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John Calipari: “We built this program to serve our players to help them reach their dreams.””

John Calipari (Keith Taylor/Kentucky Today)

By KEITH TAYLOR, Kentucky Today

LEXINGTON — It’s officially basketball time in the Bluegrass.

The University of Kentucky men’s and women’s basketball teams ushered in the 2019-20 season with the annual Big Blue Madness Friday night in new-look Rupp Arena Friday night. The upper side rows of the arena were converted to charity-back seating during the off-season, limiting capacity to 20,500 but as in the past, fans were lively as Kentucky unveiled its basketball teams to Big Blue Nation for the first time this season.

Legendary announcer Bruce Buffer introduced the Wildcats and John Calipari topped off the introductions with his annual “State of the Program” address.

The Kentucky coach, entering his 11th season at the helm, looked back at the first decade as he prepared for what he termed a “second tour.”

“We worked hard, together. We built trust, together. We became a family, together. We didn’t surrender to the pressure,” Calipari said. “We distinguished ourselves as we climbed atop the mountain of college basketball. Ten years ago, we said we would be a players-first program defined by integrity and purpose. We built this program to serve our players to help them reach their dreams.”

Calipari said the level of success at Kentucky “is crazy” and said could only be accomplished at Kentucky.

“The Big Blue Nation is more than a fan base,” he said. “You uplift this team, the commonwealth’s team. You’re the heartbeat of this team, Kentucky’s team. You, the greatest fans in the world, make this the greatest stage in college basketball. The Carnegie Hall of college athletics.”

As he looks ahead, Calipari asked what more could be accomplished and said the goal remains the same as it’s always been under his watch.

“What will we do next? What will we do in the next 10 years? How do we grow?,” he said. “How do we keep getting better? What will the big blue nation achieve, together, as we start this second tour? Our potential is limitless. The competition will be fierce, the road will be difficult. We need an entire nation — A Big Blue Nation — behind us as we start a new decade and continue to showcase why Kentucky will forever be the greatest tradition in college basketball. It’s on.”

Kentucky women’s basketball coach Matthew Mitchell performed a shortened-version of “Old Town Road” after his squad was introduced to the fans.

Both teams had a 3-point shooting contest and scrimmaged, while the men’s squad had a slam dunk competition.
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Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at or twitter @keithtaylor21.


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  1. Catmandoo you have a chance to back off your bet before the season gets started. I’m not a betting man but just trying help you. I like what this team can do.

    1. No way, this team will win 25 games and lose 10, but will not win any titles, nor make it to the Final 4.

      1. Cats79 is being much more generous than I.
        There is no way I’m letting you off the hook.
        I’m going to enjoy this.

        1. Well let’s check the facts. It took Billy D, the Catmandoo’s hero, 20 years to win two NC’s at Florida, with the same team mind you. His last team at Florida, before his adventure in the NBA, was a disaster. Calipari has won one NC in his first 10 years, so he is right on schedule if Donovan’s record is the standard. Calipari is a winner, a great recruiter, and a HOF coach. He now has young men on this team that have been at UK for two, three years. So, no OAD’s with several of his recruits. Why don’t we all take a deep breath and just wait and see what the next edition of the Calipari experience brings in 2019-20. Also, if honesty is in play here, Calipari has won his fair share of SEC titles and SEC tourney titles too while leading this program. There are a couple on here that better be careful what you wish for. It could be a whole lot worse.

  2. This team has a lot of shot makers, and you heard Hagans pick Allen over Maxey in the 3pt first round. When he gets healthy later in the year, it is going to be lights out on any team trying to pack it in on our front court. Maxey, Quickley, Sestina, Allen, and Juzang won’t all be off on one night. Admit I’m pumped and have my blue shades on, but it sure looks promising-Get em Cats.

  3. Loved it!!!! Wish I had a list of all the accomplishments Cal listed in his speech of the last ten years! GO CATS!!!

  4. Once again, Calipari prepares BBN to not be surprised when they win no titles this season. He is focused on helping kids get to the NBA.

    1. What a sad little man you are.

      1. Hornet, is that all you got? Yaawwwnnnn!

      2. Good one Hornet, Catmandoo could be history here real soon. He is nervous. You can tell by his posts.

  5. The goal here is to win titles, and that includes winning the SEC regular season championship, SEC Tournament championship, and the NCAA Championship.

    This is why the BBN is willing to pay a head coach the ridiculous amount of money we pool together every year to pay our coach, who happens to be Calipari at present.

    Calipari’s job is to win championships for this program. Plain and simple.

    If Calipari, and the players he brings into the program win championships, you know what, most of those kids who contributed to those championships will realize their individual dreams in spades.

    However, with Calipari, he has flipped priorities on its head, making championships secondary to movement through UK to the NBA in 1 or at most 2 years for all these kids.

    With the way the priorities ought to be, the movement of the players to their dreams is a logical progression from the achievement of the primary goal, winning these championships.

