The UMass Amherst Minutemen are celebrating the 20th anniversary of the men’s basketball team’s magical run to the Final Four, led by decorated but polarizing head coach John Calipari. The team will be honored Wednesday night before UMass’s game against the University of New Orleans at the Mullins Center in Amherst, including a special banner raising to honor the coach.
Calipari joined Zolak and Bertrand Wednesday to talk about the banner ceremony and his time at UMass Amherst, Marc Bertrand’s alma mater. The coach spoke glowingly of the team and “era” of UMass basketball, when he coached from 1988 to 1996.
“It wasn’t about one player. It wasn’t about a team. It was about an era that was celebrated,” said Calipari. “And it was a lot of fun, and the relationships don’t go away.”
As he has been for much of his career, Calipari was embroiled in controversy during his time at UMass over alleged recruiting violations involving star center Marcus Camby. Calipari maintains that he did nothing wrong, but added that college athletes are still kids who make the same mistakes that any young kid could make, and it’s his job to keep them in line.
“Look, these are good kids, and you know what they do sometimes? They do dumb things,” he said. “And it’s my job as the adult to take the brunt of it, and hope they learn, and move on.”
Despite often being the center of attention on his teams, Calipari insisted that UMass’s success wasn’t about just his coaching.
“It’s not about what I did, it’s about what we did,” he said. “It’s about a group of players who believed when no one else did, and were proud of what they did together.”
Listen to the full interview with John Calipari below.