Calipari speaks at Franciscan

STEUBENVILLE – As far as John Calipari, the legendary University of Kentucky basketball coach, is concerned -it’s OK to “think like kings.”

“They (kings) think differently than we think,” Calipari told the crowd at Saturday’s 46th annual Baron Club Award Dinner held on the campus of the Franciscan University of Steubenville. “There’s nothing wrong with trying to get teams and groups of people to think like kings and ask what can we do, how far can we go?

“My goal before I retire is to coach a 40-0 team because they say it can’t be done. As the season goes on, it gets harder and harder. But I say let’s do it, let’s do something crazy.”

A native of Moon Township, Pa., who led the Wildcats to their eighth NCAA championship in 2012, Calipari is a self-professed “hoop dreamer.”

“My mom was a big dreamer. She always thought you could be whatever you want,” he said. “So dream beyond your surroundings, think beyond and dream beyond. Being the coach at Kentucky is an upset for me, I’m blessed to have this opportunity.”

Calipari, who stressed the importance of working and acting together to achieve a vision, pointed out “if you want to go fast, you go alone. If you want to go far, you go with many.”

“As a coach, I try to get my players to understand we have to do it together. It’s not just about working hard, it’s about working together. You have to care more about the other guy than you do about yourself.”

Calipari is one of only two coaches to lead three schools to a Final Four finish (UMass-1996; Memphis-2008; Kentucky-2011, 2012). En route to the 2012 national championship, Calipari guided the Wildcats to an NCAA record-tying 38 wins and a perfect 16-0 mark in the Southeastern Conference.

“It’s amazing what gets done when no one cares who gets the credit,” he noted. “The number one NBA draft pick took the fifth most shots on the team (his 2012 title squad). The number two pick took the fourth most shots. We had something special. Our best players played for their teammates more than they did for themselves.”

To celebrate his appearance for the event (which formerly was known as the Century Club Dinner), Calipari presented the university with a piece of the floor from the 2012 national championship game.

He also discussed the possibility of having the Barons, coached by John Lamanna, tangle with his Wildcats in an exhibition game.

“The coach can play a couple of exhibition games, so we’re going to figure out when he can bring his team down to Rupp Arena,” Calipari stated, joking “we’re not coming here (referring to UK’s trip to Robert Morris as part of the 2013 NIT).

In his book, Bounce Back, Calipari says he is “truly humbled” by the trajectory his career has taken.

“Be grateful and display that gratefulness in every sector of your life. When you show your care and compassion for others, you will be reminding yourself to never take anything for granted,” he wrote.

On Saturday, he noted “staying the course has been a big part of keeping things in perspective.”

“It’s never as good as it seems and it’s never as bad as it seems, my father used to say. Somewhere in the middle falls reality,” he added.

“We’ve all faced adversity. It’s not a matter of when adversity is coming, it’s coming. It’s a matter of when it is coming, at what time it’s coming and how will you deal with it. Staying positive is all part of dealing with it.”

Calipari was the second consecutive Baron Club keynote speaker who was raised in the Tri-State area. East Liverpool native Lou Holtz spoke at the 2012 event.

“This is the kind of place that I really feel comfortable coming home too,” he said. “I can feel the family in the room. I’ve enjoyed the family atmosphere.”

ESPN’s John Buccigross returned to his hometown to be the master of ceremonies, as he did for the 2011 dinner.

Buccigross is a 1984 graduate of Steubenville Catholic Central. His ESPN duties include hosting SportsCenter, Baseball Tonight, NHL 2Night, and other assignments. Buccigross’ admitted favorite sport is hockey, which prompted him to write the book, Jonesy: Put Your Head Down and Skate, about former NHL player Keith Jones.