Coach Cal Returns To Memphis - With Bodyguards

It’s hard to blame John Calipari for leaving the Memphis Tigers to take the head coaching job with the Kentucky Wildcats. Sure, he had a lot of success in Memphis during his nine years there, turning the program into an NCAA powerhouse, but it’s the Kentucky Wildcats. One of the premier programs in the history of college basketball, and they backed up a truck full of cash to Calipari’s front door. Frankly, to say no would have been downright idiotic.

Tell that to the people of Memphis, though. They’re the Jennifer Aniston to UK’s Angelina Jolie right now and they’re still feeling a bit betrayed and probably will be for a long time. Which is why when Calipari showed up to his annual “Coach Cal & Friends” charity event on Monday night, he came through the door with a couple of bodyguards.


John Calipari entered the events center at Harrah’s Tunica Resort surrounded by two bodyguards and walked uncomfortably toward the buffet tables.

Though Calipari did speak briefly to the crowd of about 300, there was not much warmth in the applause. In fact, even when new coach Josh Pastner urged the crowd to give Calipari a standing ovation, there didn’t seem to be much enthusiasm for the coach who spent nine years building Memphis back into a national powerhouse.

“I won’t get emotional like I was a week ago,” Calipari told the crowd. “It was a hard decision for me and let me tell you why. It wasn’t about Kentucky; it was about here. It was almost a decade we were here and the beginning of it was building trust, then you’re building respect.

“And by the end of that decade, it was all about affection.”

Affection that has dissipated rather quickly. Well, at the charity events anyway. Maybe if Calipari would have had the event at a local Dunkin’ Donuts, things would have been different.

“‘The Miserables’ are out in full force because they’ve been in shells and shacks and cracks for four years, so they’re out in full force,” Calipari said. “But I was in Dunkin’ Donuts earlier today, and they gave me a standing ovation. There are people who are angry and mad, but for most people, they’re looking back on nine pretty good years.”

That or they figured with the new contract you just signed, donuts and coffee were on you.