Through and through, John Calipari always puts his players first.
We all know what happened on Thursday night. It was one of the more physical, grind-it-out games we’ve seen this Kentucky team play. Not only was it a hard fought game on the court, but the mental strain these players have had all year really showed through.
Sometimes we forget that these are a bunch of young guys just playing a game. It takes a toll on them, especially when they’re at a school that expects nothing less than Final Four appearances and championships.
But seeing the video of Calipari kissing Nick Richards on the forehead during Thursday’s loss is truly something special.
It showed a lot about Calipari the man, not the coach. The pressure was clearly weighing on all of the kids, and in that moment of desperation for Nick, John did what any caring figure would do, and comforted him.
One word that has circulated throughout John’s tenure is family. He’s more than just a coach, he’s a mentor, a leader, and most importantly, a friend. That, more than anything, shows how great of a coach John is.
Say what you will about Cal, but one thing you can’t bash is his genuine love for each and every player he has had. Whether it’s on the court, in the press room, or during games, John makes sure his players know that he has their back, through everything.
Cal wants to prepare his kids for life beyond college, whether that’s in the NBA or not. It goes deeper than basketball. Too many times fans, reporters, and even coaches get caught up in the spotlight and forget what really matters—these kids.
When you take on the responsibility of a head coaching position anywhere, not only are you supposed to be a coach on the court, but you have to be a father-figure off of it. These are 18, 19, 20 year old kids that need guidance, not only for their game, but for their life!
The way Cal treats his kids is special, and I hope everyone can take some time to realize what this game is really about, beyond an orange basketball.