95 Best John Calipari Quotes On Leadership and Coaching Talent

best john calipari quotes on coaching teamwork success

We’ve got the ultimate list of the best John Calipari quotes on leadership, creating success and coaching talent for you to help motivate your players and build on your coaching philosophy.

The Kentucky Wildcats have experienced a lot of success over the years despite being a team that constantly turns its roster over because of promoting players to the NBA after one year.  Despite being labeled as a “One-and-done” school, Head Coach John Calipari still continues to create national championship contending teams every year.

And, when you dive into his coaching philosophy, you’ll see why. His book, Players First: Coaching From the Inside Out and Success Is the Only Option: The Art of Coaching Extreme Talent dive in to the mind and philosophy of one of the greatest modern day basketball coaches.

After reading his books, we’ve compiled a list of the 95 Best John Calipari Quotes that we could find. These motivational quotes are deep, challenging and give you some insight on how to lead talented individuals. On this list of John Calipari quotes, there is sure to be a snippet or philosophy that every coach will be able to apply to their team. Enjoy!

Related: 101 Remarkable John Wooden Quotes That Will Change Your Life

Spongecoach’s 95 Best John Calipari Quotes on Leadership, Success and Coaching Talent


95. “When it comes to how we make up our staff, I need positive people around me. People with a “we can do this” mentality. I’m not saying everybody has to be whistling and skipping every day, but they have to look at things with an idea that we can tackle anything together.” – John Calipari

94. “In that way the assistants are like filters, determining what should get all the way to me. But the staff can’t just take the player’s side. Their job is to explain what I’m doing and why. It’s just like if you’re married. You don’t let the kids divide and conquer the mom and the dad. You listen, you try to fix what needs fixing, but you don’t throw your spouse under the bus.” – John Calipari

93. “You want to know what delusional is? I’ve had to say to kids, ‘You’re listening to your barber instead of listening to us.’” – John Calipari

92. “Practice is where we work on our players’ weaknesses; games are where we show their strengths.” – John Calipari

91. “In almost all cases, the player’s dream is to play in the NBA as soon as possible. The more who achieve that goal, the more who want to come here. That’s the way it works. Success breeds more success.” – John Calipari

90. “None of my players are as ready as they think they are for how we play at Kentucky – let alone ready for the pros – because they have rarely if ever been really pushed.” – John Calipari

89. “I coach for the names on the backs of the jerseys – not just the front. My players.” – John Calipari

88. “As I became more secure, I liked that I could make my life about everyone but me.” – John Calipari

#87 of the Best John Calipari Quotes – “Institutions serve people, not the other way around. So as a servant-leader, I measure my success by the success of those whom I’m serving.”

86. “The art of coaching at this level is about convincing great athletes to change.”- John Calipari

85. “Our goal is to get them (our athletes) to accept what they’re not good at. Surrender to our instruction. Surrender to physical conditioning.” – John Calipari

84. “If I’m forced to choose between talent and experience, I’m taking talent every time. You can gain experience and you can add skills.” – John Calipari

83. “A player who is looking for excuses doesn’t want you to put the responsibility on him. It robs him of his best self-justification.” – John Calipari

82. “Thinking about how you would try to beat your own team goes with the job of being a coach.” – John Calipari

81. “The best players I’ve coached have a demeanor about them that never moves. They have a calmness.” – John Calipari

80. “You can’t lead your players on the court if you don’t lead them off of it.” – John Calipari

79. “Leadership and empowerment are really about a will to win. What will you do to make sure that happens?” – John Calipari

78. “Their first coach was James Naismith, who invented the sport of basketball. (He is less known for being the only Kansas coach in history to have a losing record.)” – John Calipari

77. “I can’t hide you. There’s no hiding at Kentucky.” – John Calipari

76. “When you bring in great players to play with other great players, there’s a multiplier effect, and they “up” better than they would have been individually. They drive one another in practice.” – John Calipari

75. “When players combine elite athleticism and great determination, you don’t worry too much about position.” – John Calipari

#74 of the Best John Calipari Quotes – “They knew we cared about them individually. I believe that gave them an even greater ability to care about each other—to be fully invested as teammates.”

73. “If you need someone to be Superman at the end to win games, you’re going to lose games.” – John Calipari

72. “Rage and anger are related to fear.” – John Calipari

71. “Nothing in my Players First philosophy says that I should protect kids from competition. It’s just the opposite. I serve them by giving them competition.” – John Calipari

70. “Recruiting is sales. It’s persuasion. But a salesman who’s a fake isn’t a very good salesman – or at least he’s not good at selling to intelligent people.” – John Calipari

69. “My players have to have the intellect to absorb coaching and the emotional intelligence to be good teammates.” – John Calipari

68. “The quality I’m looking for in a kid is respect.” – John Calipari

67. “You don’t know if you will win or lose until you do. I don’t give up on kids. I don’t give up on teams. I don’t give up on seasons.” – John Calipari

66. “Do you want to read about history or make history?” – John Calipari

65. “Honesty and its related quality, trust, are at the very core of my coaching philosophy.” – John Calipari

64. “Nobody makes a big deal out of it when baseball players turn pro right out of high school. I don’t remember an uproar when Tiger Woods left Stanford for the PGA Tour. Neither Bill Gates nor the late Steve Jobs made it all the way through college. We’ve had swimmers turn pro and pass up college.” – John Calipari

#63 of the Best John Calipari Quotes – “I had truly gone from the business of basketball to the business of helping families.”

