“If you are a college basketball fan like I am, youâ€™ll understand why Iâ€™ve long admired John Calipariâ€™s leadership style. While no coach treasures a win more than John, this terrific book reveals his greater purposeâ€”to lead his young players to better lives, and then challenge them to give back to others.”Â â€”President Bill Clinton
â€śJohn Calipari tells his players: Embrace the work. Embrace the sweat. Embrace the pain. I say: Embrace this book. Itâ€™s basketball at its finest.â€ťÂ â€”Harvey Mackay, author ofÂ The New York TimesÂ #1 bestsellerÂ Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive
â€śIâ€™ve been working with Coach Cal and his teams for about 20 years now and have loved every minute of it. Two things have drawn me to Coach Cal over the years: one, he chases excellence and greatness, and two, I love the way he cares about his players and treats the people around him.Â Players FirstÂ gives a very honest picture of whatâ€™s important to Coach Cal and why heâ€™s so great at taking young athletes, developing them into mature players and helping them reach their potential.â€ťÂ â€”Bob Rotella, sports psychologist and author ofÂ Golf is Not a Game of Perfect
â€śI loved playing for Cal. He tried to put players in a position to play to their strengths, but he held guys responsible for their performance. We all benefited from his approach. As I readÂ Players First, it brought back memories of how he coached us and why we enjoyed playing for him so much.â€ťÂ â€”Sam Cassell, three-time NBA champion and current Washington Wizards assistant coach
â€śPlayers First is filled with so many nuggets of wisdom, I found myself highlighting and taking notes as I read. Writing like a loving but honest parent, Calipari shares stories of how he learned to inspire greatness from his players and how they pushed themselves to achieve more than they thought possible. A truly human account of what it takes to win, Players First proves that winning has nothing to do with the score, it has to do with the people.â€ť â€”Simon Sinek, optimist and author of Start with Why and Leaders Eat Last
â€śPlayers First captures why so many kids want to play for John Calipari and why so many mothers and fathers ask him to take their boys and mold them into young men. Through stories and examples, Coach Cal brings out his most important teaching tool, which is servant leadership. Teaching these young people to care more about others than themselves is what sets his program apart and what sets this book apart from other coachesâ€™ books. It’s a must-read.”Â â€”John C. Maxwell, New York Times bestselling author and speaker
â€śIâ€™ve been an admirer and friend of John Calipari for over thirty yearsâ€”ever since his coaching days at the University of Massachusetts, where I was a professor. Iâ€™ve watched Cal and his wife, Ellen, treat his players as family and help bring out their best, not only on the court but also in their future lives as spouses, parents, friends, business leaders, and contributors to their communities. Players First is not just for sports fansâ€”itâ€™s for anyone who is open to learn that viewing your people as your number one customer is the key to long-term success. Wins and profits are the byproducts of putting your players/people first. I love this bookâ€”and so will you and the people you care about and count on at home, at work, and in the community where you live. Thanks, Cal.â€ťÂ â€”Ken Blanchard, coauthor of The One Minute ManagerÂ®, Leading at a Higher Level, and TrustWorks!
In my office at the University of Kentucky, I can stand in front of a huge window and look right down on the hardwood floor of our practice court. I can also see the eight banners representing eight national championshipsâ€”starting with 1948, the first of Adolph Ruppâ€™s four titles, to 2012, the one that I added to the collection.
One day I was looking through that window with John Robic, a Pittsburgh kid like me and one of my assistant coaches going all the way back to the University of Massachusetts, which ranked 295th among 300 NCAA Division 1 teams when we took over. We turned to each other and both said a version of the same thing:Â Can you believe weâ€™re coaching at this place?
Kentucky is college basketballâ€™s legendary program. It has the most wins and the most devoted fan base. (I call them crazy; they watch more game film than I do.) I respect the hell out of the traditionâ€”Iâ€™m lucky to be a part of it and Iâ€™ve got the best job in basketballâ€”but I donâ€™t do what I do for the commonwealth of Kentucky, for the university, for the legacy of the program, or for the greater glory of Big Blue Nation. There was a time I coached partly for myselfâ€”for status, respect, money, wins. But I donâ€™t do that anymore, either. Good for those coaches who get to seven hundred, eight hundred, or even a thousand wins, but Iâ€™m not staying in it that long. I can promise you my record will not be on my tombstone.
I coach for the names on the back of the jerseyâ€”not just the front. My players. Theyâ€™re sent to me by their fathers, their mothers, their grandmothers, their auntsâ€”whoever in this world raised them and loves them. Others look at their NBA bodies and consider them lucky. Future millionaires, just stopping through before they cash in. Thatâ€™s not what I see. Theyâ€™re kids, some of them as young as seventeen. They all need me in a different way. Some want my affection, others my approval. Itâ€™s a burden to be responsible for other peopleâ€™s children, sometimes a heavy burden.
I go to Mass every morning. Itâ€™s how I start my day and itâ€™s my moment of peace, almost meditation. If Iâ€™m struggling with a player, itâ€™s where I ask myself: How would I want my own son treated?
But Iâ€™m also a sinner, as we all are. If you come after one of my players, I come after you twice as hard. If you kill one of mine, I burn your village. Itâ€™s the Italian in me. Iâ€™m not proud of that, but itâ€™s who I am.