John Calipari: 'My job is not to win national championships. It's not'

Posted by: Chris Vannini on Saturday April 16, 2016

John Calipari says his job isn’t to win games and national championships. He says it’s to help kids reach their goals, which for most of them means play in the NBA.

Since becoming Kentucky head coach in 2009, Calipari has had 25 players drafted. Though a different sport, Calipari’s take is different than David Shaw, who says the top goals for college coaches is not to produce pros.

“We’ve got the kind of kids that understand they all have dreams,” Calipari told Colin Cowherd last year. “It’s not just one or two guys. They all do. My job is to help them be the best version of themselves, understanding that there’s implications here. This is not for funsies. This kid’s not going to become an accountant when the year is over. This kid has a chance to be drafted and be a pro, and my job is to help that along. If it’s after one year, two years, three years, four years, it doesn’t matter how long it takes.

“That is what my job is. No. 1 job. People at Kentucky may not like it. ‘Your job is to win national titles.’ No it isn’t. No it isn’t. My job is to prepare these kids as best I can. They drag us to where we want to go. If we love them and we’re about them, they will be about each other, because someone has their back. They don’t have to worry about it. They trust, ‘He has my back. I don’t have to worry about this.’ If they don’t think so, they’re trying to get numbers.”

Calipari doesn’t shy away from these types of comments, and recruits and parents know what they’re getting into.

And it’s worked. The players are getting drafted, and Kentucky is winning games. Calipari said the buy-in from both players and families is what prevents any internal strife.

“What if your son were a top-five pick, and I was playing them 22 minutes and giving them nine shots a game?” Calipari said. “How would you feel? … That’s how these parents think. That’s why people can’t believe that this happens. How in the world? Because the parents and these players allow it to happen. It isn’t me. I am not a genius. They allow it to happen, and they allow it happen because they do trust that we have their back, that we’re trying to do right by them, that I will never throw a player under the bus. Will never happen. I’ll take responsibility.”

Chris Vannini is in his fifth year with and serves as its managing editor. He has previously written for the Detroit Free Press, The Oakland Press, The State News,, 247Sports and SB Nation.  A graduate of Michigan State University, Chris now lives in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.  Be sure to follow @coachingsearch and send emails to