62. “During the season it’s about the team. From the moment our last game ends until the draft, it switches over to being about individual kids.” – John Calipari

61. “The people within an organization are the organization; if the leader cares first for them, looking after their well-being and helping them reach their goals, then the whole enterprise will thrive.” – John Calipari

60. “The art of coaching extreme talent includes coaching talent of all kinds – including extreme leadership talent.” – John Calipari

59. “Even when we won, I wasn’t fully satisfied, which is how you’re supposed to coach. You’re happy, but you ask for more. You try to get up to the next level.” – John Calipari

#58 of the Best John Calipari Quotes – “Competition gets you out of bed in the morning. It makes you alive and it makes you better. It reveals the best and the worst in us. You learn whether you can stand up and respond to being challenged, or whether you back down. When you start getting beaten, you either change or you fail.”

57. “Part of coaching is acting. It’s true of any kind of leadership, whether you’re a CEO, an army general, or a father. Part of the job is that you don’t reveal your own apprehensions.” – John Calipari

56. “Classroom smarts and academic achievement relate to what we often call basketball IQ. I always want a kid who’s a good student.” – John Calipari

55. “The great ones in any line of work are always competing against themselves. I use metrics to give my players additional ways to truly measure themselves and as a means of making competitive people even more competitive.” – John Calipari

54. “The one thing no one on my staff can do is add stuff to my plate. If you’re piling more things on, I may have to let you go.” – John Calipari

53. “If you’re a coach who truly respect the profession, you have to allow yourself to be coached.” – John Calipari

52. “You must love the thought of pushing through your comfort level.” – John Calipari

51. “You’re going to make mistakes, just play through them.” – John Calipari

50. “I’m a collector of coaches, teachers, and mentors. The ones from my younger days I keep in contact with and never let go. And as I get older, I keep finding new ones.” – John Calipari

49. “If I walk into a home and a kid disrespects a woman, his mother or grandmother, then I am out. I won’t recruit them.” – John Calipari

48. “You – the CEO, the boss, the coach – do not want to be a source of fear or intimidation. You want to inspire people, not terrorize them.” – John Calipari

47. “Nobody cares about their feelings. Your contract is based on on performance. If you’ve got problems in your game that you don’t fix, you’ll be out of the league in a hurry.” – John Calipari

#46 of the Best John Calipari Quotes – “I recruit extreme talent. Just like in any business, extreme talent does not always equate with a person who is settled, secure, and able to deal easily with all the pressures and expectations falling on him.” – John Calipari

45. “Any person in a position of responsibility should want access to as much statistical information as possible.” – John Calipari

44. “If you look at the word accountable, you see that the root of it is count. Well, we count everything.” – John Calipari

43. “To lead extreme talent often means taking on complicated individuals.” – John Calipari

42. “We have one essential metric – in basketball that will never change: wins and losses.” – John Calipari

41. “A CEO or leader of any type is in the business of persuasion, or you might even say sales.” – John Calipari

40. “My players – and any top-tier talents – will not share without first knowing what’s in it for them.” – John Calipari

39. “When you’re leading elite athletes, you’d better have some background, some street cred. What my kids are looking at is not how many championships a coach has won, but a record of developing and preparing players for the NBA.” – John Calipari

38. “One of my most important jobs as a leader of young men who play for me is to model my own behavior and values.” – John Calipari

37. “As a leader of extremely talented players, is that it is to get them to dream the impossible, to get them to reach for things that they never thought were reachable.” – John Calipari

36. “There’s no such thing as ‘too much talent.’ Any leader worthy of the title puts teams together with the proper people to lead them in order to take full advantage of all the human resources.” – John Calipari

35. “Everything that we do in public, during our games, is preceded by hundreds of hours of practice. If you come up short at a key moment, in sports or business, look back very closely and critically at your preparation.” – John Calipari

#34 of the Best John Calipari Quotes – “Highly talented people have choices. They are not going to choose to land at a place, or stay there, if it means their own futures are diminished.” – John Calipari

33. “If you’re about players first – your people first – are you willing to think outside the box to make sure it works for everyone?” – John Calipari

32. “We celebrate the ‘jack of all trades’ more than we actually reward him. In the work world, a well-rounded individual is always valuable but a person who does just one thing really well is usually more in demand.” – John Calipari

31. “I am always looking for a player who can dominate in an area of our game. It doesn’t have to be the whole game but for a five-or-six minute stretch.” – John Calipari

