Players First

Players First Cover

Players First

Coaching from the Inside Out

By John Calipari; Michael Sokolove

Penguin Press, Hardcover, 9781594205736, 276pp.

Publication Date: April 15, 2014

"If you are a college basketball fan like I am, you ll understand why I ve long admired John Calipari's leadership style. While no coach treasures a win more than John, this terrific book reveals his greater purpose to lead his young players to better lives, and then challenge them to give back to others." President William J. Clinton
In "Players First," John Calipari relates for the first time anywhere his experiences over his first four years coaching the Kentucky Wildcats, college basketball's most fabled program, from the doldrums to a national championship, drawing lessons about leadership, character, and the path to personal and collective victory.
At its core, Calipari's coaching philosophy centers on keeping his focus on the players what they need to get the best out of themselves and one another. He is beloved by his players for being utterly honest with them and making promises that he always keeps, no matter what. He knows that in this age, they come to Kentucky to prepare for the NBA; every year he gets players who in a previous era would have gone directly into the pros from high school but now have to play college basketball for one year. Calipari has fought against this system, but he has to play within it, and so he does, better than anyone.
The result is an extraordinary leadership challenge: every year Coach Cal gets a handful of eighteen-year-old kids who have been in a bubble for the previous four years at least, filled with hype about their own greatness, and they come to Kentucky feeling sure that they will play for their coach only for seven months before they go on to greater glory. Every year, he has to reinvent his team. After his 2012 NCAA championship, it was particularly dramatic; he lost his first six players in the first round, meaning that someone who couldn t even start for Kentucky was a first-round draft pick.
The overall record at Kentucky, and for his career, puts Calipari in the pantheon of the greatest coaches in the history of the game. Bold, funny, and truthful, like Coach Calipari himself, "Players First" is truly the first deep reckoning with the meaning of his experiences and the gifts of insight they offer.

About the Author
John Calipari is the currentheadcoach of the University of Kentucky s men's basketball and a veteran of nearly 20 college seasons at theUniversity of Memphis and the University of Massachusetts. Widely regarded as one of the greatest program builders in all of college basketball, Calipari's teams have earned 11 conference titles, 12 NCAA Tournament berths andtwo Final Fours. Of his past three point guards, two have been NBA Rookie of the Year and the third, John Wall, was Washington s No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft. He received the Naismith National Coach of the Year Award for the 1995-1996 and 2007-2008 seasons, as well as the Sports Illustrated" National Coach of the Year honor for 2008-09.

Calipari s first season in The Bluegrass State saw a complete rejuvenation of the program that had fallen from its perch atop college basketball. With the nation s best freshman class entering for 2010-11, the Wildcats will again be in the thick of the race on the road to the Final Four. Calipari and his wife, Ellen, have three children, Erin, Megan, and Bradley. You can learn more about Coach Cal, Bounce Back and the Calipari Family Foundation for Chidlren (CFFC) on his website: and by following him on Twitter: @UKCoachCalipari and on Facebook at John Calipari.

Michael Sokolove is a contributing writer for "The New York Times Magazine" and the author of "Hustle: The Myth, Life, and Lies of Pete Rose." He lives in Bethesda, Maryland, with his wife and their three children.