Memphis prepares to face Missouri on Thursday at 8:37 p.m. CT in Glendale, Ariz.
Photos from open practice day at the first day of the NCAA First and Second Round in Kansas City.
Memphis vs. Oklahoma; 2K Sports College Hoops Classic, - Thursday, Nov. 15, 2007, at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Tigers win 12th consecutive game.
NINTH SEASON AT MEMPHIS IN 2008-09
2nd For Most Wins In NCAA History Through 16 Seasons
Bounce Back: Overcoming Setbacks to Thrive in Business and in Life
It's the title of head coach John Calipari's book set for release in the fall of 2009. As the title states, the book offers insights into how to get started again after going through setbacks in business or in life.
One, though, may ask how a successful coach as Calipari is can write about bouncing back? The answer: Calipari has lived it.
After writing quite possibly the best reclamation story in collegiate basketball in his eight-year run at UMass from 1989-96, Calipari moved on to the NBA coaching ranks to take over the New Jersey Nets. In only his second season in 1997-98, he guided the Nets to the best turnaround from the previous year in the league and the NBA playoffs.
Calipari's fortunes, however, turned the other way in his third season with the Nets. After 20 games into that campaign, New Jersey parted ways with Calipari. Or, in Calipari's own words, he got fired.
A year later, Calipari received an assist from mentor and then Philadelphia 76er head coach Larry Brown to join his staff. Calipari got the helping hand he needed, and he used that lift to get his career back on track.
After that one year in Philadelphia, the track led Calipari to the Bluff City to a basketball program at the University of Memphis that also needed a lift, a bounce back.
TIGERS DOWN TURN
After postseason runs to the Elite Eight in 1992 and Sweet 16 in 1995, even the most fervant Tiger supporters admitted the Memphis program was on a downward spiral. Following a 20-win campaign and an NCAA Tourmament appearance in 1995-96, the Tigers' nose-dived over the next four seasons.
In that four-year span, the most victories the Tigers had in a single season was 17 wins in 1997-98. Memphis, a program that based its success on NCAA Tournaments, made consecutive NIT appearances in 1997 and 1998. The final two years (1998-99, 1999-2000) of the four-season stretch, Memphis took another step back with consecutive losing campaigns. It was the first time Tiger Nation had seen losing records in back-to-back seasons in nearly 20 years.
And the outlook for the future was not promising. The Tigers needed someone or something to infuse the program with new energy.
The Tigers woes were deeper than wins and losses when Calipari swept into Memphis in the spring of 2000. The graduation rate was zero. The Larry O. Finch Center, the Tigers' on-campus practice facility, had just opened but lacked many necessities for the national program Calipari envisioned.
But, more than all of that, the fan base had not only lost interest, but also faith in the Tiger program. The attendance numbers showed the dwindling interest in the program. When Memphis opened The Pyramid in 1991-92, the Tigers ranked eighth in the nation in attendance with an average of over 16,000 fans per game. During the four-year span prior to Calipari's arrival, Memphis' average attendance dropped to under 13,000.
TIGERS ON THE UPSWING
The Memphis basketball program is in the best shape in its history. The Tigers are winning, its student-athletes are graduating, facilities are being upgraded and recruiting rolls on year after year.
When Calipari took over at the start of the decade, Memphis' winning ways had tapered off from the 1980s and early 1990s. The four years before Calipari, the Tigers averaged just over 15 wins per season.
What a change occurred when the Moon, Pa., native came to Memphis. In his eight years, the Tigers have won 20 or more games each season, including over 30 victories the last three campaigns. In fact, Memphis is the fifth-winningest program in the decade of the 2000s with 234 wins, and trails only Duke (261 wins), Kansas (255), Florida (236) and Gonzaga (235) on that list.
The Tigers advanced to the postseason in each of Calipari's eight seasons with five NCAA Tournament berths and three National Invitation Tournament (NIT) bids. All three NIT appearances resulted in the Tigers advancing to the semifinals at Madison Square Garden in 2001, 2002 and 2005, with Memphis taking home the title in 2002.
After a seven-year NCAA drought, Memphis returned to the "Big Dance" in 2003, but fell to Arizona State in the first round. It was the only time a Calipari-coached team lost its opening game in the NCAA Tournament. The following season, the Tigers earned another NCAA Tournament bid and advanced to the second round before losing to Final Four participant Oklahoma State.
