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Kentucky Head Coach John Calipari on Dennis & Callahan 9/11

09.11.09 at 11:12 am ET
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Joining Dennis & Callahan on Friday, Men’s NCCA Head Basketball Coach John Calipari discusses his new book entitled “Bounce Back: Overcoming Setbacks to Succeed in Business and in Life” and also reminisces about the tragic events that occurred on September 11, 2001.

Here are some highlights of the show:

To listen to the first segment click here

To hear the second segment click here

If you have a flight and a stop in Memphis, are you comfortable?

I’m good. I have a few critics in Memphis. I have them everywhere it seems to be, but I have a ton of friends. I was there nine years, so I got a lot of love there for people and I think all in all it’s pretty good.

How about here? We all read Dan Shaughnessy’s column in yesterday’s Globe

(Laughs) What did he write? Did he say I have some critics?

Do you have people like Dan Shaughnessy who don’t think you’re welcome in Amherst?

No, my daughter just graduated from Amherst. I’ve been back there. Kelloggs, their new head coach, played there for me. From professional and different people that are there, I had a great relationship with then. Even now, we’re doing a function a the UMass club tonight and there’s going to be all my friends and supporters. In the profession I’m in, you’re going to have critics, and you’re going to have family, friends, and supporters. I mean I deal more with the good stuff, I don’t get mad when someone’s a critic and they write mean and nasty stuff. They have an opinion. If they like me, don’t like me, it’s how it is.

This book is a chance to give back and help. I’m listening to you guys coming in and the 9/11 stuff struck me before going into New York because we signed yesterday in New York and did some interviews and stuff, but we went to the sight and it was amazing. One: how big it is. Two: what they’re trying to do in some parts.

I’m wondering, John, has your resolve about this country changed in 8 years? Has your outlook and rage gone away?

It’s still raw with me. I still remember the anger first that you wanted to fight and then the second thing was the emotion of compassion of the children, of wives, and of the families.

Based on how many things you have to do to get ready for this upcoming basketball season, what would incent you to sit down and write a book?

A lot of the money is going back to the charity Calipari Family Foundation for Children. This book has been in the works for 2 1/2 years. I was fired in New Jersey by the Nets and I’m going to tell you, it knocked me on my knees. It was tough for me to get out from under the covers.

When you’re world is rocked, when you’re knocked, it’s a gut-wrenching thing. We all deal with it the same. It’s almost like you’re grieving and coming through. When I got the Memphis job and I was called by coaches, I said, “You know what? I got to write down what I went through and what it was like and how I felt.”

Are you born made for college, kind of like Petino? Were you miscast in the NBA?

Well, I think I’m a coach and I don’t know what that means, but I enjoy what I do, I enjoy helping. In this book, basically I’m coaching people through Bounce Back and I say right up front what I’ve gone through and had to overcome, may not even rate on the Richter scale of what other people were doing and having to deal with and go through. But there’s still that pattern, that blueprint of what you have to do.

Did you have a moment in the NBA when you said these guys are not coachable or at least not coachable enough?

No, it was never about that. They fired me that’s why I was out.

Who fired you? Was it the players that fired you?

You could say yes. In this book, it’s not to feel sorry, it’s not my life story, it’s not a sports book. In here, I talk about it and take responsibility. First of all, I wish I had been an assistant in the NBA so that I would have a better idea because I was going from the seat of my pants. I wish my demeanor was a little bit different because there demeanor matters because they’re professional. The other thing is you do more in practice and less in the games and I worked for Larry Brown that year and learned all that.

How many covers did your wife have to pull off you after losing a 9-point lead with 2:12 to go in the National Championship to Kentucky?

Because of the New Jersey situation, I was able to better deal with it. It wasn’t about me, it was about everybody else, it was about my team, they were devastated.

If Memphis was a step up from UMass and New Jersey was in between and Kentucky is a step up from Memphis, what is a step up from Kentucky?

I think the jobs in our profession that eearn the most whatever you want to say are Notre Dame football, Yankee baseball, you have to say Boston Red Sox baseball, you have to say the Dallas Cowboys, the Manchester whatever in England. So, I think I have one of those positions.

Did you have any inkling as to what Marcus Camby was up to at UMass? Why didn’t you know?

No, when you are the head of an organization or business and you have a lot of stuff underneath you, you are responsible when anything happens, buts it’s hard to be held accountable.

Did you know he was up to something?

No, absolutely not.

So you weren’t mad at Marcus Camby?

You know what, I was disappointed. But you know what, I love Marcus Camby. And that stuff you hope they learn from it.

Part of this book is overcoming stuff that is thrown at you.

Do you consider yourself to be a lucky guy?

You’re responsible when you’re head of an organization. I’m proud of my guys.

Was it unfair for the NCAA to wipe UMass out of the record book?

The rules changed now because of that case five years later and here’s why. They came back and said if the university, if the staff did not know, we will not vacate. Five years it has happened to other schools, same exact thing, same exact money, a bigger name, and they were not vacated. Why? Because they didn’t know. But when we did it, it was cut and dry when we went through that in ’96.

Is building a program in which you are a master at have the same set of rules no matter where you are and how does that apply now that you are going to the University of Kentucky?

Well, it does. I mean you got to walk in and it really depends on where the program is. The programs I have taken over all been down. You’ve got to go in and start to change the culture of how you do business, you got to set standards on what we do, you got to make sure the young people know what you accept and what is not acceptable and then you walk that line and make sure you are consistent and fair in what you do.

When you walk out of a recruit’s house, what is the one sentence you want Mom and Dad and whoever else is there to remember?

The hardest place you can go and play basketball is with us because you are going to go to every class, you are going to go to study hall. You’re going to be on a team with other good players, and train physical because you are going to be in the best shape of your life. You are going to be given skills that are going to add to your game.

I hope they say, “Well, if you’re going there, it’s not going to be easy.”

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