John Calipari knew what to pick for his best Kansas memory

By LARRY VAUGHT

Ellen Calipari (Vicky Graff Photo)

Ellen Calipari (Vicky Graff Photo)

John Calipari was an assistant coach at Kansas early in his career and he knew exactly what to say Friday when asked about his fondest memory of his time there.

“Meeting my wife. You knew I was going to say that. Met my wife there,” Calipari said. “I had nothing. I had no aspirations for anything other than to learn basketball. Felt so blessed that I had an opportunity to start on that campus. The guy who invented the game was their first coach. (Then) Phog Allen, who coached Adolph Rupp, who was, you know. Wilt (Chamberlain). I mean, you can go on and on, but I was just blessed to have that chance. Made no money.”

Made no money? That certainly is different from today. But let him explain.

“When they offered me the position, coach (Ted) Owens said, ‘I’d like you to stay in the volunteer assistant slot.’ I said, ‘Really? How much does that guy make?’ And then coach (Larry) Brown asked me to stay. I was blessed to be able to stay with him for two years and I look back fondly. I had nothing except basketball. I think I had a Plymouth Arrow at that time. Do they still make Plymouth Arrows? I don’t think they do,” Calipari said.

“But no worries.I stayed with Randolph Carroll, who was a part-time assistant. He let me stay with him. It was a great time for me because, can you imagine being 23, 22 and your first opportunity to be around the game is in a program like Kansas? I just felt every day I woke up, I was like, ‘I can’t believe this.’

“And I had the same feeling when I got this job. And John Robic looked out and saw Kentucky across that wall out there and it was glitter and I’m like, ‘Can you imagine that we’re here at Kentucky?’ It’s the same thing. Kansas is exactly the same kind of program.”

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