By AMBER TYLER
Don’t be surprised if you notice coach John Calipari in some stylish sneakers instead of his usual dress shoes on Tuesday for the UK vs. Tennessee game in Knoxville.
Calipari is once again partnering with the American Cancer Society for Coaches vs. Cancer week to raise awareness about the disease. More specifically — the Suits & Sneakers awareness week which is where basketball coaches in high school and college will wear sneakers with their suits to raise awareness about ACS’s mission and the importance of nutrition and physical activity in reducing cancer risk.
This year will mark the 23rd year for the program which began in 1993. Since then, the program has raised over $100 million to help the American Cancer Society’s mission. Coaches vs. Cancer week will take place starting today and go on through Sunday.
A new digital fundraising campaign for Coaches vs. Cancer kicked off on Dec. 8 and will run through April 3. The commercial features four iconic Division 1 college basketball coaches “recruiting” new players to help ACS recruit new donors. You might catch a familiar face in the video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=88nI8xipSWU
The plan is for coach Cal and his staff to wear the custom-painted shoes at Tennessee. Be on the lookout for a couple different designs of shoe. Local Lexington artist, Billy Hobbs of True Blue Customs, will be the creative mastermind behind the kicks. The shoes will feature the beloved Bill Keightley — former equipment manager for the UK basketball team.
Keightley held his position as equipment manager for 48 years and was better known as “Mr. Wildcat.” He worked under coaches Rupp, Hall, Sutton, Pitino, Smith, and Gillispie and had the jersey number 48 retired in his honor.
Keightley passed away from internal bleeding after falling as he arrived at the ball park to see opening day of the 2008 baseball season. His love for the Wildcats and the state of Kentucky is well known, and it would be a great tribute to wear the shoes in his remembrance.
Equipment manager, Mark Evans, who transferred with Calipari from Memphis, believes that “there is a chance the shoes could be auctioned off — as they have been in previous years.” So, if you’re in the market for a spiffy pair of expensive sneakers to complete your UK collection, be on the lookout for the auction.
Because cancer has touched so many of our nation’s basketball coaches, Coaches vs. Cancer offers them the unique opportunity to fight the disease. To learn more about how you can make a difference as a coach in your community and across the nation through the Coaches vs. Cancer program, please contact the American Cancer Society at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit coachesvscancer.org.
If you’re not a coach, you can still donate to the cause by going to http://www.cancer.org/involved/fundraise/coaches-vs-cancer.html