UK Men's Basketball

Calipari talks about handling stress of coaching

When Kentucky Coach John Calipari meets with reporters the day before a game, he usually arrives drenched in sweat. He comes directly from a 3-mile pre-practice jog on the treadmill.

Perhaps not so coincidentally, Hartford Coach Dan Leibovitz called for a scheduled telephone interview on Monday after getting off a treadmill.

Though widely separated on the coaching food chain, Calipari and Leibovitz are not immune to the kind of stresses that caused Florida football coach Urban Meyer to briefly resign last weekend.

Meyer cited health concerns and time the job took him away from his family as reasons he decided to quit at age 45. After a day's reflection, Meyer changed his mind and took a leave of absence.

While acknowledging the stresses associated with being UK basketball coach, Calipari suggested he won't succumb to the pressures of his job.

"This can eat you up if you're consumed with it," he said.

For instance, Calipari suggested that being fretful about players leaving early for the pros can cause anxiety. So, a reporter asked, did the UK coach feel anxiety with the talk swirling of star freshman John Wall and perhaps first-year forward DeMarcus Cousins leaving after this season.

"No," Calipari said. "What's the worst they can do to me? Fire me. I've been fired. I've already been fired."

As for critics, which recently included Hall of Fame Coach Bob Knight, Calipari said, "Get in line. The long one. No, keep going."

In any survey of high-stress jobs in athletics, professional or college, Kentucky basketball coach gets mentioned prominently.

But Calipari suggested how he looks at the job defuses the pressure.

"I'm looking at it like I'm blessed," he said. "And I'm trying to use the job to help the campus."

UK player Mark Krebs noted the time coaches typically spend on the job. "It's almost a life," he said. "It's not just a career. Basketball is your life."

As for family life, Calipari said his son Bradley, 13, attends practices and is the only person allowed to continue shooting while the coach speaks.

"Ellen and I probably don't get the time together that we need," he said of his wife. "When we get together, usually after dinner, we talk about what's going on."

The subjects discussed do not include basketball.

"The profession does consume your time," Calipari said before adding, "Does it consume you?

"I don't talk basketball when I get home. My wife doesn't even like basketball."

The Kentucky coach acknowledged health concerns played a part in the 3 miles he regularly runs on the treadmill. He jogs to help quickly return to a normal heart rate in times of stress.

During his first summer at UK, Calipari was so ever-present that school president Lee Todd jokingly suggested there seem to be six Caliparis running around.

"What I did in the first six months on the job, I won't do next year," Calipari said. "I did it this year. I don't have to do it next year."

Even though he works at Hartford, a program that has never received an NCAA Tournament bid, Leibovitz said he ponders the same concerns about the toll of coaching as Meyer.

"A part of every coach can understand exactly where he's coming from," the Hartford coach said. "Winning can, obviously, mask a lot of things. ... But we all spend a lot of time away from family. We all spend a lot of time in the office. There are moments for all of us where you wonder is this all worth it."

Leibovitz noted he has two children under the age of 3. The time he spends away from them weighs on his mind.

While coaches such as Meyer and Calipari get tugged in many directions to speak to groups or satisfy media demands, Leibovitz said coaches at the less conspicuous programs work diligently to build that kind of interest.

"So there are no coaches with a light workload," he said with a chuckle.

As for the question of whether coaching is worth the time and potential health hazards, Leibovitz cited Meyer's example. The Florida coach backed off his resignation after enjoying his team's good practice.

"When you get back to the team and get back to practicing, you realize why you got into coaching," the Hartford coach said. "You wanted to be around the game. You wanted to be around the kids. That's your comfort area.

"It can be hard to leave that. It just reassures you."

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