Ex-Cats Delk, Padgett join Calipari's staff

jtipton@herald-leader.comApril 17, 2009 

Miami (Ohio) has the nickname Cradle of Coaches. But John Calipari would like to borrow it for Kentucky.

As part of an effort to help aspiring coaches get a start in the profession, Calipari confirmed Thursday that he will hire former UK stars Tony Delk and Scott Padgett to his staff. Each will have entry-level jobs that do not include on-court coaching. "Managerial duties" is how he described the jobs.

"I want people to know we're trying to get them started in their careers," Calipari said.

Calipari noted his own humble beginnings as a volunteer coach at Kansas in the 1980s. One of his jobs was to serve food at the training tables. He recalled asking Carl Henry, coincidentally the father of highly regarded prospect Xavier Henry, whether he wanted peas or corn.

Calipari also said he had to choose between furniture and ESPN in the apartment he shared with another coaching novice because they couldn't afford both.

Now he sits as the head coach of college basketball's winningest program.

"Throughout my whole career, I haven't forgotten that," he said. "And anyone I can help in this profession that I think is a good person who cares about kids, I help.

"Most of the time, it's former players or people I have met through my recruiting." Or people recommended by other coaches or his mentor, Larry Brown.

Rod Strickland, a 17-year NBA player, got his start for Calipari at Memphis making $12,000.

Calipari said fans should not be surprised if some of his former players at Massachusetts and Memphis come to Kentucky to start their coaching careers.

Delk came into Calipari's orbit through Atlanta Hawks Coach Mike Woodson, the UK coach said. Woodson asked if Delk could be included in a retreat that Brown and Calipari hold annually for their basketball community of coaches.

Calipari said he did not know Padgett as well, but had heard good things.

Stay or leave?

By placing their names under consideration for this year's NBA draft, UK players Patrick Patterson and Jodie Meeks face the ultimate decision of whether to turn pro or return to college.

Neither told reporters on Wednesday if there was a place in the draft that would dictate the decision.

When asked if a first-round projection was good enough to cause Patterson to leave, Calipari said, "He told me last night it wasn't.

"But if he later changes his mind, I'll be OK with that, too. I said, 'What if you're taken in the first round? He said, I'm coming back. I said, good choice."

Calipari suggested that a lottery pick should be the standard for Patterson.

"I tell Patrick, if you're a lottery pick, you should go," he said. "Because next year you will be in the lottery, maybe a top-10 (pick)."

The UK coach noted how Patterson had already shown improvement as a ball-handler in workouts in the dribble-drive system. Now the UK big man had to improve using his left hand.

As for Meeks, Calipari said he could improve his efficiency and ball-handling with a year in the dribble-drive and become a probable first-round pick."

Calipari pooh-poohed the idea that a late first-round selection would be good because the player would be guaranteed money and have that original contract expire a year earlier.

The UK coach noted that a late-round pick typically belongs to a team with a better record, meaning a less chance of playing significant minutes. So the second contract is not for as much money.

"If they say you can never make that year up, it's a million dollars," Calipari said. "You make it up the minute you do your second contract, and you get your 70 or 80 million, if you're that good."

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