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Cal’s Books

Players First: Success From the Inside Out

Players First: Coaching From the Inside Out

The legendary — and legendarily candid — University of Kentucky basketball coach opens up as he never has before about what separates good teams and coaches from bad ones and about the things that are seriously awry in today’s college game. In Players First, a New York Times Best Seller, John Calipari relates for the first time anywhere his experiences over his first four years coaching the Kentucky Wildcats, college basketball’s most fabled program, from the doldrums to a national championship, drawing lessons about leadership, character, and the path to personal and collective victory. At its core, Calipari’s coaching philosophy centers on keeping his focus on the players — what they need to get the best out of themselves and one another. He is beloved by his players for being utterly honest with them, not by making promises, but by making commitments that he always keeps. He knows that in this age, they come to Kentucky to prepare for the NBA; every year he gets players who in a previous era would have gone directly into the pros from high school but now have to play college basketball for one year. Calipari has fought against this system, but he has to play within it, and so he does, better than anyone. The result is an extraordinary leadership challenge: every year Coach Cal gets a handful of eighteen-year-old kids who have been in a bubble for the previous four years at least, filled with hype about their own greatness, and most come to Kentucky feeling sure that they will play for their coach only for seven months before they go on to greater glory. Every year, he has to reinvent his team. After his 2012 NCAA championship, it was particularly dramatic; he lost his first six players in the NBA Draft, meaning that someone who couldn’t even start for Kentucky was a draft pick. The overall record at Kentucky, and for his career, puts Calipari in the pantheon of the greatest coaches in the history of the game. Bold, funny, and truthful, like Coach Calipari himself, Players First is truly the first deep reckoning with the meaning of his experiences and the gifts of insight they offer.


Refuse To Lose

Having worked as an assistant at Kansas and Pitt, Calipari took over the basketball program at the University of Massachusetts in 1988, after the school had recorded 10 straight losing seasons. Adopting the motto that he and coauthor Weiss (Full Court Pressure) also use for this conventional autobiography, Calipari proved himself a fine motivator of young players and an astute manipulator of television to publicize UMass’s increasingly successful organization. Each year, his teams improved on the record of the previous season, climaxing in 1996, when his players had a 35-2 record, were ranked first in the nation for much of the season and went to the NCAA’s Final Four. The star, Marcus Camby, was judged the best in the nation, and Calipari himself was chosen coach of the year by at least four court groups.


Basketball’s Half-Court Offense

Whether your team is trying to win its first game of the high school season or preparing to take the floor for the national championship, you need to have a multitude of options for your offense. John Calipari brings winning one step closer with his tried-and-true collection of offensive plays. Presented in an easy-to-follow format with diagrams for reference, this book is a must for coaches looking to optimize their half-court game. John Calipari took the basketball program at the University of Massachusetts from one of the country’s worst and made it into one of the elite, a program with legitimate national championship aspirations. A new state-of-the-art facility, the perpetually sold-out William D. Mullins Center; five straight Atlantic 10 regular-season titles; five straight A-10 Tourney titles; five straight NCAA appearances; trips to the Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight; and 1996′s trip to the Final Four sent a clear message to the basketball world: besides developing some outstanding UMass teams, John Calipari also built a winning program. He has also served as head coach of the New Jersey Nets.