More than One Shining Moment
When the final horn sounded ending the 2011-2012 season the Kentucky Wildcats stood as NCAA Tournament Champions.
Kentucky’s thirteen players, Coach John Calipari, assistant coaches and all of those involved in Kentucky athletics celebrated on the floor many other celebrations took place elsewhere.
Twitter exploded as former Kentucky players, former Calipari players, and many others used the social media to send out congratulations and to celebrate the Kentucky victory. ESPN reported a few of those tweets in its broadcast, but fell well short of telling the full story.
Included among those that followed the current edition of the Wildcats throughout this season were the players who spent only one season on a college campus. These players that have been erroneously portrayed as basketball mercenaries looked upon the current squad as brothers. Those same players are extremely loyal to their former coach, and look at Calipari as more than a former coach. That is a theme that has been consistent with Calipari throughout much of his career.
This relationship is not a one way street; the loyalty is reciprocated by the coach.
Calipari was asked after the game about winning the national championship and what it did for him.
The Kentucky coach was quick to jump on the question.
“This is not about me. This is about these 13 players. This is about the Big Blue Nation.”
The less observant and the less knowledgeable, or in some instances those with an ax to grind, will claim that Calipari’s comments were contrived.
Those who have witnessed Calipari’s work at Kentucky, or at his other stops, know that Calipari’s words described his feelings. The words were not just placed out there for media consumption.
Darius Miller gave voice to the sense of responsibility Calipari instilled in his team, the sense of brotherhood the players felt.
Miller said, “The sacrifices that people have made on this team, means a lot. We’ve grown as brothers.”
On the court the Kentucky players consistently picked each other up throughout the season. If a player made a mistake his teammates made extra effort to make up for the error.
Several examples point to this from the championship game.
A bad pass into the post late in the game was hard for Terrence Jones to handle. Instead of letting the ball go out on the baseline and let a teammate take the heat for a bad pass Jones made a herculean effort and ultimately saved the possession for his team through the effort.
A second example occurred as Kansas was attempting a comeback in the final minutes. Anthony Davis recognized that Elijah Johnson had gotten free from the Kentucky defender. As Johnson began his shooting motion Davis ran out to challenge the shot, forcing the Johnson walk, and in the process erasing a teammates mistake.
Not only did the Kentucky players play for each other, but they also were playing for their coach, and the Big Blue Nation.
Miller said, “We loved winning this for Coach Cal and everybody in Kentucky.”
The way Calipari’s players feel about him was clearly evident as the team was gathered around the Naismith Championship Trophy and they reached down and tussled Cal’s hair as pictures were taken. The scene was caught on video in “One Shining Moment.”
It was not so much the act, but the look on the faces of the players that gives away the way these Kentucky players feel about their coach. Those looks of love said, “Coach, this is for you.”