appearances, four Final Four appearances, and, of course, one NCAA National Championship.
All that success pales in comparison to his biggest achievement: giving birth to a fraternity known as “La Familia.”
While this group includes both current and former Kentucky players, the most notable and well-recognized members are the 29 Wildcats that currently have roster spots on 20 different NBA teams. Some players are just entering the league or entering their prime, and others are transforming into superstars.
Some of these players are developing right before our eyes inside the NBA bubble. Kentucky has taken center stage with several former ‘Cats coming up big when it has counted most. In fact, each team remaining in the playoffs has at least one former Calipari-era Wildcat player:
- Denver Nuggets - Jamal Murray
- L.A. Lakers - Anthony Davis
- Boston Celtics - Enes Kanter
- Miami Heat - Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro
Calipari has a recipe for success that is mutually beneficial for the Kentucky program, the players, and the NBA. That said, some people still view Cal as a “win at all cost” coach, a sentiment he openly admitted at one point in his career. Unlike other coaches, he does not seem to get a second or even third chance with members of the media. Many view him through a singular lens and will judge him accordingly through that lens.
Doing so neglects his entire run at Kentucky, which is based on his commitment to servant leadership. The UK program has provided a vehicle unlike any other for these young men to reach their goals and sustain professional success.
I do not care if Cal wins another championship. He doesn’t have anything else to prove. Of course, I would love to see Kentucky cut down the nets every year, but this program has developed into much more than just wins and losses.
Whether some people choose to believe it or not, “La Familia” has never been about Calipari. It has always been about the players. They are the ones who have changed the landscape of college basketball over the past decade. The memories the players have created for BBN have been nothing short of spectacular.
Now, we get to see each one of them take their opportunity and make the most of it. That’s better than any play call or adjustment Cal could make on the court, and it will have a greater impact long after he’s gone.