SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – John Calipari will be the last inductee in the Class of 2015 to deliver his speech at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame’s enshrinement ceremony on Friday night at Springfield Symphony Hall.
Family members, former players, teammates and athletic directors – a number that could range between 70-90 – will be in attendance to honor the coach’s career, which began less than 30 miles north at UMass.
While Calipari, 56, is enjoying the Hall of Fame experience, he’s already looking to build on his career like other active Hall of Fame coaches have. Before Thursday’s press conference, Calipari and assistant coach Tony Barbee visited five-star forward Wenyen Gabriel at the nearby Wilbraham & Monson Academy.
“I said I’d never coach past the age of 60. And if anybody does, they’re crazy,” Calipari said on Thursday. “Now we got all these guys coaching in their 70s. And I’m thinking, man, maybe I’ll coach in my 70s. I’m having a ball.”
The Kentucky coach will join Mike Krzyzewski, Roy Williams, Jim Boeheim, Rick Pitino and Larry Brown, who will be presenting Calipari into the Hall of Fame on Friday night, as active Hall of Fame coaches.
Each of those coaches have added to their resumes in their post-enshrinement careers. Since being inducted, Coach K (twice) and Williams have each won national championships. Boeheim reached another Final Four in 2013. Brown won the NBA Finals with the Detroit Pistons two years after he was honored in Springfield. And Rick Pitino has gone 58-15 in the two seasons since his enshrinement in 2013.
It’s a safe bet that Calipari will add to his Hall of Fame accolades. His Kentucky team was slotted No. 1 in one preseason poll despite losing seven players to the NBA.
“I’m really, like, excited to coach this (current) team I have,” Calipari said. “I think I’m going to have a lot of fun. We have great guards. I didn’t say good guards – and I’m not one to throw stuff around – we have great guards. I think our big people are going to be, in time … Alex [Poythress] gets healthy, Skal [Labissiere] grows into like the other big guys we’ve had. Marcus Lee is showing unbelievable signs. We have good wings. So I’m looking at this saying, ‘I’m ready to get going with this team.’
“Last year, I want to say it: I don’t see anybody ever going 38-0 in our lifetime. So we can take away what we want: ‘You didn’t do this‘ or ‘You didn’t win the championship.’ 38-0 will not be done again. In my opinion.”
Calipari is part of an 11-person class that includes Dikembe Mutombo, Lisa Leslie, Spencer Haywood, Jo Jo White, Tommy Heinsohn (inducted as a coach), and fellow Wildcat Louis Dampier.