    However, with the priorities as Calipari makes them, the opposite is not true as we have witnessed for a decade.

    As a fan of almost 60 years, I want championships first.

    There is no other way for me today, yesterday, or tomorrow.

    1. Professor, what makes you think Calipari don’t want to win championships? Let’s check Calipari’s record. If I am right, in 10 years he has won six regular season SEC championships, and six SEC tourney championships. He has taken his teams to 4 final four appearances, and has 1 national championship. Notice, various championships are included in that record a lot, very impressive if one is honest. Had some of his teams, particularly the 2011-12 team, returned for another season or two, he probably would have another national championship or two to add to his record. He is a tireless recruiter, bringing in top talent to UK year in and year out. Are you advocating like Catmandoo that Calipari needs to go? It sort of sounds like you are. To that I say be careful whet you wish for.

  6. Professor,
    You and Mike are the only ones here who get it. I am guessing that all of the Rah Rahs here were so traumatized by Billy Clyde that they will be ok with winning a bunch of games even if no titles come with them….Barnhart is chief among them. He should be reminding Calipari that he works for the University of KY not the NBA. Calipari uses his players first philosophy as an excuse for not winning titles and the Rah Rahs are ok with that. After this season is over, there will be 2 less Rah Rahs here. Captain Rah Rah won’t take the bet, but getting rid of Hornet1 and Cats79 will be a start to bringing realistic posts back to this site.

  7. Pup,
    You should stick to football…you seem to be more in tune with that sport. As for basketball, you continue to demonstrate that you don’t have a clue about it. Donovan winning 2 back to back national titles at Florida…a football school.. would be like Stoops winning 2 back to back titles here at Kentucky. That won’t every happen. The fact that it did happen at Florida just goes to show Donovan’s skills as a recruiter and a coach. Calipari won a national title in spite of himself, but he will never do it again…here or anywhere else. He will be moving on in 3 more years and Donovan will be our next coach. Just get over it Captain Rah Rah…who didn’t have the stones to take my win or go home bet.

    1. Well let’s see Catmandoo, in his last Big Blue Madness speech Coach is talking about his next 10 years. Lets see, he never mentioned 2022. When Donovan wins as many career games as Calipari has, talk to me hero. He is not exactly setting the world on fire in the NBA either.\

      By the way tell us your number and when you played for the Cats. Let us see the evidence. I think you will be history on this site real soon. Hornet has your number. I want to be a thorn in your side on this site just in case you do win. Then we will only have too deal with one Troll.

      1. Pup… need to be considering going to charm school. Why would you want to see Catmandoo history on this sight? If it wasn’t for us, and a group of many others, you would continue to spread misinformation on this site.

  8. Wrong, I am fact based at all times, unlike you two weaklings on all things related to UK sports. What many others do you speak of? You better get your math right. Based on my count the only other regular participant on VV’s who agrees with The Catman on anything is you. But listen, If you believe all the Catmandoo’s BS about Calipari, go ahead and take the bet if you are dumb enough. You and him are joined at the hip anyway. You are just Catmandoo’s lackey go ahead, take the bet. We could eliminate two TROLLS at one time. It would be a great day on VV’s to throw you bums off here.

  9. Wow Catman, you made my day! I didn’t think I was being that effective. Take it easy man, you are about to blow a gasket. No, Mr. Larry V is not my Dad. Look, I will take it easier on you in the future, as Mr Larry V says, no more bashing Coach Cal, but it is hard not to love the guy as much as he has done for this UK basketball program. I long for the day when UK football can accomplish what Cal has in 10 years.

  10. I pray that Larry doesn’t deprive me of serving you a big platter of crow and a huge slice of humble pie.

    * PLEASE, Mr. Vaught…
    Don’t kick Catman off the site just when I have him where I want him.

    1. Hornet, I don’t think Larry V will, he is a fair man. He will be cordial to Catmandoo, as he has been to me. Larry V steps in when the bullets start flying on VV’s. He is a good Sheriff, keeping us all in line as best he can. I intend to treat these two special people, Mike and Catmandoo, with kindness and sympathy in the near future, as I always have tried very hard to do in the past. It would be nice to see if Mike will take the bet though. I see some benefit here if that were to actually happen. However, I don’t think he believes, AT ALL, in what the Catmandoo has laid out as the basis for the infamous bet, wagered by some on VV’s, and as it relates to the result of the coming 2019-20 basketball season. He has quickly parted company with the Catmandoo on that wild prediction it would seem. You got him Hornet, you are to be commended here. You called him on it, Your the man. You and the great Cats79. Now Catmandoo’s only recourse is to strike back in rage and anger at not only me, but Larry V himself. I will try my best to withstand his wild predictions, hard as that is. He has the right to express himself and equally to be wrong on this site as well, and I will just have to painfully endure his comments as best I can in the future. I intend to be on my best behavior starting today. GO CATS!!!!.

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