Kentucky’s Coach Cal: A Leadership Role Model?

Posted 04.04.2012

So, I got an e-mail yesterday from my brother, Steve. He’s a University of Kentucky grad and was the student manager for the basketball team during the Joe B. Hall era. These days, he’s the newly promoted CEO of a hospital in North Carolina.

Being a rabid Wildcat fan, he was miffed that on the morning after UK won the national men’s championship, my blog post was not about Coach John Calipari and his team. First, I pleaded a lack of time to write the post on such short notice and later I wrote back that there are a lot of folks out there who, in the era of one-and-done college hoops players, may not hold Coach Cal up as a leadership role model.

Steve begged to differ and offered what I think is a strong case for the coach. So, with his permission and in his own words, here’s why my brother thinks Coach Cal is a leader worth emulating:

Cal took a bunch of young stars from high school who always had the spotlight on them, and taught them to ‘check their individual star at the door,’ for the sake of the team. They were selfless, shared the ball and the spotlight, learned how to communicate with each other and help each other during the game, and they stayed in the moment. Everyone was a 20 points plus average scorer in high school and the “it” guy. In college, they all sacrificed their points (I think the highest average was 14 plus, and SIX of them averaged double figures) in order to make the team the most efficient it could be.

Quite a bit of mind melding considering five of the six key players are 18 or 19 years old.

I’ve seen several interviews with Calipari about his coaching philosophy. has quite a few in their video archives. While his x and o system might be a little complicated, his philosophy isn’t:

Focus on us, not the opponent … just keep getting better
Play for each other … no selfishness
Have fun

As for the haters and the one and done thing…

It’s the NBA’s rule, not Cal’s. He hates the rule, but he’s adjusted to the environment in which he lives. His choice is to 1) recruit the best players, teach them about team, achieve great things, and help them achieve personal dreams, or 2) he can recruit lesser players and be mediocre.

I know I sound like a groupie, but the guy is a brilliant team builder and motivator.

So, that’s Steve’s analysis. As you can tell, he’s just a little bit passionate on the topic. I’m certainly not going to argue with him (at least in public).

What do you think? Is Coach Cal a leadership role model?