Brad Calipari says competing with NBA-level talent demands the best he has to give
As an aspiring coach, Brad Calipari has a front-row seat — literally as well as figuratively — to learn the professional do’s and don’ts as his father guides Kentucky’s program.
It seems safe to assume that he can emulate plenty of do’s given how John Calipari is a Hall of Fame coach. But are there any don’ts?
“I don’t think so,” Brad said before his inherited sense of humor kicked in. “Maybe not jump and scream as much, probably. And not age as fast.”
Setting aside that gray area, the younger Calipari does not intend to begin his coaching career after his UK playing days end after the 2019-20 season. He wants to continue playing.
“Somewhere overseas or whatever it is,” he said.
Perhaps surprisingly, Brad Calipari said he has not been concentrating on watching how his father and opposing coaches do their jobs. He suggested that instinct plays a part in coaching and he has benefited from a kind of osmosis that must be the product of growing up in a basketball environment.
“When I was in high school, my coaches would kind of tell me, ‘This seems natural,’” he said. “That some of the things I say, most players wouldn’t have the IQ to understand or see in the game. I think just having that natural ability, being around (John Calipari) for so many years, it’s just kind of good to have.
“Once the time comes and I really have to start preparing for it, I’ll start looking into it more. But, for now, I haven’t been thinking about it too much.”
On occasion, coaches have to handle pointed questions from reporters. Here’s one for Brad: If someday his son wants to play for him, what would he tell his son?
“You’ve got to work for it,” Brad Calipari said. “You’ve got to show me you can play here. I think that’s exactly what (John Calipari) did with me. He saw that I could play with some of these guys.”
Two examples from UK basketball’s past show that sons playing for fathers can be problematic. Sean Sutton and Saul Smith playing for Eddie Sutton and Tubby Smith, respectively, disgruntled some fans.
Each seemed to validate Al McGuire’s famous assessment of sons playing for fathers: It has the best chance to be problem free if the son is a star (think Allan Houston) or a low-profile player. Brad Calipari fits the latter category. Perhaps just to be safe, his father has repeatedly used humor to defuse any criticism.
Although some fans implore him to shoot whenever he enters a game, Brad Calipari does not yield to the temptation to please the crowd. He stays within the confines of a team approach. His father says his son wants to play basketball, not be a novelty act.
In that vein, Brad Calipari said he has made marked improvement in his first two UK seasons. His ball handling and level of conditioning are much better, he said.
Practicing against and with NBA-bound players set the stage for personal improvement, Brad Calipari said. So, too, did the trips he made to Europe the past two summers with teams representing the Global Sports Academy.
An eternal question hangs over players like Brad Calipari. Do they ever wonder about the choice to be on the Kentucky team versus actually playing — and perhaps starring — at a lower level?
“It’s gone through the back of my head one or two times,” Brad Calipari said. “But at the end of the day, I know why I chose to come here. And I think, at the end of the day, it’s still in my best interest to come here.”
About this series
This is the 11th in a series of 13 stories featuring members of the 2018-19 University of Kentucky men’s basketball team. Watch for all 13 in the coming days in the Herald-Leader and on Kentucky.com.