University of Kentucky men’s basketball coach John Calipari addressed the crowd assembled in Rupp Arena and those watching from home on Friday night during Big Blue Madness.
Below is a transcript of Calipari’s speech as provided by UK:
Hello Big Blue Nation!
What a night!
What a celebration of the last 10 years of Kentucky basketball and the start of the next 10 … our second tour!
Ten years ago, thousands gathered in Rupp Arena, while millions watched around the state, country and world. We celebrated the rebirth of this storied program … the greatest tradition in college basketball. We stood together under the lights, under the jerseys, under the banners that hang in this cathedral of college basketball. With one powerful voice, we proclaimed that we would achieve … as a family … seemingly unreachable heights for this program … for these players. And we did. We worked hard, together. We built trust, together. We became a family, together. We didn’t surrender to the pressure. We distinguished ourselves as we climbed atop the mountain of college basketball.
Ten years ago, we said we would be a players-first program defined by integrity and purpose. We built this program to serve our players … to help them reach their dreams. In the last 10 years … we’ve won a national championship … won more games than any other team … been to more Final Fours than any other program … won more NCAA Tournament games … appeared in more Elite Eights and more Sweet 16s than any other school … won five SEC regular-season championships … and six SEC Tournament titles. During that same time … 38 players have been drafted from this program, including 29 first-round picks. And we’ve graduated 20 players with four graduating in just three years. Seven others who left us early to chase their NBA dreams have returned to work on their degrees. In the last 10 years … 22 players in the NBA received max contracts, seven of the 22 are Kentucky Wildcats! Seven! That level of success is crazy. It’s a level of success only possible at one place… Kentucky… the greatest tradition in the history of college basketball.
My role … our staff’s role … is to serve the players. Inspire them to reach higher than they thought possible. To build exceptional men. My job is to make these guys uncomfortable. Their job is to be comfortable being uncomfortable. The discomfort and struggle will bend you, but it won’t break you … we won’t let it. It will make you a better player, a better teammate and a better person. That’s how we raise the bar. The Big Blue Nation is more than a fan base. You uplift this team, the commonwealth’s team. You’re the heartbeat of this team, Kentucky’s team.
You, the greatest fans in the world, make this the greatest stage in college basketball. The Carnegie Hall of college athletics. This is about integrity … pure intentions. We won’t embellish. Some may say their program will take care of you the rest of your life. Our mission is to prepare our young people to take care of themselves for the rest of their lives. We are upfront with them from the very start that this is going to be the hardest thing they will ever do. And we will be there every step of the way. What’s better than having an opportunity to chase your dreams on this stage? With a group of teammates who have the same aspirations and dreams. Willing to sacrifice for each other and a staff that chases your dreams with you. You will never feel alone.
When you come here, you play against the best. You have to want that challenge. You have to want to wake up every day with the desire to be stronger, faster, better. That’s why we say this is not for everybody. The greatest players make their mark here. Our best players … our best teams … are part of our great history because they learned to play together. They played as a family. They found strength in one another. Those teams were built in the trenches. Built through sweat. Built over time. Built so that under the lights we’re unbreakable. We do this together. For some that means being here for one year, for others it means more because everyone is on their own path. Some may finish at other schools but they are always welcome home. That is family. That is La Familia.
We’ve helped mold young men into NBA professionals. Professionals who have collectively earned more than $2 billion in contracts. We’ve helped young men walk across the stage with their diploma in hand. That’s a commitment we make to each player who wears Kentucky blue, a lifetime scholarship. Whether in four years or at the end of your professional career, this is your home. Forever.
I have a few questions for all of us. What will we do next? What will we do in the next 10 years? How do we grow? How do we keep getting better? What will the Big Blue Nation achieve, together, as we start this second tour?
Our potential is limitless. The competition will be fierce, the road will be difficult. We need an entire nation … a Big Blue Nation … behind us as we start a new decade and continue to showcase why Kentucky will forever be the greatest tradition in college basketball.