John Calipari started his head-coaching career in the New England area. Though it’s far from over, his remarkable career will be recognized this weekend where it all got started at the New England Hall of Fame.
Coach Cal, a former head coach at Massachusetts, is one of a number of New England basketball figures that will be inducted into the New England Basketball Hall of Fame on Saturday in Worcester, Mass. The New England Basketball Hall of Fame recognizes people whose excellence has contributed to the rich legacy of New England basketball.
Although Calipari has won more than 500 collegiate games, a national championship and made four Final Fours, he will be recognized Saturday primarily for his achievements and contributions at UMass. From the 1998-89 season until 1995-96, Calipari guided a struggling program at UMass to the top of college basketball.
At 29, when he was named head coach, Calipari began building a program from the ground up, going 10-18 his first season before posting a 17-14 record his second year (receiving a bid to the National Invitation Tournament). The Minutemen won their first A-10 championship in 1992 with a 30-5 record, including a 13-3 mark in league play. With a 77-71 overtime win over Syracuse in an East Regional second-round game, UMass made its first NCAA Sweet 16 appearance.
From there, the program skyrocketed under Coach Cal.
Overall, Calipari compiled a 193-71 record (.731) during his eight-year career at Massachusetts, including a 108-44 mark (.684) in Atlantic 10 play. In addition to five straight NCAA Tournaments and a Final Four appearance in 1996, UMass also made two appearances in the NIT, advancing to the NIT semifinals in 1991. The 1990-91 season was the first of six straight seasons in which the Minutemen won at least 20 games.
In his final season at UMass, Calipari was named the 1996 Naismith National Coach of the Year and The Sporting News National Coach of the Year. He was also named the Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year for the third time in four years, as well as Basketball Times East Region Coach of the Year.
During the Minutemen’s 35-2 Final Four season in 1995-96, UMass posted wins over Kentucky, Maryland, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, Syracuse, Virginia Tech and Louisville. UMass ended the regular season ranked No. 1 in the nation in the final regular-season poll after being the top-ranked team for nine weeks earlier in the year. The Minutemen also won their first 26 games of the season, setting a school record for most consecutive wins.
In addition to his National Coach of the Year honors in 1996, Calipari was a Naismith Coach of the Year finalist in 1994 and 1995. He was the USBWA District I Coach of the Year in 1993.
Since its inaugural induction ceremony in 2002, the New England Basketball of Fame has welcomed hundreds of new members. The event – which is as much a reunion as it is a ceremony – has become one of the largest sports dinners in America. At the last ceremony, the event welcomed more than 1,600 people and was a sellout. The 2013 event is expected to be a sellout.
For more information, visit nebasketballhalloffame.com.