John Calipari has succeeded, at an extremely high level, in the National Basketball Association. What an odd sentence to describe a coach whose record in the NBA was an only 72-112, right? Well, it’s not what Calipari did while leading the New Jersey Nets (1996-1999) or his stint as a Philadelphia 76ers assistant (2000) that matters in this context.
It’s the fact that Calipari-coached players who year after year are the top college basketball picks in the draft have been signed to more than $2.2 billion in NBA contracts. That’s billion with a B and $1.9 billion of that came from the University of Kentucky alone. That’s more than the GDP of the nation of Belize. In fact, Kentucky led the nation with 29 former players present on NBA opening day rosters.
When you’re in the Calipari La Familia, they don’t just get you to the NBA- they give you the tools to succeed there. Take a look at the free NBA picks against the spread on a given game night, and you’ll see former Wildcats everywhere. The Los Angeles Clippers are considered the early odds on NBA title favorite, and former Cat Patrick Patterson is in his first year with the club. Their intra-city rivals, the L.A. Lakers aren’t far behind, according to the odds makers, and they boast of trio of ex-UK guys in their starting five: Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins and Rajon Rondo.
Don’t forget the team with the most favorable title odds of any that reside in the Eastern Conference, the Milwaukee Bucks, where you’ll find Eric Bledsoe. There is something special about being a Calipari coached guard, especially point guard- go ask former NBA MVP Derrick, who is still going strong, despite countless injury set backs. A lot of it is due to the dribble-drive, a system that Coach Cal instills in his guards at Memphis, just like he did at Memphis.
It’s just one component of what makes UK the leading NBA vocational institution. Think of it as being like a trade school. And it leads to getting paid! To quote Ludacris, it’s big paper like pancakes stacking ’em up.”
Utilizing salary figures accumulated by basketball-reference.com and spotrac.com, a press release from the school states that, during the 2019-20 NBA season alone: “UK players are slated to make more than $255 million. Calipari-coached players only (which includes Rose but not Rondo) will make more than $260 million.”
It’s the number one recruiting tool that the school has, and they are certainly not shy in utilizing that tool. UK hasn’t won a national title since 2012, but they have won every single NBA Draft night since Coach Cal took over the reigns of the program.
It’s more than just “one and done,” it’s “succeed and proceed.”
Every year UK has two events that might be considered their graduation and prom combined. The first is when Calipari and the group of players declaring early all get together and hold their press conference announcing early entry into the draft. The second is of course draft night itself.
It’s something UK has going for it that even Duke, Carolina, Kansas, name any other program, does not.
Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, the author of “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” regularly appears on WGN CLTV and co-hosts the “Let’s Get Weird, Sports” podcast on SB Nation.