Despite the 20-win seasons and NCAA postseason bids, the Tiger program and its fans were hungry for more.
"WHAT A RIDE!"
Since 2005-06, Calipari and the Tigers have taken their fans on a ride into the NCAA record books. Memphis won 104 games the last three years, tying Kentucky (1996-98) for the most victories in a three-year span in NCAA Division I history. The Tigers also enter 2008-09 with the four-year wins mark in sight, as Duke had 133 victories from 1998-2001.
The Tigers' last two senior classes set the school record for most wins in a four-year span. The 2006-07 seniors tied the 111-win mark set by the 1985-86 squad. The 2007-08 senior class then shattered that record with 126 wins.
Memphis also made its mark in the national polls. The Tigers joined UCLA as the only two programs to be ranked in every poll in the last three seasons -- a span of 58-consecutive polls.
The ride started in 2005-06 with Memphis' first 33-4 campaign. The 33 wins set a then-school record, and the Tigers captured the Conference USA regular season and tournament crowns. The conference tournament title was Memphis' first since 1986-87.
The Tigers carried that momentum into the NCAA Tournament, where they earned the program's first No. 1 seed in school history. Memphis advanced to the Oakland Region final (Elite Eight), but lost to UCLA and fell short of the Final Four. The 2005-06 squad, though, set in motion that Tiger basketball was back.
Expectations were high again in 2006-07, but no one predicted the Tigers to have another 30-win season and make a return trip to the Elite Eight. Memphis proved the basketball experts wrong.
For the second-straight year, the Tigers won 33 games, swept the Conference USA regular season and tournament titles and returned to the NCAA Tournament South Region championship game (Elite Eight). Memphis, the South Region No. 2 seed, fell to No. 1 seed Ohio State.
On their way to the Elite Eight, the Tigers set a then-school record 25-game win streak. In that streak, Memphis won 19 straight in the regular season and posted a perfect 16-0 record in league play. The Tigers became the first team in C-USA history to go unbeaten in the regular season and then win the league's tournament title.
In talking to the press after the Ohio State loss, Calipari was asked if he would entertain offers from other schools. His reply: "There may be better jobs around the country, but there may not be a better team than the one I have coming back."
With that, the stage was set for the "Dream Team."
THE "DREAM TEAM" SEASON
Had an NCAA Division I single-season record 38 wins (38-2 mark).
Although it fell just short of claiming the national title, the Tiger basketball program was back. Memphis basketball had bounced back and was -- make that, is now -- a part of college basketball royalty.
BOUNCE BACK MORE THAN WINS
Much like he did at UMass when his players graduated at nearly 80 percent, Calipari is doing the same at Memphis. Fifteen of the last 18 seniors that have come through the Tiger program have earned their bachelor's degrees. All three 2008-09 seniors -- Antonio Anderson, Robert Dozier and Chance McGrady -- are on schedule to graduate, and junior Shawn Taggart could graduate following the 2009 spring semester. Those graduates under Calipari have their cap-and-gown photographs hanging in the men's basketball office.
Furthermore, Calipari -- with the help of the university administration -- is reaching out to former Tigers to come back to campus and finish their degrees. Andre Turner, affectionately known to Tiger Nation as "The Little General," went through graduation ceremonies in August 2008. Chris Garner and Cedric Henderson also took advantage of Calipari's offer to return and received their degrees in 2008.
On the facilities front, the Finch Center had just opened when Calipari arrived in 2000, giving the Tigers their own on-campus practice facility. However, the Finch Center was lacking in several areas, and the first focus on the weight room. In less than a couple of months on campus, Calipari had an a weight room filled with equipment in which his Tigers train.
Since then, Calipari and his staff have remodeled the Finch Center, making it one of the nation's top practice facilities. In the summer and fall of 2008, renovations began on the Finch Center to establish a Memphis Basketball Walk of Fame. A brick archway now identifies the front of the Finch Center, and the lobby area is a museum showing the history of Tiger basketball. The practice court was refurbished and the weight room received updated equipment.
In the fall of 2004, the Tigers moved into their new home, FedExForum. Memphis shares the arena with the NBA's Grizzlies, and has its own state-of-the-art locker room. Like the Finch Center, the Tigers' locker room at FedExForum is second to none among college basketball's elite.
