UK Men's Basketball

As coach-in-training, Brad Calipari rejoins ‘Kentucky situation’

Meet the Cats: Brad Calipari

Coach's son talks about late-night workouts, desire to be a "great teammate"
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Coach's son talks about late-night workouts, desire to be a "great teammate"

When he attended a prep school in New England, he could be Brad. Just Brad.

“You just kind of get into your own alone time,” Brad said. “Away from the Kentucky situation.”

Don’t get Brad wrong. Brad liked being part of the Kentucky situation. Brad just needed time away to learn about himself, complete his recovery from a torn anterior cruciate ligament and re-orient his basketball journey. At the prep school, the all-encompassing UK basketball was at a distance, psychologically as well as geographically.

“You just got time to yourself,” Brad said. “You get to hear yourself . . . more than hearing whatever might be happening about Kentucky.”

When it was suggested that he could be just Brad at the prep school after having spent the previous six years in Kentucky as Brad Calipari, Brad agreed.

“Yeah, yeah,” he said.

Brad said he learned how to be independent while attending the MacDuffie School in Granby, Mass. He gained a greater appreciation for his parents. He also made a decision on his career. He wants to coach.

That’s why, more than ever, Brad Calipari is part of the Kentucky situation.

UK Coach John Calipari, who is Brad’s father, suggested that his son will need time to develop as a coach.

“He’s not like the most talkative kid,” the UK coach said. “He’s more like his mother that way.”

Kentucky can give Brad a thorough tutorial on what it takes to lead a top-level program. From individual skill development to video breakdowns to analytical number crunching, Brad will be exposed to UK basketball.

“I mean, you’ve got four years to really study what we do here,” the UK coach said.

In that sense, Brad is following the same path as Billy Donovan III at Florida. Donovan was in a program led by his father, who has since moved on to coaching the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder. The younger Donovan also aspired to be a coach.

When asked if coaching was in his blood, the younger Donovan said, “Yeah, I would say so. I would hope so.”

He begins his head coaching career this season at St. Francis Catholic Academy, a school in Gainesville, Fla.

“I got to be with my dad every day and got to see what he does behind the scenes that a lot of people don’t get to see,” the younger Billy Donovan said of his time at Florida. “It was really a great time for me to grow and mature into a man.”

I mean, you’ve got four years to really study what we do here.

John Calipari, on his son’s opportunity to apprentice as a coach while playing as a walk-on.

When asked if the Donovans were role models for navigating the father-son dynamic, Brad said, “I haven’t really paid attention to any other father-son (combination). I hear about Tubby Smith and his son here. Other than that, I haven’t heard much about anything. I’ve been more focused on myself and bettering myself each day (and) each workout.”

Of course, Tubby and Saul Smith violated the late Al McGuire’s rule about a father coaching his son: It works best if the son is a star player or a player who sits on the end of the bench and plays only in the final minutes of a blowout victory. A son with middling ability raises the specter of nepotism.

“I totally agree with that,” the younger Billy Donovan said of McGuire’s dictum. “There were times it was difficult for me because a lot of guys look at you differently. They just do. I had to earn that trust and respect from everyone because — let’s be honest — the real reason there was an opportunity to play was because who my dad was and the position that he had.”

A question about how long it took to earn trust and respect of teammates caused the younger Donovan to laugh. It all depended on how accepting the teammates were and how diligent the son worked.

Said the younger Billy Donovan of his experience as an infrequently used reserve at Florida, “I never felt more a part of a team.”

I got to be with my dad every day and got to see what he does behind the scenes that a lot of people don’t get to see. It was really a great time for me to grow and mature into a man.

Billy Donovan III, on playing for his father at Florida

Brad, who is a freshman walk-on, talked about being in the UK practice gym at 2 or 3 in the morning in order to do extra conditioning or get in extra shots. “I want to try to play as long as I can, obviously, after college,” he said. “Overseas. Whatever it might be. Then get into coaching.”

His father suggested his son could get on the court. “A little bit,” the UK coach said. “Like you can be up 20 and put him in.”

Then John Calipari used humor to defuse any thought of father favoring Brad with playing time.

“His mother thinks he’s playing,” John Calipari said. “She’s out of her mind.”

Jerry Tipton: 859-231-3227, @JerryTipton

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