LEXINGTON, Ky. (KT) — John Calipari will be among four statues that will be unveiled at the University of Massachusetts next fall.
Statues featuring Calipari, Marcus Camby, Julius Erving and Jack Leaman will be unveiled near the Mullins Center on Sept. 11 in Amherst.
"These four pillars of our men's basketball program put Massachusetts Basketball on the map during their time in Amherst," UMass Athletics Director Ryan Bamford said. “They are responsible for some of the most memorable moments in our program's history, and we are thrilled to honor their legacies with this lasting tribute.
"We look forward to welcoming these Minuteman legends, their families and our fans back to campus this fall to celebrate this special ceremony together."
Calipari led the UMass men's basketball team to an overall record of 193-71 in his eight seasons as coach from 1988-1996. His .731 career winning percentage remains the best in school history, and he ranks second all-time at UMass in victories with 193.
Calipari led the Minutemen to five straight NCAA Tournament appearances from 1992-1996, after UMass had gone to the NCAAs only once in the first 81 years of the program. His Minutemen made the Atlantic 10's first and only Final Four appearance during the 1996 season, during which they went 35-2 overall and spent 10 weeks ranked No. 1 in the nation. Following the 1996 season, Calipari was named National Coach of the Year by the National Association of Basketball Coaches, The Sporting News and Boost / Naismith.
The 1995-96 UMass squad will be inducted as a team. Calipari was inducted into the UMass Hall of Fame in 2004.
Kentucky defeated UMass 81-74 in the national semfinals in 1996 after losing to the Minutemen 92-82 during the regular season. The Wiildcats were 34-2 and national champions after defeating Syracuse in the finals.
The UMass Hall of Fame induction ceremony is set for 6 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 10.
Home sweet home
Kentucky assistant coach Orlando Antigua admitted that he would have likely stayed at Illinois if not for a second opportunity to coach at Kentucky.
“It’s home,” he said. “If it wasn’t Kentucky, I would have stayed in Champaign (Illinois). (Head coach) Brad (Underwood) and (AD) Josh Whitman and the staff and the people up there at Illinois were phenomenal. But it’s just the relationship I have with Cal, the relationship I have with Lexington, my daughter just graduated from here (UK).”
The Wildcats began summer practice Monday and are still in the midst of a satellite tour across the state.
“You need that time to lay that focus, the vision, the togetherness, the bonding that needs to happen when you’re trying to push people through the comfort level,” he said. “There’s a trust that has to happen that has to be kinda sped up and forced early, in particular here, that at some other places you don’t have that same kind of restriction or pressure to do and not being able to be with them and work with them last spring and summer was a big part.”
Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter @keithtaylor21.