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Calipari constantly shows that he knows how to connect with Kentucky fans

Vaught’s note: Kentucky fan Rene Cornett (@Rene81 on Twitter) is now a contributor for vaughtsviews.com. See more of her work at her blog rambler-in-blue.tumblr.com. She will be writing about Big Blue Madness camp out, Big Blue Madness and more in the coming weeks.


I love Coach Cal and if you know me at all, this will come as no surprise. He is the man in my eyes. He gets and understands Kentucky fans like no one ever has before. He understands our total devotion to our team and respects it. He sees 5,000 of us waiting on him after a game just to listen to his radio interview and maybe get an autograph on our basketball and he tells us thank you for waiting. He is humble. He is stubborn. He has high standards and goals and when he speaks you hang on his every word. He demands attention and it’s warranted. He caters to no one and he is brutally honest. He speaks out against the NCAA and we cheer him on for it. He is our coach and I’m so thankful. He is my hero.

Getting to meet someone you look up to so much is a wonderful thing and I’ve been lucky enough to meet Cal a few times. He’s always been incredibly nice to me and everyone else there. He is extremely charismatic and he can work a crowd like no one else. That’s the Cal you don’t hear enough about. That’s the side of Cal the naysayers ignore. The side they need to ignore. It makes it easier for them to say and write horrible things about him. Another historic season is upon us and I’m already readying myself to hear the onslaught of hateful comments about him. I’m here to tell you, ignore them. I’m here to say, he’s not that guy and here’s why.

The first time I met Cal it was after Kentucky’s 2010 loss to Tennessee at Knoxville. Let me tell you, Cal was not happy. He infamously punched his metal clipboard after that game and I saw his scrapped up knuckles to prove it. That didn’t stop him from walking out of Thompson and into the crowd of UK fans that awaited him and greet every single one with a smile. He was great. I held out my hand and as he walked by, he stopped and shook it and I immediately blurted out, “Thank you for being our coach. I love you.”

Talk about mouth diarrhea, that’s the epitome of it, right? Not to Cal, he looked me right in the eyes, smiled and said, “Thank you for being here today.” I almost passed out. Cal spoke to me. He shook my hand. I literally screamed and ran all the way to the car. I was so happy. The coach of Kentucky thanked me, who does that? John Calipari, that’s who.

A few years later, I was lucky enough to meet Cal on the trophy tour after Kentucky won the championship in 2012. We went to the Hazard stop of the tour and it was so crowded. People were everywhere and we stood in line for the longest just to get our picture taken with Cal, Ellen, John Robic and that glorious trophy. Cal was so happy. He was shaking hands, chatting with everyone and doing what he does best, making Big Blue Nation feel appreciated. I watched him take pics with every police officer that was there and tell them thank you. I also watched those grown men have smiles bigger than the kids there after. I watched him see a boy in a wheelchair, go to him and wheel him over to be in the picture.I also watched that boy’s face light up when he did so. It was wonderful. It was heartwarming and I’ll never forget it.

My latest meeting with Cal, maybe my favorite. My son attended one of Cal’s satellite camps and it was an awesome day. We lined up to get Cal’s autograph and our picture taken first thing. After doing so, we made our way back to the bleachers and took a seat, only to watch Cal greet everyone else that came through the line. He was so nice. He chatted, smiled , high fived, shook hands and hugged so many people. It was great to witness.

The best was yet to come, though. We watched a child’s grandmother walk out onto to the court to meet Cal. She was so precious. Cal immediately hugged her and proceeded to talk with her. She kept her hand on his arm the whole time and he let her. He laughed with her as if they were old friends. She was beaming with happiness and so was I just from watching. It was a blessing to see. It was a moment I’ll never forget. A moment that truly epitomizes just how Kentucky basketball transcends all age groups. It was Cal at his finest.

That’s the John Calipari, I love. The man that no matter how famous or how much money he makes never forgets that it’s the fans that make Kentucky basketball so special. You can’t fake that. He is that man. He lives it everyday and he shows it every time he comes in contact with Big Blue Nation.

Remember that this season when people say he’s dirty, a cheater and he doesn’t care. Remember he really does and that’s what the naysayers can’t stand. That’s what keeps them up at night cursing Calipari. They know he’s a good guy and they are jealous. Jealous of Cal, jealous of UK and jealous of Big Blue Nation because they wish they were a part of it. They wish that was their school in the spotlight. Their coach smiling from ear to ear because his team just won and their fan base living in the afterglow of it all. We are UK and we’re not going anywhere. Cal’s our coach and he’s the best. Remember that always, wear it as a badge of honor and most of all enjoy next season.It’s going to be a great one, cause my coach says so.

