Players First: Coaching from the Inside Out [NOOK Book]


"If you are a college basketball fan like I am, you’ll understand why I’ve long admired John Calipari’s leadership style. While no coach treasures a win more than John, this terrific book reveals his greater purpose—to lead his young players to better lives, and then challenge them to give back to others." —President William J. Clinton

In Players First, John Calipari relates for the first time anywhere his experiences over his first four ...
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Players First: Coaching from the Inside Out

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"If you are a college basketball fan like I am, you’ll understand why I’ve long admired John Calipari’s leadership style. While no coach treasures a win more than John, this terrific book reveals his greater purpose—to lead his young players to better lives, and then challenge them to give back to others." —President William J. Clinton

In Players First, John Calipari relates for the first time anywhere his experiences over his first four years coaching the Kentucky Wildcats, college basketball’s most fabled program, from the doldrums to a national championship, drawing lessons about leadership, character, and the path to personal and collective victory.

At its core, Calipari’s coaching philosophy centers on keeping his focus on the players—what they need to get the best out of themselves and one another. He is beloved by his players for being utterly honest with them and making promises that he always keeps, no matter what. He knows that in this age, they come to Kentucky to prepare for the NBA; every year he gets players who in a previous era would have gone directly into the pros from high school but now have to play college basketball for one year. Calipari has fought against this system, but he has to play within it, and so he does, better than anyone.

The result is an extraordinary leadership challenge: every year Coach Cal gets a handful of eighteen-year-old kids who have been in a bubble for the previous four years at least, filled with hype about their own greatness, and they come to Kentucky feeling sure that they will play for their coach only for seven months before they go on to greater glory. Every year, he has to reinvent his team. After his 2012 NCAA championship, it was particularly dramatic; he lost his first six players in the first round, meaning that someone who couldn’t even start for Kentucky was a first-round draft pick.

The overall record at Kentucky, and for his career, puts Calipari in the pantheon of the greatest coaches in the history of the game. Bold, funny, and truthful, like Coach Calipari himself, Players First is truly the first deep reckoning with the meaning of his experiences and the gifts of insight they offer.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

The pro league counterparts of college coaches have it easy: With a steady cast of players, they don't need to reinvent their teams every year or two. Nobody knows that better than John Calipari, whose University of Kentucky basketball program is perennially regarded as among the best in the nation despite almost annual major personnel improvisations. How does he do it? The answer, as he reveals for the first time in this book, is the priority announced in its title. Players First possesses the best qualities of a pep talk, but also a lot more: For example, it explains how Calipari responded to the massive turnover of personnel after the Wildcats won the 2011-2012 NCAA championship. A hit in hardcover; now in trade paperback and NOOK Book.

Publishers Weekly
As the men’s basketball coach at the Univ. of Kentucky, Calipari is annually tasked with taking the nation’s best high school recruits and turning them into a team befitting the championship stature of a storied program. It’s not as easy as it looks. The coach may have these players for two years, if he’s lucky, before the NBA beckons. Having great talent also comes with the burden of a satisfying a rabid fan base and teaching kids who have long dominated their peers. There are several ways that Calipari’s experiences might have benefitted readers, but he and co-author Sokolove (a fine writer with a sports background) never find one. It’s hard to know what we’re reading: a behind-the-scenes look at how a great coach works, sports advice relatable to life or business, or a civilized attack on the rules and culture of college basketball. Calipari’s compassion and thoughtfulness can’t overcome the book’s thematic jitteriness; readers will get little more than a collection of random thoughts and sharp comments bound by the pull of Calipari’s name. (Apr.)
Kirkus Reviews
With the assistance of Sokolove (Drama High: The Incredible True Story of a Brilliant Teacher, a Struggling Town, and the Magic of Theater, 2013, etc.), University of Kentucky basketball coach Calipari (Bounce Back, 2009, etc.) lays out his coaching philosophy as it applies to his current position as head of college basketball's most storied program. As it becomes increasingly common for basketball players to join the NBA if not straight out of high school, then after only a year or two of college, coaches at elite universities, under pressure to sign top prospects and make deep runs in the NCAA tournament, are facing new challenges. Landing in Kentucky in 2009 after making the Final Four as head coach at the University of Massachusetts and the University of Memphis, and briefly coaching the NBA's New Jersey Nets, Calipari has found success with an NCAA championship in 2012 and with 17 of his Kentucky players drafted by the NBA, including No. 1 overall picks John Wall and Anthony Davis. At the forefront of the author's narrative is the problem of having to compete under the microscope that is Kentucky basketball with a virtually new team every year. The coach is not concerned here with X's and O's but with helping his players succeed, as a team and individually, both on and off the court. Much of this "players first" philosophy comes across as obvious common sense, though the frequent discussion of specific players will be of interest to followers of the team. Where Calipari, known throughout his career as outspoken and whose teams have been cited for NCAA violations, really gains steam is in his discussion of proposed reforms to the embattled organization, which has come under increasing criticism over its handling of the student athletes who bring billions of dollars in revenue to the NCAA and its schools. No backboard-shattering revelations but a candid look at what it takes to remain at the top of the college basketball heap.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781101635520
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 4/15/2014
  • Sold by: Penguin Group
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 181,219
  • File size: 13 MB
  • Note: This product may take a few minutes to download.

Meet the Author

John Calipari is the current head coach of the University of Kentucky’s men’s basketball team and a veteran of nearly twenty college seasons at the University of Memphis and the University of Massachusetts. Widely regarded as one of the greatest program builders in all of college basketball, Calipari and his teams have earned twelve conference titles, fifteen NCAA Tournament berths, five Final Fours, and the 2012 NCAA championship. Calipari’s eight 30-win seasons are third most for a head coach in NCAA Division I history. 

Michael Sokolove is a contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine and the author of four books: Drama High, Warrior Girls, Hustle, and The Ticket Out.
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 10, 2014

    Excellent book..... Great thoughts and lessons about coaching an

    Excellent book..... Great thoughts and lessons about coaching and even growing as a player.... must read for anyone who wants to coach sports at any level

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 30, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

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