Coach Calipari wanted to share the notes from his speech delivered at Friday night’s Dick Vitale Gala in Sarasota with the Big Blue Nation. Here are those notes:
• Coach Brown, thank you for that gracious introduction. Let me start by thanking Dick and Lorraine for having me be a part of this gala and thanks to the Jimmy V Foundation that I’ve been a part of for a while and all that you do for all of us.
• Fellow honorees, Nick, you’re still jumping out of planes, you’re amazing. One of the great teachers in any sport. And Roy, who’s been a good friend of mine. You just continue to prepare young people and win with class. I sit in amazement as I watch you do your work. To be here with you two, is an honor in itself.
• You may have noticed my wife Ellen is not here today. This came at a bad weekend, my 14-year old son is playing AAU basketball. Her choice was to watch her son as she said to me, “Play basketball, or sit there and watch me talk about myself.” She chose to go watch her son.
• When I talk about my wife and family. I’d be remiss if I didn’t thank our extended family – which is our players, past and present. So let me thank them right now. All of the young men and their families who have put faith in Ellen and me to help raise their children and help them reach their dreams.
• Let me also thank ESPN who has been a part of every program where I’ve coached. We were the first to do a midnight game. We did made-for-television games; they had us playing in different events in different parts of the country. And we were one of the first they did “behind the scenes/all-access,” features with. You’ve always been there, you’ve helped me build every program that I’ve been involved with I thank you.
• When Dick asked me if I would be a part of this gala, little did I know that four months later that my mother would be diagnosed with cancer and that eight months later that she would be gone. So I’m going to take this time to tell you a little bit about my mom, who was a strong one, absolutely the driving force behind our family, no disrespect dad. Her mission was to make sure her three children would be the first college educated in our family, and she did that. She always did more with less. We never knew we didn’t have a lot because we had what we needed. The biggest thing she always she taught all of us and she taught me was, ‘Dream big dreams. You cannot be afraid to think beyond where you are right now. You have to dream big to be big,’ – she hit on that all the time. I was so lucky to have her as my mother.
• My dad, who’s here today – where are you dad? – and my mom were married 54 years. He was the grinder, the provider, did double-shifts so I wouldn’t have to miss out on camps, or he could replace worn out shoes and never missed a day of work, ever. Thanks, Dad. So glad you are here.
• We’ve all heard the expression, ‘you are the sum of all those you have come in contact with” . . . You look around this ballroom and I owe many. I’ve got to recognize some people here and I hate to do it because I know I’m going to leave some people off but it’s important that I do. My high school coach is here, Bill Sacco. My college coach is here, Joe DeGregorio. They have not missed any event whether it’s been a big game or I’ve been honored or whatever … in different cities wherever it is. They’ve always been there and they’ve shown me, how, when you coach a player they’re always a part of your life. They’re here today.
• All the assistant coaches, that are here today that coached with me and went on to become head coaches, or played for me and became head coaches or assistant coaches that are here. Athletic directors, let me thank those guys. Bob Marcum is here, from my days all the way back at UMass. R.C. Johnson, Mitch Barnhart. My good friend of 20-some years, William Wesley. Leon Smith from CAA, who is always just a phone call away. Marty Jacobson who was the first alum that invested in a program that I coached. He helped us build a locker room at UMass. Bob Rotella, who’s been my mental coach for all my teams including me. After he spends an hour with me, he goes back to Charlottesville and sees a psychiatrist. Mike Gottfried is here, who’s been a dear friend and mentor over the years. He was the head coach at Pitt while I was an assistant at Pitt. And we’ve got some people here who have been so instrumental in what we’re trying to do and where we’re trying to take Kentucky. Dr. Pearse Lyons, Joe Craft and Tom Arington. All in their own way have stretched my thinking and my vision for this program.
• Then there’s Coach Brown, who if he did not take me on as an assistant when I was 23 years old and thought I knew everything, none of this happens. Coach, without you, the opportunities my family and my children have gotten would have been for not. So, I thank you.
• Now as I get older, life becomes less about me and more about everyone around me. It’s about players reaching their dreams, assistants becoming head coaches, support staff growing their families and also helping the Big Blue Nation realize their dreams. It’s about causes that move me, like this one.
• In many ways I’ve become a vehicle to help others reach their dreams. But that’s only right because I’ve had so many people stoke the flame for me and I now understand why they felt so good doing that.
• There is one person I haven’t mentioned yet who came here today from Lexington. He is THE only person allowed into my practices wearing anything red.
Rick Corman, where are you? Please stand up.
I want to share a little bit of Rick’s story with everyone – I’d encourage you all to find the Fortune magazine article written about Rick this past March to learn more of his amazing journey that began while working for his grandfather at the age of 11!
Rick won’t mind me telling you this – he’s hardly even a basketball fan. He’s got other interests, mainly his beautiful children and his close friends – of which he has many. Ellen and I met Rick the night before I accepted the job at Kentucky as he flew us into town. Immediately we were both taken by this soft-spoken, generous man. As I got to know him more, it became apparent that he was more than just a hugely successful businessman and proud father – he’s a survivor. A true survivor.
You see, Rick has multiple myeloma, an incurable form of this awful disease we are rallying against tonight. While his cancer is incurable it is NOT in-survivable. Ten years after the initial diagnosis, Rick continues to fight on.
We have laughed together, we have talked together, we have prayed together and we have cried together. Rick – thank you for the inspiration you provide to all of us and thank you for embodying the spirit of Jimmy V’s everlasting message – Don’t ever give up.
• In closing, earlier this week I relayed to the Big Blue Nation that I NEVER want to be JUST a basketball coach. I coach basketball and it’s my profession but it’s not who I am. But, we can use our positions to come together on nights like this for a very worthy cause. It’s the people we touch through this game and those who we will touch tonight who feel moved to do something to help us fight this dreaded disease. Mom, I love you. Thank you.