By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky coach John Calipari will be the keynote speaker at the Henry Iba Citizen Athlete Awards on June 3 in Tulsa.
“We have had the big names of college basketball as well as baseball and football here,” said Greg Kach, chairman of the Iba Athlete Awards for the Rotary Club of Tulsa. “I don’t know John personally, but I know his reputation as a giver and someone that likes to be involved in the community.”
Calipari’s foundation has raised millions of dollars to help people in need. In 2010 and 2012, he used telethons to raise money for victims of an earthquake in Haiti and Hurricane Sandy.
“John falls right in that sweet spot for us. The guy has got history and is a guy about having athletes that are good citizens and is a real humanitarian. We are thrilled he was nice enough to fit this into his schedule. He told us he is looking forward to it,” Kach said.
The Iba Awards are named in memory of the former Oklahoma State basketball coach and three-time U.S. Olympic coach who died in 1993. The Rotary Club of Tulsa paid tribute to Iba by creating an award to annually recognize male and female athletes who excel in their sport and who have shown by their actions a desire to help others. This year’s male recipient of the Iba Citizen Athlete Award will be Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson and the female winner is Swin Cash of the WNBA Chicago Sky forward and a two-time gold dedal winning member of the USA Olympic women’s basketball team.
“This is one of the great events that honors one of the great coaches of our time,” Calipari said. “Coach Iba defined basketball coaching with the way his teams played and the class that he showed. I’m honored to be a part of the night and look forward to celebrating athletes who exemplify the highest degree of citizenship and who would have made coach Iba proud.”
Calipari will be an Iba Awards speaker one year removed from leading the nation’s winningest college basketball program to an eighth national championship. In winning his first national title, he fortified his status as one of the top coaching figures in college basketball.
Calipari will become the second Kentucky coach to serve as an Iba Awards speaker. Tubby Smith was the keynote speaker in 2002 when he was coaching the Wildcats. Other former speakers include Mike Krzyzewski, Lou Holtz, Dick Vitale, Tommy Lasorda, Bill Bradley, Tom Osborne, Paul Tagliabue, Rick Reilly, Roy Williams, Tim Brando, Steve Rushin, Archie Manning, J.C. Watts, Bill Self, Jeff Capel, Scott Brooks, Bob Knight and Danny Manning.
Kach had several connections to held land Calipari. Kach is friends with Joe Craft, a long-time UK basketball supporter, and former UK coach Eddie Sutton is the Iba Athlete Award advisory committee chairman.
“Those doors opened the way for us to get coach Calipari,” Kach said. “His plate was full after they won the national championship (in 2012) and he told us then he would try to come the next year. Part of his responsibility in coming will be to help us recruit and nominate for next year.
“He’ll talk about the benefits for being a good role model and giving back. He’ll talk about good citizenship and being involved in the community,” Kach said. “He will address things about an athlete’s responsibility long after he retires and remembers an award like this and what it means.”