Tiger basketball has had a long history of fan support, dating back all the way back to the 1930s when it played in the field house. Attendance, though, had waned in the years prior to Calipari's arrival. He and his Tigers changed that.
Since Calipari took over in 2000-01, the Tigers ranked among the nation's top 20 in attendance seven of his eight years. The 2001 squad averaged 17,110 to rank sixth nationally, while the 2002 team averaged 16,225 to rank 10th. In 2002-03, Memphis was seventh with an average of 16,643 per contest, while the following season (2003-04), the Tigers ranked 10th (15,432 per game). In 2005-06, Memphis was 13th in the nation in attendance, averaging 14,866 per contest. The 2006-07 season saw the Tigers ranked 16th in the nation in attendance. In 2007-08, Memphis jumped back in the top 10 in national attendance, drawing just under 17,000 per game for 21 home dates.
In Calipari's tenure (eight years), Memphis has drawn over 2.2 million in total paid attendance. To put that in comparison, the Tigers drew just over 1.9 million in the nine years before Calipari came to Memphis. All nine seasons were played at The Pyramid, which held over 20,142. FedExForum's capacity holds 18,400.
The large attendance figures have given Memphis a true homecourt advantage. The Tigers are 74-9 (.892 winning percentage) in their four seasons at FedExForum, including a perfect 19-0 home mark in 2006-07. Memphis set a school record for homecourt win streak with 47-straight home victories from January of 2006 through February of 2008.
Prior to its move to FedExForum, Memphis closed out its tenure in The Pyramid with a 24-game homecourt win streak that spanned over three seasons. The Tigers posted a perfect 15-0 record at The Pyramid in 2003-04.
CALIPARI'S BOUNCE BACK
Twelve years later and eight seasons into his tenure at Memphis, Calipari is back at the top. He led the Tigers to the 2008 NCAA title game, and Memphis' 38 wins last year made Calipari the winningest coach for a single season in NCAA history. As a result, Calipari was named Naismith National Coach of the Year for a second time in his career. He is only the second coach to receive the honor multiple times since the award's inception in 1987. Duke's Mike Krzyzewski is the other to do so.
But, Calipari's bounce back is more than just last season. He has led the Tigers to eight-straight 20-win campaigns and eight-consecutive postseason appearances and is the only Memphis coach to do that. He enters 2008-09 with 219 wins -- 27.4 wins per season -- as the Tigers' head coach, and needs only two victories to become the winningest coach in school history. When he gets those two wins, Calipari will move ahead of Tiger legend Larry Finch, who had 220 victories as head coach from 1987-97.
Calipari's success began in his first season at Memphis, but it's the last three years that placed him in the NCAA and school record books. The Tigers' 104 wins the last three seasons made Calipari the winningest coach in a three-year span in NCAA Division I history. His 71 victories in the last two seasons are the second-most in NCAA Division I history.
He directed the Tigers to the top of both national polls in 2007-08, becoming the fifth coach in NCAA Division I history to take two different schools to the No. 1 ranking. Calipari led UMass to No. 1 in 1994. He joined Roy Williams, Ralph Miller, Frank McGuire and Eddie Sutton in that elite club.
The last three seasons, Calipari directed the Tigers to 30-win campaigns and is the second coach in NCAA Division I history to record three-straight 30-win ledgers. Kentucky's Adolph Rupp was the first to accomplish the feat from 1947-49.
With his success in the Bluff City, Calipari's overall record has soared to 412-136 for an impressive 75.2 winning percentage. His 412 wins makes him only the second coach in NCAA Division I history to have 400 or more victories in the first 16 years. Roy Williams is the other. As for the most wins by a coach in his first 17 seasons, Calipari enters 2008-09 already in the No. 5 spot on that list.
Calipari's 75.2 winning percentage is the second-highest among active NCAA Division I coaches with 10 years experience at college basketball's Division I level, trailing only Roy Williams. On the NCAA Division I list for winning percentage for all coaches (minimum 10 years), Calipari is in 14th place and ahead of Krzyzewski, Jim Boeheim, Bob Huggins and Lute Olson.
With his three 30-win seasons at Memphis, Calipari now has five for his career, which is the fourth-most for a head coach in NCAA Division I history. For his career (16 years), Calipari has 14 20-win seasons and eight 25-win campaigns.
