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December 1, 2010

Players, assistants help Calipari through loss

tcp online

You could forgive John Calipari is he was distracted. How in the world are you supposed to focus when one of your parents has just lost a long battle with cancer? How could anyone expect basketball to be foremost on one's mind?

The Kentucky coach showed few outward signs of the emotional devastation of losing his mother, Donna, to her battle with the illness last Sunday, somehow managing to remain locked in on the task at hand long enough for the Cats to deliver a 91-57 knockout to Boston University. Despite jetting back and forth to North Carolina to tend to family matters Calipari never missed a practice, something he's managed for much of his career.

"I've been with him for 14 years and he's never missed a practice," UK assistant coach John Robic said. "It just shows the commitment he has to not only his family in Charlotte, but to his family in that locker room. It says a lot about him."

No one would have said a word had Calipari opted to miss the Boston U. game while helping his father and siblings through the heartache of losing their wife and mother. It would have been understandable, just like Calipari's decision to let Robic and Orlando Antigua handle the postgame news conference and radio show.

But Calipari wasn't about to cede any time with his young basketball team, not with dates against North Carolina, Notre Dame and Indiana on the horizon and much work to be done. The players have also been sensitive to the situation and tried to lend a hand in the ways they know how, which included wearing black socks and wristbands to show support for the Calipari family.

"We've just done what we have to do, just listen to what he has to say," freshman guard Brandon Knight said. "We want to give 100 percent because we know he's having a tough time and we don't want to be adding to it. Coach contributes so much to us and always says we're his family so we felt we needed to give something to him and try to honor his mother."

"It was very sad. She is in all of our prayers," junior guard DeAndre Liggins said. "I know it's very tough because my dad passed and my brother passed so I know how it feels. You have to move on. It's very hard but he'll handle it well. We just have to be with him because we're all a family here."

When Robic was informed by UK sports information director DeWayne Peevy that he would have to handle some of the media responsibilities after the game Calipari's longtime assistant didn't blink.

"We're all in this together," Robic said. "If (Calipari) tells me to go run outside right now, I'm going to run outside. He's my boss. We're all in this together and he knows that we're there for him."


Matt May is the basketball beat reporter for The Cats' Pause. If you have questions or comments about the Cats e-mail him here. You can also follow "@TCPMAY" on Twitter for live updates.






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