From the 12 minutes that John Calipari spent in the discussion Kentucky Needing basketball facility upgrades in the Bahamas, he’d like 30 seconds of it back — or a rework, at least. “I said the wrong thing,” the UK coach said at the time. “…Sometimes it doesn’t come out the right way.”
The other 11 minutes that were overlooked? They did not just disappear. Calipari feels that upgrades are essential, with a new gym high on the priority list.
UK AD Mitch Barnhart disagrees, explaining that it is “not a project we have put into our strategic plan” with the Joe Craft Center – built in 2007 – only 15 years old.
“We have continued to make improvements during that period,” Barnhart said in August. “We have enhanced this facility over and over again. It is still a state-of-the-art facility. We take really good care of it.”
However, Barnhart’s assessment of Kentucky facilities does not quite line up with others in the college basketball world. Calipari’s thoughts are clear – “It should be bigger and not leak like the one we have. It should be bigger because that’s what it is now. People should come and see this and say, ‘Stop.’ This is Kentucky basketball, the gold standard in the country.”
ESPN’s Seth Greenberg, who coached college basketball for 34 years — 22 as head coach — now covers games at various venues around the country for a living, along with Calipari.
No, not because he is a close friend of the Kentucky State coach and is looking to push the agenda; He continues to see other schools with better facilities. Others are making sophisticated upgrades to get there.
And it’s not just one, two, or even a handful of programs. Greenberg can name 50 schools with better facilities — including Virginia Tech, where he trained from 2003-12.
“It needs new facilities,” Greenberg told the KSR Center on the KSR website. This week’s podcast sources say. “That’s not me, Cale’s mouthpiece. Pat Fordy wrote something Like – Pat, do your homework, dude. I can name 50 schools that have better training facilities than Kentucky, they’re old.
“It’s not nicer than my Virginia Tech clinic facility. It’s not nicer than VCU’s practice facility, it’s not nicer than Illinois, it’s not nicer than Arkansas, Auburn is moving to a new facility. That’s how it is.”
It’s not necessarily about what’s brighter or shinier. It also has to do with the fact that the men’s basketball program shares its facilities with other sports, including the weight room. The coaches don’t even have a common meeting space, something at their disposal for other programs – especially Blue Bloods.
That doesn’t even represent the basketball dorms, which were upgraded in 2012 with the opening of the Wildcat Coal Lodge. With new plush dorms popping up all over campus seemingly every day at this point, though, the team’s living space isn’t even the best in school, let alone anywhere else. This is noticeable.
“They need to improve housing, and they need to improve training facilities,” Greenberg told KSR. “They don’t have a place as workers to meet, and they don’t have a separate weight room – they share it with a bunch of other sports. Let me tell you something, if you walk into a Duke training facility, this training facility and weight room are for no more than one sport. They have a meeting place as workers.”
“A detached building is what they need. The best programs in the country have stand-alone buildings designed for men’s and women’s basketball. That’s how it is.”
The detached building is exactly what Calipari is looking for, something that would be “the cornerstone of the campus,” he said. It will obviously have new and improved training grounds and a weight room, while also serving as a Kentucky basketball museum of sorts including exhibits with interactive features, interviews with past players, awards and honors – essentially the Hall of Fame. Include sports science departments and nutritionists while you’re at it, creating a comprehensive, versatile facility that aptly highlights the program.
“It all must have been 20 years ago, and we can do that,” Calipari said. “Everyone should be behind this.”
Upgrades are being made elsewhere on campus. “The baseball facility might be the most beautiful in the country, and I’m happy about that,” says Calipari. football? “200 million dollars”. football? “unbelievable.” and trace? “I love him.”
Then factor in the billions it spends on student housing, dining facilities, and the new 378,000-square-foot Student Center, among other developments.
The necessary growth is happening on campus. Calipari believes his show’s turn is now time to be a part of that growth – even if he has to raise money himself, just as he did in the Rupp Arena locker room in 2012.
“Now when people come in, they say there’s no better dressing room,” Calipari said. “How many years have we done that? The locker room will be good for another 10 years.”
“The locker room, it’s great. Absolutely amazing — John worked really hard to build this thing,” Greenberg told KSR.
Anthony Davis sent Calipari a whopping $350,000 for flood relief in Kentucky this year alone. To be included in a project of this magnitude, which includes a basketball museum highlighting the best players and moments in the school’s history? A program that not only continues to drive this program forward, but gives it a huge edge over the competition?
They will give for something like this,” Calipari said. “These kids will.”
One way or another, it has to be built, says Greenberg. Promotions are necessary.
“Is their practice facility OK? It’s okay, but I’m not sure people in Kentucky want that,” he told KSR. “They want the best of everything, because that’s who you’re trying to recruit. That’s what you’re recruiting against.
“Look, the truth is, everyone is building new facilities. If you’re recruiting, you’re driving these guys into the facilities—the size of an assistant coaches office, no conference room. Tom Izzo’s movie room upstairs in their office complex is a great theater. Obviously. Kentucky has their roommates in the locker room.”
Once again, the Calipari locker room has raised funds to build on its own.
“(The practice facility) is not on par in terms of the best in the country,” Greenberg told KSR. “I think Kentucky wants the best in the country.”
Calipari laid out plans for Kentucky’s 2012 locker room upgrades on the whiteboard. The architects took these plans and painted them professionally and the renovation was completed in “eight or nine months”.
This is obviously bigger, but the UK head coach believes the project can be finished in a year or two. “With funding, you will move,” he said. The hope is that it rocks the college basketball scene for more than two decades.
“I want this, whatever we do, 20 years, everybody’s still talking,” Calipari said. “Build it the right way, we can do it, we can raise money. But you have to start, and you have to have champions for men’s basketball. Who are the champions? I can’t be alone.”
He is not alone in his thinking. He now hopes the school will come up with that idea, too.
If not, Calipari has a list of over 50 drafts ready to answer his call.