WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - University of Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari spoke to a full house at the 4th Annual UNCW men’s basketball tip-off dinner at the Burney Center on Thursday night.
Calipari has ties to Wilmington as he played two seasons with the Seahawks in 1978-79 and 1979-80 before transferring to Clarion, Pa.
He said he may have only spent two years in Wilmington, but says the relationships created at UNCW have lasted over the years.
“I still stay in touch with the guys I played here,” said Calipari. “Many of them have come out to Lexington and we text or talk on the phone.”
One of the reasons Calipari came to Wilmington was his cousin the late Joe Miller.
Miller was a coach at New Hanover High School before moving into the role of athletic director and then county athletic director.
“(Joe Miller) Was a good man who had such an impact on so many lives in this city,” said Calipari about Miller. “People that needed him and he was there. I miss him and wish he was still with us. But I know he’s looking down on us.”
Calipari has made three NCAA Division I coaching stops: UMass, Memphis, and UK. In 10 seasons in Lexington, Calipari leads all coaches in total wins (305), NCAA Tournament victories (31), Final Fours (4), Elite Eights (7) and Sweet Sixteens (8).
While piling up numerous honors and awards, Calipari’s penultimate moment came in 2011-12 when he guided the Wildcats to the NCAA national title in his third season as head of Big Blue Nation. He remains one of just two coaches to lead three different programs (UMass-1996, Memphis-2008, and Kentucky-2011, 2012, 2012, 2015) to a Final Four, joining Rick Pitino in the feat.
Calipari owns a career coaching record of 708-209 (.772), including a mark of 305-71 (.811) at Kentucky. He has coached teams to 15 conference championships and a 51-17 (.750) NCAA Tournament record