Calipari was born in Moon Township, a suburb of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
[/B]Calipari lettered two years at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington before transferring to Clarion University, where he graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Marketing. He played point guard at Clarion during the 1981 and 1982 seasons, leading the team in assists and free throw percentage.
From 1982–85, Calipari was an assistant at the University of Kansas under Ted Owens and Larry Brown. From 1985–88, he was an assistant coach at theUniversity of Pittsburgh under Paul Evans. From 1988–96, he was head coach at the University of Massachusetts. From 1996–99, he was head coach and Executive VP of basketball operations for the NBA’s New Jersey Nets. During the 1999–2000 season, he was an assistant coach for the Philadelphia 76ersunder coach Larry Brown, before moving on to his next position at the University of Memphis. He was inducted into the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame in 2004.
Calipari is famous for popularizing the dribble drive motion offense, developed by Vance Walberg, which is sometimes known as the Memphis Attack. He wrote three different books about basketball, including “Refuse to Lose,” “Basketball’s Half-Court Offense,” and “Bounce Back: Overcoming Setbacks to Succeed in Business and in Life”.
In his first 17 seasons as a collegiate head coach, Calipari’s record is 441–139 (.762). His record in the month of March is 93–30 (.756). His record in theNCAA tournament is 21–9 (.714) and in the NIT is 15–5 (.750). His teams have made eleven NCAA tournament appearances, including reaching the Sweet Sixteen seven times, the Elite Eight five times, the Final Four two times, and the championship game once (Memphis). He has coached five teams to the NIT, winning the NIT championship at Memphis in 2002. He is one of only four coaches in NCAA Division I history to direct two different schools to a number one seed in the NCAA Tournament; North Carolina coach Roy Williams, Kansas coach Bill Self, and Louisville coach Rick Pitino are the others. Through 17 collegiate seasons, only Roy Williams has won more games than Calipari.
[B]University of Massachusetts[/B]
From 1988–96 at UMass, Calipari led the Minutemen program to five consecutive Atlantic 10 titles and NCAA Tournament appearances, including periods where the program was ranked first nationally. He finished with a 189–70 record overall, with a 91–41 record in Atlantic 10 conference games. Calipari was named Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year in 1992, 1993, and 1996. He was also named the Naismith, NABC, Basketball Times & Sporting News National Coach of the Year in 1996. He led UMass to its first-ever appearance in the Final Four with the play of the John R. Wooden Award winner and Naismith College Player of the Year Marcus Camby, although this appearance was later vacated by the NCAA because Camby had accepted about $28,000 from two sports agents.
Calipari helped accelerate the construction of the Mullins Center, UMass’ basketball and hockey facility. He also reached out to eastern Massachusetts andBoston to enlarge the fan base. Before moving on to the New Jersey Nets, Calipari became the second winningest coach in UMass history behind Jack Leaman.
[B]New Jersey Nets[/B]
In an effort to start anew for the 1996–97 season, John Calipari replaced Butch Beard as head coach of the New Jersey Nets. Kerry Kittles was selected in the 1996 NBA Draft and midway through the 1996–97 season, the team traded for Sam Cassell. After a 26–56 win-loss season, the Nets made a major draft-day trade in June 1997, acquiring Keith Van Horn, Lucious Harris and two other players for Tim Thomas. The only player from the early 1990s that the Nets retained was Jayson Williams, who was developing into a rebounding specialist.
The 1997–98 season was a lone bright spot for the Nets in the late 1990s. The team played well under Calipari, winning 43 games and qualifying for the playoffs on the last day of the season. The Nets were seeded eighth in the Eastern Conference and lost to the Chicago Bulls in the 1998 playoffs in three straight games. The Nets played well and came close to taking the first two games.
The 1998–99 season was delayed for three months due to an owners’ lockout of the players. When the abbreviated 50-game season began, the Nets were a fashionable choice by experts as a surprise team. However, Cassell was injured in the first game and the team started poorly. With the Nets underachieving at 3–15, the Nets traded Cassell to the Milwaukee Bucks, while the Nets acquiredStephon Marbury from the Minnesota Timberwolves. After two more losses, Calipari was fired as head coach with the team at 3–17.
[B]University of Memphis[/B]
In Calipari’s first nine years as head coach at Memphis, he won 253 games, posted nine consecutive 20-win seasons (including an NCAA record four consecutive 30-win seasons) and earned nine consecutive postseason bids. His 2007–2008 team’s 38 victories set a new NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball record for most victories in a season. The nine consecutive 20-win seasons and the nine consecutive postseason appearances are the most in school history. He was named Conference USA Coach of the Year in 2006, 2008, and 2009. In 2008, he was named Naismith College Coach of the Year, receiving the honor the second time. In 2009, he was named Sports Illustrated College Basketball Coach of the Year.
