University of Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari charmed the state House on Friday, pledging in a brief speech to keep on "bringing hope to the people in this state" by winning ball games.
"We want to win at the University of Kentucky now," said Calipari, whose Wildcats are undefeated and poised to become the top-ranked team in the country if they beat Arkansas on Saturday. "And it's not just about winning games — it's about winning championships."
The state House honored Calipari with a resolution officially welcoming him to Kentucky and praising his work raising money for earthquake relief in Haiti.
Calipari praised lawmakers, many dressed in UK sweaters or blue shirts, for challenging UK to become a Top 20 research institution and for funding that effort early on. And he told lawmakers he recognized and appreciated their work in crafting public policy.
"You're overworked and underappreciated," he said. "What you do is honorable."
Lawmakers waited more than 40 minutes after finishing their work Friday morning to hear the coach speak. After Calipari addressed the House for about five minutes, a crush of giddy legislators lined up to shake his hand and get a snapshot with the coach.
Three times, House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, had to urge House members to let the coach go after nearly 20 minutes of meeting and greeting.
"The coach has to get back to practice. He does have an important game tomorrow," Stumbo said. "He's been gracious with his time, but we can't keep him forever."
Calipari also said he expected the Hoops for Haiti fund-raising effort to raise more than $1.5 million for the Caribbean nation, which is trying to heal from a massive earthquake early this month.
Rep. Rocky Adkins, D-Sandy Hook, told Calipari that the House had pledged to raise $10,000 for the Haiti fund-raising effort, which Calipari helped organize, and would meet that goal by the middle of next week.