UK Men's Basketball

UK hoops notebook: Calipari as life coach?

Youthful head coach. Celebrated Final Four run. Jump to the NBA. Embarrassing failure and firing. Resurrection as successful college coach.

The striking pattern of John Calipari following Rick Pitino's career footsteps continues with the release of the new Kentucky coach's self-help book. The book, titled Bounce Back: Overcoming Setbacks to Succeed in Business and in Life comes a year after Pitino produced Rebound Rules: The Art of Success 2.0.

Each book uses reversals in the coach's life to encourage readers to overcome obstacles. In that area, Pitino has the more compelling story to tell, having had to deal with the deaths of his best friend/brother-in-law in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and an infant son.

To illustrate his advice on how to overcome adversity, Calipari uses his firing as New Jersey Nets coach in 1999 and Memphis losing the 2008 national championship game despite leading by nine points with 2:12 left.

Although lacking the same emotional punch as Pitino's book, Calipari gives the reader interesting hints into what kind of person will lead UK basketball.

He writes his players letters in the pre-season to explain his expectations going forward and set a tone. He likes to schedule a non-conference opponent late in the season to help prepare for the NCAA Tournament. He has a metaphorical dog house for players. He'll reward good practices with a day off.

(Because Calipari's new, we'll excuse his misspelling Cawood Ledford's name as Caywood.)

UK fans can meet Calipari on Saturday when he's scheduled to do a book-signing at Lexington's Joseph-Beth Booksellers beginning at 6 p.m.

Of course, the primary point of the books is not biographical, but to help readers deal with adversity.

Calipari tells the reader, remember you're not alone, rely on a group of friends (which he calls a Kitchen Cabinet), and move forward.

On that latter point, he uses Tennessee Coach Bruce Pearl as an example. Without naming names, Calipari notes that a coach in Tennessee divorced his wife in a messy split that resulted in the ex-wife exacting revenge by opening a hair-and-nail salon called Alimony's.

Rise above the impulse to strike back, Calipari advises.

So, how valuable are self-help books?

Gerald Rosen, a professor at the University of Washington who chaired two American Psychological Association task forces looking into self-help books, said it was "conceivable" that coaches could give valuable advice.

"A good old wise coach, just like a wise old uncle, could give reasonable advice," he said.

Marion Jacobs, a clinical psychologist and retired professor at UCLA, said relying on friends, moving forward and realizing you're not alone were "well-known good points."

What makes a self-help book worthwhile is its ability to get the reader to do something truly difficult: Actually make the change that overcomes a problem.

"A lot of self-help books fall on their face at that point," Jacobs said. "They don't offer anything but a lot of advice."

Jacobs noted how strongly people resist change. "That's why New Year's resolutions fizzle," she said.

Neither Rosen nor Jacobs had read the Pitino book nor the Calipari book. So neither psychologist could make a value judgment.

Rosen acknowledged that the study of the effectiveness of self-help books has been grossly inadequate.

With a ton of self-help books on weight loss, personal finance, true love, etc. flooding the market, Rosen offered his own bit of advice for would-be coaches/authors.

"Instead of one coach writes a book and then the rival coach writes another book and eventually they die and new coaches are writing their books," he said, "what you might have is a committee of coaches put together their best thoughts of what they've learned."

Then, he added, experts could study the effectiveness of such collective wisdom. Future panels of coaches could make necessary revisions.

"You'd have an instructional product," he said.

Safeguards in place?

UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart declined to comment when the NCAA stripped Memphis of 38 victories and a Final Four appearance because of rules violations while John Calipari was coach.

But in an earlier interview with The Associated Press, Barnhart voiced confidence that UK's compliance apparatus would police Calipari and keep the program out of danger.

"There's a lot of things that we do because we have a pretty long history of understanding the different ways people try to attach themselves to Kentucky basketball," Barnhart said. "The people that have been around here awhile understand what some of the pitfalls can be. It doesn't mean you're going to be perfect."

Although rules violations now have caused two Calipari teams to vacate Final Four appearances in 1996 (Massachusetts) and 2008 (Memphis), Barnhart said the new coach welcomed UK's commitment to following the rules.

"There's one thing John says, 'I want my banners to count for something, and I want to put the rings on the fingers and let them stay there,' " Barnhart told the wire service. "That's important to him, and so he is embracing any help that we give him to make sure we're able to, at the end of the day, not have to look over our shoulders and worry."

'Strict liability'

Paul Dee, the chairman of the NCAA's Committee on Infractions, cited "strict liability" as the reason for punishing Memphis for playing an ineligible player, Derrick Rose. Memphis did not learn until after the 2007-08 season that Rose had his SAT score invalidated. Memphis played Rose after his eligibility had been initially approved by the NCAA Clearing House.

But Dee said "strict liability" meant that a subsequent ruling of ineligibility meant a punishment was appropriate. He likened the Memphis situation to when a school later learns that a player had been secretly receiving money.