30. “It doesn’t matter how old you are or what you think you’ve accomplished. You don’t know everything. If you let your success harden into stubbornness, you may actually know less as the years go on. You get stupider because you stop listening. Nobody can tell you anything.” – John Calipari

29. “What builds confidence is demonstrated performance. My role as a coach is to shape a player and give him an identity that really streamlines who he is at a given moment in time.” – John Calipari

28. “A leader’s role, generally, is to recruit talent, nurture it, and be realistic about the fact that it’s going to move on sooner rather than later.” – John Calipari

27. “My goal as their coach is for them to become the best version of themselves on the basketball court, and off it – as people who engage fully with the world and try to make a difference.” – John Calipari

26. “I’ve gone from the business of basketball to the business of helping families. When we make our lives about others, life becomes easier.” – John Calipari

25. “We create successful teams by binding our players to one another, to a common mission, and to the principles of shared sacrifice and servant leadership.” – John Calipari

24. “Training must be harder than the games. And only crushing, exhausting training builds the confidence that leads to demonstrated performance.” – John Calipari

23. “If you come into my office, you’ve got to take stuff off my tray. If you put stuff on my tray, why do I need you?” – John Calipari

22. “I always keep our focus on us, rather than the competition, and I would argue that is sound strategy for any business and is its own form of empowerment. We control our outcomes rather than get distracted by what’s happening on the periphery.” – John Calipari

#21 of the Best John Calipari Quotes – “Don’t relish in others’ misfortunes. That, too, is a distraction.” – John Calipari

20. “Hiring assistant coaches…I’m looking for certain things…Can that person created relationships with our current players to bring them together? Can he be the individual workout guru who is on call twenty-four hours a day? Can he create relationships with recruits, their families, and their coaches? Does he have existing relationships that can put us in touch with the best players in the country?” – John Calipari

19. “If it’s predictable, it’s preventable.” – John Calipari

18. “I post but I never respond to other tweets, nor do I read them. For me, social media is a one-way communication tool because I don’t want to get caught up in the clutter.” – John Calipari

17. “One way in which I’m still old-fashioned is that I still do most of my learning from reading – mostly books.” – John Calipari

16. “It takes a lively mind to excel in sports…My elite players are always curious. They’re the ones reading the books and looking at extra tape.” – John Calipari

15. “To be fully empowered you have to first take full responsibility.” – John Calipari

14. “Good players make hard plays look easy, bad ones make easy plays look hard.” – John Calipari

13. “Extreme talent, however, in any field, does not necessarily equate with extreme wisdom or extreme judgement.” – John Calipari

12. “The extreme depth of talent I lead allows me to be more demanding. There’s no reason for any of my players to violate a non-negotiable. If they do, they know I’ll grab someone off the bench and sub them right out of the game.” – John Calipari

11. “Hotshot prospects are expected to change jobs frequently…In the modern economy, no one can hoard talent.” – John Calipari

Top 10 Best John Calipari Quotes On Coaching and Leadership

10“I need people who look at adversity as a challenge and failure as a learning opportunity.” – John Calipari

9“The best system is one that works. The one that fits your players.” – John Calipari

8“You understand that improvement is a process. World-class athletes are always working on adding some aspect to their game.” – John Calipari

7 “One philosophy of my program is that we don’t harp on weaknesses; we build on strengths.” – John Calipari

6“There’s no substitute in this world for doing the work. No short-cut.” – John Calipari

5“One of the most important things any leader has to understand – and one of the most difficult – is what you can control and what you can’t.” – John Calipari

4“You’ve got to learn to love the grind because life is the grind.” – John Calipari

3“The best teams I’ve had, had a little bit of swagger.” – John Calipari

2“A successful person never loses. They either win or learn.” – John Calipari

1“I’ve got a big sign in my office that says COACH YOUR TEAM…Everything else is a distraction- all the clutter, all the hearsay, all the opinions. It’s all a distraction.”- John Calipari

There’s our list of the best John Calipari quotes on coaching, success, and leadership in life. Share these motivational quotes from Coach Calipari with your players and your social media circle through the buttons below and help spread some more wisdom throughout the world.

Also, if you loved these John Calipari quotes, then you’ll love his books Success Is The Only Option: The Art of Coaching Extreme Talent and Players First: Coaching From the Inside Out. Both books are packed with a ton of wisdom (and John Calipari quotes) that allow you to dive into his unique coaching philosophy that makes his teams so successful.

If you’re not much of a reader, you can pick up both of those books on audiobook and listen to his wisdom while you drive or relax for free. All you need to do is sign up for a 30-day free trial with Audible, download the books to your device and you’ll be ready to go.


  1. 853372 783862Naturally I like your web-site, even so you need to have to check the spelling on several of your posts. A lot of of them are rife with spelling troubles and I uncover it quite silly to inform you. On the other hand I will surely come once again once again! 211721

Comments are closed.