Players First: Coaching from the Inside Out

Players First: Coaching from the Inside Out

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by John Calipari, Michael Sokolove
     
 

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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’

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Overview

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

Publishers Weekly
01/27/2014
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
2014-04-02
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.
From the Publisher
President William J. Clinton:
"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."

Harvey Mackay, author of the New York Times #1 bestseller Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive
“John Calipari tells his players:  Embrace the work.  Embrace the sweat.  Embrace the pain.  I say:  Embrace this book.  It’s basketball at its finest.”

Simon Sinek, optimist and author of Start with Why and Leaders Eat Last:
Players 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.” 

John C. Maxwell, New York Times bestselling author and speaker:
Players 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 coaches’ books. It's a must-read.”

Ken Blanchard, coauthor of The One Minute Manager®, Leading at a Higher Level, and TrustWorks!:
“I’ve been an admirer and friend of John Calipari for over thirty years—ever since his coaching days at the University of Massachusetts, where I was a professor. I’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 fans—it’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 book—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.”

Sam Cassell, three-time NBA champion and current Washington Wizards assistant coach
“I 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 read Players First, it brought back memories of how he coached us and why we enjoyed playing for him so much.” 

Bob Rotella, sports psychologist and author of Golf is Not a Game of Perfect
“I’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. Players First gives a very honest picture of what’s important to Coach Cal and why he’s so great at taking young athletes, developing them into mature players and helping them reach their potential.”

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781594205736
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
04/15/2014
Pages:
288
Sales rank:
265,485
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 9.50(h) x 1.20(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

Sam Cassell
I 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 read Players First, it brought back memories of how he coached us and why we enjoyed playing for him so much. --Sam Cassell, three-time NBA champion and current Washington Wizards assistant coach
Harvey Mackay
John Calipari tells his players: Embrace the work. Embrace the sweat. Embrace the pain. I say: Embrace this book. It's basketball at its finest. --Harvey Mackay, author of the New York Times #1 bestseller Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive
John C. Maxwell
Players 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 coaches' books. It's a must-read. --John C. Maxwell, New York Times bestselling author and speaker
Bob Rotella
I'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. Players First gives a very honest picture of what's important to Coach Cal and why he's so great at taking young athletes, developing them into mature players and helping them reach their potential. -- Bob Rotella, sports psychologist and author of Golf is Not a Game of Perfect
From the Publisher
President William J. Clinton:
"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."

Simon Sinek, optimist and author of Start with Why and Leaders Eat Last:
Players 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.” 

John C. Maxwell, New York Times bestselling author and speaker:
Players 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 coaches’ books. It's a must-read.”

Ken Blanchard, coauthor of The One Minute Manager®, Leading at a Higher Level, and TrustWorks!:
“I’ve been an admirer and friend of John Calipari for over thirty years—ever since his coaching days at the University of Massachusetts, where I was a professor. I’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 fans—it’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 book—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.”

Simon Sinek
Players 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. --Simon Sinek, optimist and author of Start with Why and Leaders Eat Last
President William J. Clinton
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
Ken Blanchard
I've been an admirer and friend of John Calipari for over thirty years—ever since his coaching days at the University of Massachusetts, where I was a professor. I'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 fans—it'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 book—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. --Ken Blanchard, coauthor of The One Minute Manager®, Leading at a Higher Level, and TrustWorks!

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