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  1. Larry Pup

    Great article. I say Mark Stoops too.

  2. TrueBlueJohn

    From the very first press conference when Mitch Barnhart introduced him as the next coach, I said to myself, “This guy really gets it. He understands what Kentucky basketball is all about.” Here it is going into his fifth season as coach, and my opinion has never changed. On top of everything else, he is a humanitarian. How many millions has he raised for charity? How many other coaches have done as much?

    National media notwithstanding, Cal is a good guy, and I am proud to have him as coach and ambassador for UK.

  3. Larry T Clemons

    Coach Cal is here for BBN also and is Proud to Coach Kentucky….” His Dream Job “. He feels how You feel….Excited to be here and Blessed to have You, Rene… Great Story, Thank You. We Got Lucky @ Kentucky to Get Coach Cal and Coach Orlando Antiqua.

  4. King Ghidora

    Cal understands the BBN better than any coach I’ve ever seen except maybe Rupp himself. Hall knew the score but remember, his teams were thought of as too deliberate. He didn’t seem to care that the fans wanted fast paced basketball. After all the whole tradition was built on the fast break. Rupp practically invented the fast break and everyone who ever played basketball in Kentucky knows just how the Rupp style break works. You have the rebounder pass the ball to a wing who passes it to the PG in the center of the floor and you have two guys (whichever two get there first) fill lanes on both sides of the foul lane and you have a trailer and a guy who hangs back to be a defender just in case. It’s so much of a classic that most people don’t know that Rupp invented it.

    Cal is practically the perfect coach for UK. I’d like to see players staying longer just like everyone else but it isn’t fair to the players to pressure them to stay. Cal could be seen as someone who lets players go to easily but IMO he is doing the right thing. Plus it means he will be at the top of the recruiting charts year after year since the recruits know Cal won’t stand in their way. A lot of other coaches do pressure players to stay longer than they should. To me that is so selfish out of the coaches it’s mind boggling. How can they ask players to stay and make more money for the coaches instead of leaving and making more money for themselves? I don’t get that. I will never get that. Cal is the top recruiter because he knows to do what’s best for his players. That plus he’s dead honest and a great coach.

    UK is very, very lucky to have such a great coach. BTW I love how he sticks it to the NCAA too. If ever a group needed it the NCAA is that group.

  5. Ca72ts

    Larry, I went to school when the games were played in Memorial Coliseum, the students arrived early and would enjoy a freshman game and the varsity game. But the most important thing was the the students would always greet Cawood with a cheer of “Hello Cawood”, and then when Coach Rupp would come out for warm-ups there would be a cheer of “Hello Adolf” I believe, I can not remember what we used to say for Coach Rupp. Coach Rupp as well as Cawood would always smile and wave to the students. If Happy Chandler was at the game then the students would cheer “Hello Happy” and he always gave a big smile and a large wave. My point is could we revive that tradition. A hello to Pat Riley, a player for Coach Rupp and radio announcer, a hello to “Coach Cal” and if Joe B is in attendance then a “Hello Joe”. It would be a great cheer for the Eruption Zone students and I can picture Coach Cal giving a big wave and smile. Joe B. would love it I believe. But since I live in Florida I am not sure how to get this started. Any ideas?

  6. LindaS

    Mitch hit a home run on this when he offered Cal the job. You could not ask for more. He gets it. He wanted this job for over 20 years. If he had been offered the job when Tubby left we would not have had 2 years of hell. Those two years almost cost us our tradition and our winning streak record. Thank you Mitch for getting the right person, but thank you Cal for being the coach, the man and the human being you are. We could not ask for more!

  7. Love SEC F-Ball

    Great article, Rene. Really enjoyed it.

  8. Kokamo Joe

    Calipari is a master. He says the right things at the right time. He communicates with people. For example, my wife and I took our grandchild to the Calipari camp at Boyle County High school. We stood in line with the 5 year old child and his UK basketball until Calipari was approached. The child came forward for the picture. Calipari had a staff person using our cameras to take the pictures that we all wanted. Calipari looked at the child and motioned to us to join the picture, then he said “come on grandma” and we did.

    Mostly he keeps us excited with winning and year around recruiting news. What other coach can win a national title one year and have a horrible year the next year and still be viewed as a rock star?

  9. Season Never Ends

    Nice work Rene!!!

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