A week after his Kentucky Wildcats lost the NCAA title game to Connecticut, John Calipari has been the promotional tour hard to hawk his new book, “Players First: Coaching From the Inside Out.”
On Monday night, that tour took him to Fox and “The O’Reilly Factor.” Host Bill O’Reilly, who rarely delves into sports matters, hit Calipari with a series of questions about life as a college coach in 2014, questions about discipline in a “coarser” age of “this rap stuff and hip-hop stuff,” and “hustlers.”
It was a veritable minefield and Calipari handled the conversation deftly. Here’s an excerpt, via Deadspin:
O’Reilly: I mean, you are a good guy coach but — now, the coaching has coarsened, you teach at the University of Kentucky it’s coarsened. I don’t know if you listen to this rap stuff and hip-hop stuff. Has that changed their attitude? I mean, how do you impose discipline on kids who are pretty much gonna do what they want to do.
Calipari: They trust — you have got to have trust first that they look at me and say is he about me. That’s what this book is about. They know that i’m about them and the decisions i make are in their interest, not my own, which is why I have a lot of kids leaving. I’m not influencing them to stay. I will tell them I want to keep copying you but i’m not going to hold you back. That’s a big part of this. Do they trust you enough? Do they look at you and say he is going to do right by my? If i tell a kid to starks you know the people around them are going to say he is just trying to win more games. I have got to let them make their decisions.
O’Reilly: Do they act differently toward you? Do these use four letter words towards you.
Calipari: No, no.
O’Reilly: None of that?
O’Reilly: So you impose strict discipline on that.
Calipari: Yes. Here is what I would tell you. These kids come from good homes. People will say well he doesn’t have a father. Some of the best kids I coach were raised by a grandmother who was so firm that they understood.
O’Reilly then segued to the topics of drugs and sex.
O’Reilly: So they go out with a girl and the girl said hey you raped me. There is drugs everywhere. They are giving the kids drugs for free. How do you keep them away from that?
Calipari: One of the things I tell them coming to kentucky as you know, if you want to smoke, drink, chase, do all that stuff, they will do a 30/30 on you. They will be on the ticker, every news show. You can’t do that here. You are coming here to be developed as a person and a player.
It isn’t easy to make Calipari a sympathetic figure, but O’Reilly may just have managed it.