Kentucky met its primary goal this past season, Coach John Calipari said Wednesday during an appearance at the Alltech Rebelation, this year's name of the Nicholasville-based company's annual symposium.
"Last year we started the season with a goal," Calipari told a Rupp Arena audience estimated at 3,000. "You may think that goal was to win a national championship or win all the games. It was to get eight players drafted."
In April, seven UK players announced they were entering this year's NBA Draft, which will be June 25. Calipari noted that an eighth player, Alex Poythress, would have been in the draft if he had not torn an anterior cruciate ligament in mid-December.
"We had a historic year ... ," Calipari said. Kentucky opened the season in an unprecedented fashion by winning its first 38 games. Of course, UK lost to Wisconsin in the national semifinals and finished the season 38-1.
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"I feel great about what happened," Calipari said, "because the players got better."
By making the goal about players getting better and becoming viable NBA Draft prospects, the focus is not placed on winning or losing, he said.
"The mission statement for me is to be a vehicle to help others reach their dreams," Calipari said. "To be the stone that creates the ripple in their lives that goes on and on and on and on. ...
"Now, in our state, they want my mission to be to win national championships. ... My mission is bigger than that."
The theme of the Alltech symposium, which attracted participants from 63 countries, was innovation. Or as one of Monday's speakers, retired Gen. Colin Powell, put it, "Rebel against conventional wisdom."
Calipari, who spoke from a stage set up in a curtained-off corner of Rupp Arena, said UK basketball's success during his six seasons as coach was based on the aspirations of players.
"It all starts with players first," he said. "And their dreams become our dreams."
Although perhaps new to symposium participants from other countries, this foundational piece surely sounded familiar to Kentucky fans. So did its inherent irony: individual goals as a primary part of team success. The UK coach told the audience that players can submit to the team if they are confident their NBA goals are being addressed.
"If we love them, they then can be about each other," Calipari said. "You don't have to worry about you. We've got you. I got you. You worry about each other."
Of course, four Final Four appearances in the past five years — unprecedented success even by Kentucky standards — reflects how well the formula has worked.