THE MEMPHIS BEGINNING
Local television and radio stations went live at the press conference to announce Calipari as the University of Memphis' 16th head basketball coach on Mar. 11, 2000. He was introduced to an overflow audience of fans in The Pyramid's Tiger Club Room later in the day.
In a matter of a few hours, the University of Memphis had seized March Madness. With his down-to-earth demeanor, his knowledge of Memphis basketball history and his expectations for the future of the program, folks left The Pyramid that March afternoon knowing Tiger basketball was in good hands.
Memphis exceeded expectations in Calipari's first year. The U of M won 20-plus games for the first time in five seasons, posting a 21-15 record. The Tigers advanced to the Conference USA Tournament semifinals for the first time since 1996 and capped the year with a third-place finish at the TiVo NIT. Memphis also broke both the season total (290,864) and season average (17,110) records for paid attendance.
In under 12 months, Calipari had not only revitalized the Memphis program itself, but also re-energized a city's love affair with Tiger basketball -- a relationship that is the very fabric of the Memphis community.
That bond has grown stronger with each passing season.
OFF THE COURT
Recently, the Calipari Family Foundation for Children was created to increase efforts in support of local children's charities and community projects. Through the Calipari Family Foundation, organizations like the Y.E.S. Foundation, Streets Ministries and many others will benefit.
Calipari's latest brainchild for the foundation is a speaker series called "An Evening with Coach Cal & Friends." The series -- that will run from October 2008 through April 2009 -- is a community outreach vehicle bringing individuals that have acheived extraordinary success in athletics directly to the Memphis area community. One of the primary goals of the event is to allow its sponsors and guests to have a "voice in the community" as it brings together hundreds of area business leaders around a common goal. Proceeds from the event will be used to support The Calipari Family Foundation for Children.
Giving back to the community, though, is nothing new for Calipari and his family. It has been a constant for Calipari since his arrival in the Bluff City in 2000.
Early in his tenure at the U of M, Calipari began developing a relationship with Memphis-based FedEx. The overnight courier has employed Memphis student-athletes in its internship program during the summers. It is a program where the Tigers gain valuable experience in an area related to their field of study.
Calipari also founded a program called NetWorks. The program brings together business leaders from throughout the community to network, find employment opportunities and place former Memphis players following their playing careers.
Calipari has made several financial contributions to the University and has been honored by the Friends of the Ned McWherter Library on the U of M campus. In April of 2004, Calipari and his family made a $100,000 contribution to help endow athletic scholarships at the University. He also presented the university a check for $40,000 which resulted from a partnership between Calipari and Pace Cooper, president and CEO of Cooper Companies, the owner of Cal's Championship Steakhouse in the Doubletree East Memphis.
At the conclusion of his first season at Memphis, Calipari joined several area business leaders to form the Y.E.S. Foundation, an organization designed to educate middle school students about the importance of academics and athletics. Y.E.S., an acronym for Youth Education Through Sports, held its first camp on the U of M campus in August of 2001. Over 25 schools are currently taking part in the program which is in its eighth year.
Calipari has also been responsible for raising money and making donations for improvements at the U of M's tennis complex, air conditioning in the Elma Roane Fieldhouse and having courts resurfaced for use by Memphis students for outdoor basketball.
In his early years in Memphis, Calipari teamed up with NBA All-Star guard Allen Iverson to renovate basketball courts in the community. The courts were dedicated in the Orange Mound community of Memphis as well as a four-plex of courts adjacent to Halle Stadium in southeast Memphis. The first courts built during the continuing project were at two housing projects located near downtown Foote Homes and Dixie Homes.
He received the Lombardi Award from UNICO National in the summer of 2003. UNICO was founded in 1922 to provide scholarships to worthy students and to give strength and force in fighting discrimination against Italian-Americans. UNICO's Lombardi Award recognized an outstanding individual of Italian-American heritage who is involved in athletics.
In 2004, Calipari was inducted to the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame and UMass Athletic Hall of Fame. He was also recognized by the West Tennessee Arthritis Foundation and Tennessee Health Care Association for his work and contributions to both organizations.
Away from the University, Calipari is a sought after speaker. He has made countless appearances on programs such as Fox Sports Net's Best Damn Sports Show Period, ESPN's Outside the Lines and Jim Rome Is Burning and ESPN2's Quite Frankly With Stephen A. Smith, as well as countless interviews on national radio programs.
