University of Kentucky men’s basketball coach John Calipari, the featured speaker at the 50th Governor’s Prayer Breakfast, told the 1,000 or so present in Frankfort’s Convention Center on Tuesday that he would give them more time than he spent coaching his last game.
His opening comment was a wry reference to his ejection during Saturday’s game against South Carolina after drawing two technical fouls less than three minutes into the game.
Calipari spoke for about nine minutes at Gov. Matt Bevin’s first prayer breakfast as governor. He spoke of his faith in God and declared himself a sinner saved by grace.
A devout Catholic who attends mass daily, Calipari emphasized that actions speak louder than words. He recounted his visit to Washington last September to hear Pope Francis deliver a message about putting others above self.
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He told of when former UK player Michael Kidd-Gilchrist told him to start teammate Darius Miller instead of him in a game against Vanderbilt. Kidd-Gilchrist said Miller was struggling and needed to be encouraged with more playing time, Calipari said.
Calipari started Miller. UK lost the game but won the national championship that year with Miller’s help, the coach said.
“That is actions speaking louder than words,” he said.
The coach also recognized in the audience his former star player Nerlens Noel, who now plays for the Philadelphia 76ers. Noel drew a crowd after the breakfast as fans took photos with him and got his autograph.
Calipari was introduced at the breakfast by Kelly Knight, a prominent Republican fund-raiser.
Bevin told attendees that people of faith should not be apologetic for their beliefs. “Be bold,” he said.
Bevin, who attends Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, said each person needs to take care of his or her physical, mental and spiritual well-being. He compared those components to a three-legged stool, which he said needs each leg to stand.
Bevin presented the William Cooper Faith and Community In Action Award to Barb and Hilton Duncan of McCreary County, who have provided food, clothing, shelter and education for nearly 17 years to low-income people in Eastern Kentucky. The award was named after the late Rev. Williams Jefferson Cooper of Westport, who founded the governor’s breakfast.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation, which claims 23,000 nonreligious members nationally, had called on Bevin to cancel the breakfast, saying that the First Amendment prohibits government sponsorship of religious occasions. The group said Bevin should not have advertised the event on the governor’s webpage, used the state seal on the invitation or sent an email inviting state employees using his official email address.