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By LARRY VAUGHT
Now that heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s taken three different schools to a Final Four, it would be almost natural to assume that Kentucky coach John Calipari would feel FinalÃ‚Â Four appearances can validate a coachÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s resume, especially a young coach like he was when he took Massachusetts in 1996.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I don’t think you ever feel validated in this profession because this is kind of like golf. You think you’ve got it figured out, you get humbled real quick. I followed up that Final Four, within a year and a half I was fired in New Jersey (as coach of the New Jersey Nets).Ã‚Â So I don’t know if it validated anything. Obviously it made me feel good at the time,Ã¢â‚¬Â said Calipari.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“But this is a humbling profession. It’s very, very hard. It can be very rewarding, but it also could be one of those things that you get slapped in the mouth when you really think I got this figured out. I do not have this figured out. One of the reasons we lost six close games in our league is I was trying to figure it out with my team. We wanted to put it on individual players. It wasn’t about our team.Ã‚Â We didn’t know how to finish a game yet because I hadn’t figured out my team yet.Ã¢â‚¬Â
That changed not only as the players started believing they could win, but also as Calipari made changes to help the team play better and get him back to another Final Four.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“What you feel is blessed and lucky and fortunate because there are so many coaches in our profession who are as good as they get that have never been to a Final Four, but they’re unbelievable coaches. Sometimes it’s luck. Other times it’s the situation they’re in,Ã¢â‚¬Â Calipari said.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“What I take grade pride in is players at each of those programs have done well and gone on to do well.Ã‚Â You think about not only my young kids that everyone talks about, Josh HarrellsonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s life has changed, so has DeAndre Liggins and Darius Miller. They’ve now put themselves on a different trajectory. I’m as proud of that as anything I’ve done with a team.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Calipari remembers when he got to UK and that not everyone liked when he noted it would be a Ã¢â‚¬Å“players-first programÃ¢â‚¬Â because that was his belief.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Some people were angry about that. I look at this and say if we can do right by these young people, then they’ll do right by us and we’ll accomplish as a program what we’re trying to accomplish. But we’ve got to do right by them. We’ve got to help them reach their dreams, too.Ã‚Â During the season it’s about team, after the season it’s about each individual player,Ã¢â‚¬Â Calipari said.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“It’s a neat thing. I never thought about it that way, like I don’t do this by numbers, how many wins. I’m just coaching these guys. I try to stay focused on them. If you’re worried about numbers, if you’re worried about all that other stuff, I think it takes us off point of why we do what we do, which is trying to help young people get from Point A to Point B, and in some cases get from Point A to Paint Z. That’s all I’m trying to do.Ã¢â‚¬Â