By LARRY VAUGHT
After his team beat Fort Wayne Wednesday, Kentucky coach John Calipari’s mind was more on Thanksgiving than anything else.
He talked about his team going to the Salvation Army today to serve a Thanksgiving meal. He talked about the team’s annual Christmas project that provides two months of rent money to 12 needy families.
He wants his players grateful for what they have — and likely will have going forward. He stressed that in the media room and again on the UK Radio Network on his postgame show.
“But the only way you can be grateful or be that way is be thankful and be grateful because most of the stuff we have is not earned or deserved, it just happened that it’s us and it’s not him. He had a break the wrong way. I had a break the right way. Only by the grace of God that’s not me,” Calipari said.
“I said this. I’m not trying to get on a soapbox, even though I am. Two thousand six hundred homeless in our city. Are you kidding me? Lexington, Kentucky, one of the wealthiest cities. We have 2600 homeless?
“I want my kids to know that. Then you have a chance to have an impact on stuff. How do you do it? What are you going to do?
“This is a good time for a young team because these kids most of their life to this point, what have they thought about? Themselves. What did they dream about? Themselves. Now all of a sudden you’re put in this position where you can have an impact.
“It’s why I love the fact when I read about my guys in the league, in the NBA, not even those guys, even a Jon Hood, you see guys that maybe aren’t in the league, but you see what they’re doing in communities and how they’re being involved. I mean, this is the great thing about coaching here at Kentucky.
“I’ve got to be grateful. I told them that. Can you imagine, there’s no reason I should be the Kentucky coach. You had people try to stop me from getting this job. There is no reason I should be the Kentucky coach. And I am. Now all of a sudden we got 30, 40 kids in the NBA. We’re having an impact on kids’ lives and families.
“I shouldn’t be the coach. As a player, I was small, but I was slow. I’m coaching at Kentucky. I mean, for me, you know, just being thankful about that. I told them that. I’m able to put all of you on a stage where you have a chance to change the rest of your lives and the dimension of your family and the direction of your family by being in this program.
“I will tell you all to have a great day tomorrow. I’m going to say this on the radio, and hopefully you guys will do this. If you’re having Thanksgiving dinner, there’s got to be someone in your community that you know is alone. Either bring them food, knock on their door, or have them come to your house and eat. Got to be some woman, some mother, you know they’re alone.
“It’s a great thing about this state. I’ve never been anywhere that people have bigger hearts and make it about community. They don’t talk about a city, they talk about a county. That’s what it is.
“I would suggest to all of you, if you have a chance, bring somebody in your home. Make somebody else’s day. Take them food. Do something neat.”