SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – The UK duo of John Calipari and Louie Dampier (pictured) will be enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Friday night, Sept. 11 at the Symphony Hall in Springfield, Mass. The Wildcats are two of 11 basketball legends in the Class of 2015 and the ninth and 10th UK representatives, respectively, to join basketball’s fraternity of legends.
The 6:30 p.m. (ET) event will be seen on NBA TV and NBA.com “To join this fraternity, which I never thought about coaching, and growing up it never entered my mind,” Calipari said Thursday at the opening of Hall of Fame week. “I went to many inductions, but I never thought I’d be standing here. I can tell you, when you’re coaching, somebody’s got to give you an opportunity to coach. Someone’s got to give you an opportunity to be a head coach. When you get fired like I did, somebody has to give you an opportunity to revive. You have to have staff, you all have to work, you have to have players, because that’s why we’re standing here as a coach.”
Both Calipari and Dampier received their official Hall of Fame blazers at a presentation at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Thursday, the first of three days of festivities. “I’m just happy to be here,” Dampier said at the presentation of the blazers. “I’ve been asked so many times how I feel about being inducted into the Hall of Fame, and it’s just a difficult thing to express myself how I really feel. … There might be a lot of players who were and are better than I was, but I’m in (the Hall of Fame) and I’m going to accept it.” Calipari and Dampier, alongside the rest of the Class of 2015, which includes Dick Bavetta, Lindsay Gaze, Tom Heinsohn, John Isaacs, Spencer Haywood, Lisa Leslie, Dikembe Mutombo, George Raveling and Jo Jo White, will be enshrined at the historic Symphony Hall in downtown Springfield. Each Hall of Fame inductee will be introduced by a presenter or presenters. UK’s all-time leading scorer, Dan Issel, will introduce Dampier, while Kentucky legend and NBA champion player, head coach and executive Pat Riley, UMass alum and NBA icon Julius Erving, and NCAA and NBA champion Larry Brown will introduce Calipari. All four presenters are already in the Hall of Fame. Calipari was elected into the Hall of Fame on the first ballot in early April in Indianapolis after being named one of 12 finalists in February. A finalist needed 18 of 24 votes from the Honors Committee for elections into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. “I’m enjoying this weekend,” Calipari said. “No one’s stealing my joy. I’m going to enjoy the weekend, and the main reason is because we’re going to have between 70 and 90 players here. Just about every guy that worked for me during my time will be here. I believe every (athletic director) that I worked for will be here. All of my family – sisters, in-laws, my high school coach, my college coach – no one will steal my joy.” Dampier, a Kentucky guard from 1965-67, was named one of five direct elects as initial members of the Class of 2015 in mid-February. A Second Team All-American at Kentucky and a seven-time ABA All-Star, Dampier was voted in from the American Basketball Association Committee. “I think tomorrow I’m just going to say a lot of thank yous for the people (who) have been so important in my life,” Dampier said. “I’m not going to talk about myself. I’m going to talk about the people in my life who are very important to me.” 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 36 NBA Draft picks, including 25 in his first six seasons at Kentucky and 19 first-rounders.
Included in his 36 draft picks are four No. 1 picks (Derrick Rose, John Wall, Anthony Davis and Karl-Anthony Towns). Calipari is the only coach with more than two top draft picks. “The greatest thing for me (is) many of those people will be here in the next two days and I get a chance to thank them personally,” Calipari said. 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 during the 2014-15 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.
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 600 on-court wins.
Following the record-setting 2014-15 season in which the Wildcats became the first team in college basketball history to hold a 38-0 record, 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.
Those credentials aside, it still hasn’t hit Calipari yet that he’s entering the Hall of Fame.
“I’m still dealing with logistical stuff, so no, (it hasn’t hit me yet),” Calipari said Thursday. “I had friends of mine who are Hall of Famers that said, ‘You’re going to get there up on that stage and there’s going to be an emotion that goes through your body when you realize you’re in the fraternity.’ I’m kind of nervous and excited. Like, I’m feeling some stuff that I normally don’t feel.” Dampier played three seasons as Kentucky where he was named a Second Team All-American twice and an Academic All-American once. When he graduated, he was ranked third all-time in points scored for the Wildcats and currently sits at 12th with 1,575 career points. Dampier is considered one of the greatest shooters not only at Kentucky but of all-time. He led the Wildcats in field-goal percentage in 1965 and 1966 while averaging better than 17 points per game in all three of his collegiate seasons.
One of the few players to play all nine seasons the ABA was in existence (1967-76), Dampier was a star with the Kentucky Colonels. He finished first all-time in the ABA in games played (728), minutes played (27,770), points scored (13,726), and assists (4,044).
An ABA Champion in 1975, Dampier was named an ABA All-Star from 1968-70 and from 1972-75, a member of the ABA All-Rookie First Team in 1968, and a member of the ABA All-Time Team.
Dampier concluded his professional career with the San Antonio Spurs of the NBA after the ABA merger in 1976. He said Thursday that he never had dreams of making it into the Hall of Fame. “My first thought was I want to be on my high school varsity basketball team,” Dampier said. “Then I had a little bit of success there. And then I started thinking maybe I will get to play college ball. Not until after my junior or senior year did I think I would have a shot of playing pro basketball.”