Kentucky Wildcats men’s basketball head coach John Calipari will receive the Jefferson Award for Outstanding Public Service in Sports by Multiplying Good on November 2nd, UK announced Wednesday.
For more than 50 years, Multiplying Good has honored those who put others first. Those receiving the Jefferson Award are empowered to do more, while their stories of extraordinary public service inspire others to action. It is an award that underscores impact.
“I am humbled to be recognized in this way,” Calipari said in a press release. “As I look back at my career in basketball and serving the community, things like this will matter to me more than any other award or recognition.”
Founded over 50 years ago by Jackie Kennedy Onassis, Sen. Bob Taft Jr., and Sam Beard, Multiplying Good is the world’s most foremost and highly celebrated organization focused on and honoring public service. They have honored our country’s most significant trailblazers and changemakers and each year recipients are honored at the Jefferson Award Ceremony in New York and Washington, D.C.
Other recipients of the Jefferson Award include Arthur Ashe, Tom Brokaw, Larry Fitzgerald, Betty Ford, John Glenn, Bob Hope, Steve Jobs, Shaquille O’Neal, General Colin Powell, John D. Rockefeller and Oprah Winfrey. Calipari is the first men’s college basketball coach to receive the honor.
Calipari, a Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, just completed his 13th season at Kentucky. He has guided six teams to the Final Four, led the 2011-12 UK team to a national championship and helped 56 players earn selection in the NBA Draft during his 30-year college coaching career.
The second-winningest coach in program history has a 365-101 record at Kentucky with four Final Four appearances, six SEC regular-season championships and six league tournament titles.
Calipari is one of just two coaches to win Naismith Coach of the Year three times and, with an 810-241 on-court record, he ranks among the top 10 in all-time Division I victories.
Motivated by the drive to draw others to a good cause, Calipari has tried to lead by example and instill servant leadership as one of the pillars of his program. He continually encourages his players to lead with a kind heart and has included them in a number of causes throughout his career. Those experiences, while a player under Calipari, have paved the way for the likes of Devin Booker, DeMarcus Cousins and John Wall to earn the NBA’s Cares Community Assist Award.
Some of the initiatives his team participates in annually include feeding families at the Salvation Army each Thanksgiving, sponsoring families in need with food, rent checks and presents at Christmastime, visiting hospitals and working with Samaritan’s Feet.
Calipari’s way of giving is founded in his three principles of charitable work. Everything he does must meet one of three criteria: draw attention to a cause, provide immediate needs or generate lasting impact. Much of what he does remains private, but these are a few public initiatives he’s been involved with:
- Five telethons – Along with his teams, he’s raised more than $12 million with the American Red Cross to assist aid for the 2010 Haitian earthquake, 2012 Superstorm Sandy, 2017 Hurricane Harvey, 2021 tornadoes in western Kentucky and 2022 flooding in eastern Kentucky
- In 2012, launched The Calipari Foundation, which has worked with several key partners over the years, including partnering with his Fantasy Camp experience which has generated millions of dollars and includes matching funds for more than 30 charities since its inception
- In 2019, when Lexington federal workers were without pay due to a government shutdown, he and his wife assisted those families with financial help and grocery gift cards. He said at the time that nothing was more fulfilling than meeting the families who were being helped
- During the COVID-19 pandemic when students were learning remotely, he partnered with Fayette County Public Schools and its breakfast program to help families in need by delivering meals to participating schools and sometimes directly to families at their home
He is most proud of the creation of the McClendon Minority Leadership Initiative in 2020. It is a coach-driven initiative to provide access and opportunity for men and women of color within college athletic departments across the country. These future leaders gain practical experience and opportunities to build their network, while instilling the values of John McLendon: integrity, education, leadership and mentorship.
The initiative has enjoyed unprecedented success with 93% of its participants securing full-time jobs since 2020. In its first year, the initiative drew more than 80 coaches nationally from basketball, football and baseball across the country to serve as both MLI Ambassadors and the primary source of funding, reaching as much as $1.5 million. Now in its third year, more than 70 leaders have participated in the program and more than $3.5 million has been donated to the effort.
Calipari, along with his good friend and Harvard head coach Tommy Amaker who was a lead ambassador of the initiative, were awarded the National Association of Basketball Coaches’ Guardians of the Game Pillar Award in 2021. In 2022, the MLI Initiative, along with Calipari and Amaker, will be recognized by The Mannie Jackson Award by The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts.