basketball Edit

Big Blue Madness '19: Calipari looks ahead to next 10 years

Kentucky's annual hoops celebration highlights achievements from the first 10 years of John Calipari's coaching tenure in Lexington, ponders what the Wildcats can do to raise the bar in the future. 

John Calipari, entering his 11th season at Kentucky, was introduced to the crowd by MMA announcer Bruce Buffer.
John Calipari, entering his 11th season at Kentucky, was introduced to the crowd by MMA announcer Bruce Buffer. (Jeff Drummond/Cats Illustrated)

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- The Kentucky Wildcats have long used their annual Big Blue Madness extravaganza as a sales pitch to the potential stars of the future.

The song remained the same on Friday night at Rupp Arena, albeit with a nostalgic twist as John Calipari enters his 11th season as head coach.

"What a night, what a celebration of the last 10 years of Kentucky basketball and of the start of the next 10 years," Calipari told the sold-out crowd of close to 20,000. "Ten years ago, thousands gathered in Rupp Arena while millions watched across the state, the country, and the world. We celebrated the rebirth of this storied program, the greatest tradition in college basketball.

"We stood together under the lights, under the jerseys, under the banners that hang in this cathedral of college basketball, and with one powerful voice, we proclaimed that we would achieve, as a family, seemingly unreachable heights for this program and for these players. And we did."

Calipari rattled off the familiar bullet points from his first decade in Lexington: a national championship; most wins of any program; most Final Fours of any program; most Elite Eights of any program; most NBA Draft picks of any program.

And then, with a wink and a nod to a group of high-profile recruiting targets in the first row that included Terrence Clarke, Lance Ware, Cade Cunningham, JJ Traynor, Paolo Banchero, Moussa Cisse, Brandon Miller, Trey Kaufman, James Jewell, and Paul McMillan IV, Calipari delivered his best closing line.

"Twenty-two players in the NBA in the last 10 years received max contracts," he said. "SEVEN of the 22 are Kentucky Wildcats!"

On cue, the crowd roared.

He wasn't done.

Two billion dollars worth of contracts, Calipari noted.

"That level of success is crazy," he added, "and only possible at one place: Kentucky."

The UK boss then posed the question, "What will we do next?"

"Championship!" many in the crowd replied, hungry to hang a ninth banner over the home court.

Calipari continued: "What will we do in the next 10 years? How will we continue to grow? How do we keep getting better? ... Our potential is limitless."

And with that, another season full of hope and lofty expectations was officially welcomed.

"It. Is. On," Calipari said. "Let's have some fun."