John Calipari Receives the John R. Wooden Award “Legends of Coaching” Honor

LOS ANGELES – On Oct. 3, 2023, it was announced that John Calipari would receive the John R. Wooden Award “Legends of Coaching” honor. On Friday (April 12), the new Razorback head basketball coach was on hand for the trophy presentation at the Los Angeles Athletic Club.

The “Legends of Coaching” honor recognizes coaches who exemplify Coach Wooden’s high standard of coaching success and personal integrity. The award was adopted by the Wooden Award Steering Committee in 1999. The honorees are selected based on character, success on the court, graduation rate of student-athletes in their basketball program, coaching philosophy, and identification with the goals of the John R. Wooden Award. He will be presented the honor along with the 2024 Wooden Award winners on April 12, 2024.

Chairman of the Wooden Award Steering Committee Sam Lagana said, “Coach John Calipari has been a significant part of the Wooden Award experience, dating back to his first head coaching assignment at UMass.  He has supported the Award and stood with his candidates and winners every step of the way.  Coach Wooden had an appreciation for Coach Cal that carried through the years and Coach Calipari has demonstrated great reverence for Coach Wooden as both shared a ‘players first’ mentality, with emphasis on care for the student-athlete and in the value of competitive greatness.  John Calipari is a wonderful addition to the fraternity of Wooden Award ‘Legends of Coaching’ recipients.”

Coach Calipari’s head coaching career began at the University of Massachusetts, where he led the Minutemen to 5 consecutive Atlantic 10 Championships and participated in the first Wooden Classic in 1994.  After a brief stint with the New Jersey Nets, Coach returned to the college ranks, becoming the head coach of the Memphis Tigers, winning multiple Conference USA championships.  At the University of Kentucky, he took the Wildcats to four Final Fours in a five-year span, something that has only been accomplished at the men’s level by John Wooden and Mike Krzyzewski, winning the National Championship in 2012.  Coach Calipari has coached three different Wooden Award winners (Marcus Camby, ’96; Anthony Davis, ’12 & Oscar Tshiebwe, ’22) making him one of four coaches to have coached three different Wooden Award winners (Geno Auriemma, Krzyzewski and Dean Smith).  Coach Calipari was inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame in 2015.

Off the court, Coach Calipari’s impact has been felt in his community and abroad.  In 2012, he founded the John Calipari Foundation which has partnered with many organizations, including: Samaritan’s Feet, 4 Paws for Ability, One Parent Scholar House and Team Focus.  He has partnered with the American Red Cross to raise millions of dollars to help people affected by disasters such as the 2010 Haitian earthquake, 2012 Superstorm Sandy, and the 2022 flooding in Eastern Kentucky.  He helped spearhead the creation of the John McLendon Minority Leadership Initiative, a national coach-driven initiative to provide minorities with a jump-start to their careers.