John Calipari began by scooping peas and corn at Kansas


Come up with some sort of hackneyed, clichéd lede.

He went from scooping peas and corn to scooping up blue-chip recruits. He went from dishing out vegetables to dishing out double-digit beatdowns.

Whatever 1950s-style quip you can come up with, it’s a fact that John Calipari has come a long way, and this matchup with Kansas in the Final Four in New Orleans has allowed him to look back on it.

Calipari was a volunteer assistant at Kansas, fresh out of college in the 1980s, and even he was unsure about exactly what it entailed at the time.

“When Ted Owens asked me to join his staff, I said, ‘What position?”‘ Calipari recounted to the AP on Sunday. “He said, `Volunteer.’ I said, `How much does that guy make?”‘

From how he tells it, it’s decidedly less glamorous than the $4 million job he’s doing at Kentucky these days.

“I would serve peas or corn. `What would you like? I’ll be there early for practice if you want to do some extra shooting. What would you like, peas or corn?’ That’s what I did,” Calipari said in 2008, when his Memphis team was taking on Kansas in the national title game.

From Kansas, Calipari moved on to Pittsburgh as an assistant, then UMass and a stint in the NBA, then on to Memphis and where he is now, Kentucky.

After three years in Lexington, he has two Final Fours and an Elite Eight appearance to show for it. Not bad for a guy who started out scooping vegetables as a “volunteer assistant”.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_