Calipari has been largely credited with not only revitalizing the Memphis program, but also re-energizing the city’s love affair with Memphis Tigers basketball. He has built a national program by recruiting blue chip players from all across the country, such as Dajuan Wagner from Camden (NJ), Darius Washington Jr. from Orlando (FL), Rodney Carney from Indianapolis (IN), Shawne Williams from Memphis (TN), Joey Dorsey from Baltimore (MD), Chris Douglas-Roberts from Detroit (MI), Antonio Anderson from Lynne (MA), Robert Dozier from Lithonia (GA), Derrick Rose from Chicago (IL), andTyreke Evans from Aston (PA).
At Memphis, Calipari has popularized the Memphis Attack offense that was invented by former Pepperdine basketball coach, Vance Walberg.
On January 21, 2008, Calipari led the Tigers to the #1 ranking in the AP Poll for the second time in school history.
In 2006 and 2008, Memphis earned a #1 seed in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. In 2008, Calipari’s Tigers advanced to the national championship game, their first under his leadership. They also won 38 games, the most regular-season wins in NCAA history. His team, however, would lose to the Kansas Jayhawks 75–68 in overtime. This team would later have its entire season record vacated by the NCAA due to several violations regarding Derrick Rose’s SAT and travel expenses for his brother that were paid for. If not for the vacated wins, Calipari would be the winningest coach in Tigers history; he would have 252 wins to Larry Finch’s 220.
[B]University of Kentucky[/B]
On March 30, 2009, four days after Memphis’ season ending loss to Missouri in the NCAA Tournament, multiple sources reported that Calipari would agree to be the head coach at the University of Kentucky. Calipari rejected a counter offer by Memphis for Kentucky’s 8 year, $31.65 million contract.
According to University officials, John Calipari signed a written contract on March 31, 2009 worth an estimated $31.65 million over 8 years with incentives. At 9:45 a.m. on April 1, 2009 the University of Kentucky athletics director Mitch Barnhart formally introduced John Calipari as the new coach of the University of Kentucky Wildcats mens basketball team. During the press conference, Coach Calipari spoke at length about his relationships with former UK basketball players and coaches, as well as his difficulties in accepting the job due to his deep emotional ties with the city of Memphis as well as the University, stating “coming to UK was the easy part, it was leaving the city of Memphis that was the hard part.” He went on to refer to the University of Kentucky job as his “dream job”. Calipari became the 22nd coach overall and just the 7th coach in the last 79 years at the program.
UMass had its 4-1 1996 NCAA Tournament record vacated when the NCAA discovered that Minuteman player Marcus Camby had accepted money and gifts from an agent.
While coaching the New Jersey Nets, Calipari referred to Newark Star-Ledger sports reporter Dan Garcia as a “****ing Mexican idiot.”. Garcia sued for $5,000,000 for emotional distress. Though the case was dismissed Calipari was still fined $25,000 by the NBA. Calipari apologized for his remarks:
[quote]“I would like to apologize to Dan Garcia for my ill-advised attempt at humor and insensitivity for the remark,” Calipari said before the Nets lost to the Lakers, 109-84, tonight at the Meadowlands. “In retrospect, I can understand how the remark could have been misinterpreted. I have apologized to him personally and in writing. In no way was my intent to be derogatory in a racial context, and I am sorry for any pain my remarks have caused.”[/quote]
In 2001, Calipari successfully recruited Dajuan Wagner, the Naismith Prep Player of the Year, to the University of Memphis. Soon after, Dajuan’s father Milt Wagner was hired as Coordinator of Basketball Operations. Dajuan declared for the NBA draft after his freshman year; his father remained in his position for six years before joining former Memphis assistant Tony Barbee at UTEP.
Calipari also hired McDonalds’ All-American game MVP and Memphis recruit Tyreke Evans’ personal strength coach as his administrative assistant.
The NCAA investigated allegations that a player on the 2007-08 team committed “knowing fraudulence or misconduct in connection with his entrance examination” and had an unknown individual complete his SAT examination. The NCAA informed Calipari in a letter that he was not considered “at risk” in this investigation. The player was subsequently identified as Derrick Rose. Subsequently, allegations surfaced that Rose’s brother, Reggie, had been allowed to travel to Tiger road games for free.
On August 20, the NCAA ruled that Rose was ineligible and forced Memphis to vacate the entire 2007-08 season, including the NCAA Tournament and its standing as runner-up. It took the line that even though Rose’s score had not been thrown out by the Educational Testing Service, which administers the SAT, until after the season, strict liability required that Rose be ruled ineligible. The committee also determined that even without the questions about his SAT score, he would have lost his eligibility in December 2007 due to his brother being allowed to travel with the team for free.
Calipari and his wife, Ellen, have two daughters, Erin Sue and Megan Rae, and a son, Bradley Vincent. Megan will transfer to UK as a sophomore, while Erin pursues her doctorate of pharmacology at Wake Forest University.