"I am not familiar with the term 'strict liability' ever used in another NCAA opinion," Memphis university legal counsel Sheri Lipman told the Memphis Commercial Appeal. "That's a new standard to use in this situation, and we believe it should not be used in this situation."

Memphis is appealing the NCAA ruling.

Not-so-strict liability?

In the late 1990s, UCLA and Duke discovered that players had received money from a summer league coach. In the case of the Duke player, Corey Maggette, the payments (which technically made him a pro player), came when he was in high school. He later helped Duke get to the 1999 Final Four.

Neither UCLA nor Duke had to vacate victories or NCAA appearances. The NCAA did require UCLA to repay $45,321 of its tournament revenue for using JaRon Rush, who took money from the summer league coach.

Selective enforcement, anyone?

On the plus side ...

Technically, a forfeit of the 2007-08 season would also affect Memphis' 61-game winning streak in Conference USA. The Tigers would have entered 2009-10 needing four victories to surpass Kentucky's record of 64 straight against the Southeastern Conference from 1945-50.


John Calipari's Final Four appearances of 1996 and 2008 are to be stricken from the record. The Leon Trotsky treatment applies to media guides, recruiting material, NCAA archives, etc, etc. That seems to require UK to re-write the Calipari biographical sketch that appears on its Web site, It references the Final Fours and the 38 Memphis victories in 2008.

Tweet of week

John Calipari regularly sends inspirational messages to his Twitter followers.

On Thursday morning, hours before the NCAA announced that Memphis must vacate its 2008 Final Four appearance and record 38 victories that season, he sent this tweet:

"The only true observer of your world and your issues is you."

That quote came from Karen Salmansohn, an author of self-help books. Calipari quotes her in his own newly-released self-help book, Bounce Back, which borrows its title from her.

Her previous books include:

The Bounce Back: How to Thrive in the Face of Adversity.

How to be Happy Dammit: A Cynic's Guide to Spiritual Happiness.

How to Succeed in Business Without a Penis.

On the mark?

The great Mark Bradley, columnist for the Atlanta Journal Constitution, recently unveiled his pre-season top 10. He had Kentucky No. 1 with Kansas, Michigan State, North Carolina and Villanova rounding out the top five.

In explaining his rankings, Bradley wrote via e-mail, "I think John Wall will be the best player in the country."

Then Bradley, a Maysville native, UK graduate and Herald-Leader alumnus, added: "I also think (John) Calipari needs to win big right away so UK will have as many victories as possible to forfeit two years down the road."

That's newspaper humor, folks.

Bradley noted that his colleague, Dave O'Brien, who covers the Atlanta Braves, is a Kansas graduate. O'Brien objected to the Jayhawks being No. 2.

"What can I say?" Bradley wrote. "I've believed in the Big Blue all my life, or least since they dumped Billy Gillispie."

Cal advises fans

During Thursday night's hour-long television program devoted to Kentucky's 2009-10 schedule, new coach John Calipari kept going back to one thought: Fans should have fun and not fret about any setbacks this coming season.

Perhaps someone told Calipari about UK's demanding fans, who booed the home team in Rupp Arena more than once last season.

Going back further, the fans booed in the Pitino era when Mississippi State broke the full-court press a few times in a game Kentucky ultimately won by 29 points.

On Thursday's TV show, Calipari seemed to slyly make a similar point with a tongue-in-cheek response to a question about how he thought the Cats could do this season. Calipari "predicted" a 40-0 record with no margin of victory smaller than 25 points.

"Enjoy the path," Calipari said. "I'm going to have fun. If you want to be miserable, don't come around me."

Made for TV

A conference-wide announcement unveiled the schedules of Duke, North Carolina and Indiana. UCLA spokesman Ryan Finney said the school makes a "standard release" and puts the schedule on its Web site.

Kansas spokesman Chris Theisen said the school uses "normal press releases" to announce the schedule in stages: non-conference, conference with TV information, late changes. As of last week, the Jayhawks had made four separate schedule announcements.

Why did Kentucky take the unprecedented step of announcing its schedule on a television show patterned loosely after Selection Sunday? Money.

"We're always looking for new ways to offer new inventory to sell (advertising)," said Tom Stultz, senior vice president and managing director for IMG College.

IMG and Lexington station WKYT (Channel 27) are paying UK $80 million over 10 years for the television and radio rights to the school's football and basketball games. Selling advertising for the TV schedule show helps IMG and WKYT pay that fee.

Plus, the contract calls for IMG-WKYT and UK to split any profits exceeding $80 million in the lifetime of the contract.

Happy birthday

To UK single-game scoring king Jodie Meeks. He turned 22 on Friday.

Meeks, who broke UK's 39-year-old record by scoring 54 points at Tennessee, enjoyed a happy birthday in Milwaukee preparing for his upcoming rookie NBA season.

Bucks fans associate Meeks almost solely with the game at Tennessee. They shouldn't ignore the 37 points against Kansas State or the 45 at Arkansas.

On the schedule show Thursday night, UK Coach John Calipari noted how the Bucks considered Meeks a first-round talent that fell to them in the second round.