INDIANAPOLIS – Kentucky men's basketball coach John Calipari will join basketball’s fraternity of legends in August after being elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. The announcement was made Monday at a press conference in Indianapolis.
“This is going to be hard for people to understand, but I’m at a loss for words,” Calipari said. “I was overwhelmed when I heard the news and so grateful. I would imagine other recipients felt how I feel now: unworthy of such an honor, but appreciative. As a coach, this award means that many parents entrusted you with their sons and many players entrusted you with their careers. That’s why this award has happened for me, and I’m indebted to all of them, all of the staffs and all of the administrations that have helped me build these programs.”
Coach Calipari will join an elite group of basketball players and coaches in the Naismith Hall of Fame, considered to be one of the ultimate honors in the sport. Calipari and the Class of 2015, which will also include Dick Bevetta, Louie Dampier, Lindsay Gaze, Tom Heinsohn, John Isaacs, Spencer Haywood, Lisa Leslie, Dikembe Mutombo, George Raveling and JoJo White, will be enshrined during Hall of Fame festivities in Springfield, Mass., Sept. 10-11.
Prior to Monday’s announcement, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame consisted of 325 inductees, including 95 coaches.
Twelve finalists were eligible for this year’s induction. A finalist needed 18 of 24 votes from the Honors Committee for elections into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
Dampier, a member of the program from 1965-67, was named one of five direct elects as initial members of the Class of 2015 in mid-February and will be a part of the induction ceremonies in September. Dampier, a Second Team All-American at Kentucky and a seven-time ABA All-Star, was voted in from the American Basketball Association Committee.
Calipari's credentials are certainly Hall of Fame worthy. In his 23 seasons as a college head coach, he's guided six teams to the Final Four, including four over the last five years, becoming one of just three coaches (John Wooden and Mike Krzyzewski) to achieve that feat. He’s led one team to a national championship and produced 30 NBA Draft picks, including 19 in his first five seasons at Kentucky and 15 first-rounders.
Included in his 30 draft picks are three No. 1 picks (Derrick Rose, John Wall and Anthony Davis). Calipari is the only coach with three top draft picks.
The 2014-15 season has arguably been Calipari’s finest coaching job. En route to leading Kentucky to a 38-1 season, which tied two of Calipari’s other teams (UK in 2012 and Memphis in 2008) for the most wins in NCAA history, Coach Cal has been awarded national coach of the year honors by the Atlanta Tipoff Club (Naismith), the Associated Press, the National Association of Basketball Coaches and Sporting News, among others.
Calipari’s Kentucky team was the first team in NCAA history to post a 38-0 record before falling to Wisconsin in the Final Four on Saturday.
Among Calipari's most notable achievements are nine 30-win seasons, including five straight from 2006 to 2010. He's the only coach in NCAA Division I history to achieve that feat. The 56-year-old has won three Naismith Coach of the Year honors (1996, 2008 and 2015) and been named a Naismith finalist four other times.
On his way to more than 600 on-court wins, which he achieved this season, he's notched 21 consecutive seasons of 20 or more on-court victories, more than all other active coaches. Of course, as a players-first coach, Calipari credits his success to his players, which include 16 All-Americans during his career and three national players of the year (Marcus Camby, Wall and Davis).
The Pennsylvania native has won 13 regular-season conference championships, 12 conference tournament titles and has been named the coach of the year in his respective conference nine times in his decorated career.
In Calipari's third year in Lexington, he guided Kentucky to its eighth national championship. In the process, he became one of only two coaches to lead three different schools to a Final Four (UMass-1996; Memphis-2008; Kentucky-2011, 2012, 2014 and now 2015).
Following his fifth season at UK, Calipari's overall on-court record was 597-166, giving him the third-highest winning percentage (.771) among active NCAA Division I coaches with 10 years of experience at college basketball's Division I level, trailing only Mark Few and Hall of Famer Roy Williams. After opening the 2014-15 campaign with three straight wins, Calipari became the 13th active head coach with on-court 600 wins.
Following Saturday’s games, Coach Cal has a 325-51 record, the most wins of any college head coach since the 2005-06 season.
Calipari is one of only two coaches (Roy Williams) in NCAA Division I history to amass 400 or more wins in his first 16 years as a head coach, and his 173 victories from 2008-12 are the most ever for a coach over a five-year span in Division I history. Since the 2005-06 season, he has the best winning percentage among all Division I coaches.
His NCAA Tournament record of 47-15 (.758) is the second-highest winning percentage among active coaches. His six Final Four appearances are tied for the fifth most by a coach all-time, and his 11 straight NCAA Tournament wins prior to the 2014 national championship loss represented the longest winning streak in the tournament since the Florida Gators won 12 straight in 2006 and 2007.
Calipari's foundation, The Calipari Foundation, has raised millions of dollars to help the lives of those in need in the Commonwealth and across the country, and in 2010, he used a telethon to raise more than $1 million for victims of the devastating earthquake in Haiti. He followed that with another telethon in 2012 that raised $1 million for victims of Superstorm Sandy.
A year after helping raise $350,000 for charity during the inaugural UK alumni weekend, Calipari was the driving force behind the more than $1 million that was donated to local and national organizations during the second annual alumni weekend. Despite the absence of the alumni game - a large generator of the alumni weekend funds -- in 2014, he and his basketball fantasy experience matched the $1 million the following year.
Photo by Jamie H. Vaught