John Calipari: My job is not to win national championships; it isn't

Posted by: Chris Vannini on Thursday March 05, 2015

John Calipari’s goal at Kentucky is not to win a national championship. It’s not to win games. That’s according to the coach himself.

Calipari draws a lot of ire from the public, but he doesn’t hide from how he runs his program and the goals within that program. It’s an NBA factory. But it’s also about getting his players to work for each other to get there, rather than padding their individual numbers.

While on The Herd with Colin Cowherd, Calipari said his job is to help players be their best and reach their individual goals, which, for most of his team, is to be a professional basketball player and change their families' lives. But that comes through teamwork and leads to wins.

“We’ve got the kind of kids that understand they all have dreams,” Calipari said. “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’s team is loaded with high school All-Americans, but the players and families in the recruiting process know what they're getting into.

“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. They’re 19 years old. Are you kidding me?”

The Wildcats are 30-0 this year and looking to complete an undefeated season, but Calipari says there’s no pressure right now. The only pressure that matters is in the NCAA Tournament, when you have to win to keep playing. Calipari wants the regular season to be over so they can be playing the important games. Whether or not they lose a game right now doesn't matter — as long as it's not an NCAA Tournament game.

“I keep telling these guys, risk,” Calipari said. “We’re not turning it over enough. You can’t end a game with three turnovers. Three turnovers? You’ve got to have 11 turnovers. We played Arkansas and had nine turnovers. Well, then you’re not risking enough. Show them some of your offense. You can’t be afraid to miss a shot. It doesn’t matter now. If we lose, I will take responsibility. Just go play.”

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