PRIOR TO MEMPHIS
Prior to moving to the NBA, Calipari built a basketball program from the ground up at the University of Massachusetts (1988-96), which had one of the worst NCAA Division I basketball records in the 1980s prior to his arrival.
In one of college basketball's best reclamation projects, Calipari led the Minuteman program to numerous wins, conference titles and NCAA Tournament appearances. His passion to build a program helped accelerate the construction of the Mullins Center, UMass' basketball and hockey facility. Calipari's desire also reached out to eastern Massachusetts and Boston and brought fans back to Amherst, located in the picturesque Berkshire Mountains, to watch a national powerhouse basketball team.
During an eight-year stint at UMass, he took the Minutemen to five-straight NCAA Tournaments (1992-96), advancing to the Final Four in his last season. UMass advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16 on three occasions and two Elite Eights. The school became just the second NCAA Division I program to win five-straight regular season and conference tournament championships.
Calipari compiled a 193-71 record (.731) during his career at Massachusetts, including a 108-44 mark (.684) in Atlantic 10 play.
In addition to five-straight NCAA Tournaments, UMass also made two appearances in the NIT, advancing to the NIT final four in 1991. The 1990-91 season was the first of six-straight seasons in which the Minutemen won at least 20 games.
Calipari's personal 20-win streak has reached the 14-season mark as all eight of his Memphis clubs have won 20-plus games.
In his final season at UMass, Calipari was named the 1996 Naismith National Coach of the Year and The Sporting News National Coach of the Year. He was also named the Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year for the third time in four years, as well as Basketball Times East Region Coach of the Year.
During the Minutemen's 35-2 season in 1995-96, UMass posted wins over Maryland, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, Syracuse, Virginia Tech and Louisville. UMass ended the regular season ranked No. 1 in the nation in the final regular season poll after being the top-ranked team for nine weeks earlier in the year. The Minutemen also won their first 26 games of the season, setting a school record for most consecutive wins.
In addition to his National Coach of the Year honors in 1996, Calipari was a Naismith Coach of the Year finalist in 1994 and 1995. He was the USBWA District I Coach of the Year in 1993.
Calipari's accomplishments are made even more impressive when you consider what he started with at UMass. Prior to his arrival, UMass had suffered through 10-straight losing seasons.
At 29, when he was named head coach, Calipari began to build a program from the ground up, going 10-18 his first season before posting a 17-14 record his second year and receiving a bid to the NIT. UMass made a late season run in 1991, advancing to the NIT's final four.
The Minutemen won their first A-10 championship in 1992 with a 30-5 record, including a 13-3 mark in league play. With a 77-71 overtime win over Syracuse in an East Regional second-round game, UMass made its first Sweet 16 appearance.
Off the court, UMass' graduation rate for its basketball players was close to 80 percent.
Calipari left UMass in June of 1996 to become Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations and Head Coach of the New Jersey Nets. He led the Nets to a second-place finish in the NBA's Atlantic Division and the playoffs in 1998, ending a five-year postseason drought for the franchise. The Nets' 17-game turnaround from the previous year was the best that season in the NBA.
He joined the Philadelphia 76ers coaching staff in 1999, rejoining Philadelphia coach Larry Brown, who Calipari was an assistant for at Kansas.
Calipari began his coaching career at Kansas as a volunteer assistant under Ted Owens. In 1983, he was hired as the recruiting coordinator at the University of Vermont, but was swayed back to the nation's heartland when Brown was hired as head coach at KU. He spent three seasons at Kansas (1982-85) before another three-year stint as an assistant coach to Paul Evans at Pittsburgh (1985-88).
The 49-year-old lettered two years at North Carolina-Wilmington before transferring to Clarion State. He played point guard at Clarion during the 1981 and 1982 seasons, leading the team in assists and free throw percentage. The Eagles were ranked in the Division II Top 20 both years and participated in the 1981 NCAA Division II Tournament.
Calipari and his wife, Ellen, have two daughters, Erin Sue and Megan Rae, and a son, Bradley Vincent. Erin is in her fourth year of college at UMass, while Megan began her first year of college at Memphis this fall.
CALIPARI CAREER RECORD