In the midst of one of the best coaching jobs of his career, Kentucky men’s basketball head coach John Calipari has been named a finalist for the Jim Phelan National Coach of the Year Award.
Calipari is one of 25 coaches on the list that was announced Friday. He previously won the award in 2009 in his final season at Memphis.
The Jim Phelan award is presented annually to the top coach in division I men’s basketball. Phelan led the Mountaineers to the 1962 NCAA Men’s Division II Basketball Championship. When he retired in 2003, after coaching for 49 years, he had amassed 830 wins (overall record of 830-524) in all divisions. In those 49 years, 19 of his teams amassed 20 or more wins in a season.
The recipient of the 2019 Jim Phelan award will be announced on April 5 at the College Insider Awards Event in Minneapolis, site of the 2019 Final Four.
Earlier this week Calipari was named a semifinalist for the Naismith National Coach of the Year. He’s looking to become the first four-time winner of that award. He previously won the Naismith award in 1989, 1992 and 1999).
Calipari’s work in 2018-19 has certainly been one of his finest.
With Calipari at the helm, Kentucky completed a 26-5 regular season Saturday and earned a No. 2 seed in the annual Southeastern Conference Tournament, just a game behind LSU for the SEC regular-season championship.
UK has positioned itself for a possible No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament with a No. 5 ranking in the NCAA Evaluation Tool, a 5-3 record vs. Associated Press Top 25 teams and a 10-4 mark vs. quadrant one teams, including five of those away from home.
Calipari has once again proved to be a master of blending talented but young pieces together in a short period of time. With just two significant returners from last season’s Sweet 16 team in PJ Washington and Nick Richards and one of the most inexperienced lineups in the country – KenPom.com rates UK 351st out of 353 teams in its experience rankings – the Wildcats have won 16 of their last 18 games and positioned themselves as national title contenders.
Washington has emerged as an All-American player, Kentucky’s freshman class has proven to be one of the best in the country, and UK overcame early-season adversity and a late-season injury to graduate transfer Reid Travis for Calipari’s sixth straight 25-win season.
Calipari has strung together 25 straight seasons of 20 or more on-court wins, the longest active streak in the country. Three of UK’s five losses this season have been by a combined five points, and UK’s strength of schedule ranks No. 16 in the country.
How has Calipari’s team done it? His career staple: defense.
After struggling to defend early in the season with new pieces, the Wildcats are once again one of the best defensive teams in the country. UK ranks No. 8 in the latest KenPom.com defensive efficiency rankings.
UK has been particularly good in the conference season on the defensive end, limiting opponents to just 62.6 points per game and 39.4 percent from the field. The Wildcats have held five league foes to their lowest point total at the time of the game.
This season has featured a couple of milestones for Calipari.
With an 80-53 victory vs. Auburn on Feb. 23, Calipari moved past Joe B. Hall for the second-most wins in program history. He trails only the legendary Adolph Rupp (876 wins) for the most wins at Kentucky and earned win No. 300 at Ole Miss on Tuesday.
When he reached win No. 300 at UK, he became the fourth-fastest coach in NCAA Division I history to 300 wins at the same school. Only Bill Self (358 games at Kansas), Claire Bee (359 games at Long Island) and Rupp (366 at UK) got there faster.
A “players-first” coach with a penchant for helping players reach their dreams, Calipari has guided six teams to the Final Four, led one to a national championship and helped 42 players earn selection in the NBA Draft during his now-27-year college coaching career.
The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer guided Kentucky to its eighth national championship and his first national title in 2012. In becoming only the second coach in NCAA history to lead three different schools to the Final Four, he has racked up more than 700 on-court victories, 19 NCAA Tournament appearances, six Final Fours and numerous national coach of the year honors.
Among the other major coach of the year honors Calipari has won during his career:
· Three-time NABC National Coach of the Year
· Three-time Naismith National Coach of the Year
· Three-time Sporting News National Coach of the Year
· Two-time Adolph Rupp National Coach of the Year
· Nine-time conference coach of the year (league or media in Atlantic 10, Conference USA or Southeastern Conference)
· 2018 NABC Metropolitan Award
· 2015 Associated Press National Coach of the Year
· 2012 Nell & John Wooden Coach of the Year Leadership Award
· 2009 Sports Illustrated National Coach of the Year
‑ GO CATS –
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