Calipari focused on the now, not legacy

John Calipari

With one more win tonight in the national championship game against Connecticut, John Calipari can join Adolph Rupp as the only Kentucky coaches to win multiple titles with the Wildcats. And guess what? Calipari says he could not care less.

With one more win tonight in the national championship game against Connecticut, John Calipari can join Adolph Rupp as the only Kentucky coaches to win multiple titles with the Wildcats.

And guess what?

Calipari says he could not care less.

"This is about the joy that these guys up here will get," the UK boss said. "I've had a heckuva career, and I've been blessed. I'm now at a school that I can help kids more than I've ever helped any kids that I've ever coached, and families. I'm appreciative of this opportunity."

Rupp won four titles (1948, 1949, 1951 and 1958) during his Hall of Fame career at UK. Joe B. Hall won the championship in 1978; Rick Pitino and Tubby Smith in 1996 and 1998, respectively. Calipari recorded his first in 2012. No other program has had five different coaches win championships, and Calipari can set himself apart from the post-Rupp pack with his second title.

Among current college coaches, only Pitino, Roy Williams, Billy Donovan and Mike Krzyzewski own multiple championship rings. All will one day be in the Hall of Fame, and Calipari could be poised to join them.

"However that plays out for me, time will tell," Calipari said. "Twenty years, 50 years, they will look back at the job I've done. But what I'm doing right now, let me do right by them."

That can sometimes be hard to do at a program which embraces tradition like no other. The past may not mean as much to Calipari as the Big Blue Nation, but this year's Wildcats have conjured memories of the great teams of yesteryear – The Fabulous Five (1948), The Fiddlin' Five (‘58), Rupp's Runts (‘66), The Unforgettables (‘92), The Untouchables (‘96), The Comeback Cats (‘98).

If the Cats cut down the nets Monday night in AT&T Stadium, this team will surely have a nickname of its own, but their coach remains focused on the here and now -- and the next step -- rather than nostalgia.

"Look, the one thing I don't do a good job of is look back," Calipari said. "The guys that have played for me know I just keep looking forward. I really don't have a rearview mirror in my car. I'm just looking that way. So for these guys, I keep saying, our destiny is out ahead of us, this team, because we're still getting better today, like let's get better in today's practice."

Asked if this particular team has earned a special place in his heart, Calipari added: "However this plays out, when I'm done coaching, I may look back and say, ‘Well…' But I'll be honest with you, every year is special in its own right. You're dealing with someone's children. You're not dealing with adults. You're dealing with children of someone who has entrusted you with their children to help them get where they need to go, help them reach their dreams and help them grow as men and understand what they're trying to do.

"Then all these parents, they want me to say, look, it's not about money and fame, it's about how you give back, what you do, how do you make an impact on other people, and we try to do that. These guys have been a great example of that."

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