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Publisher's Summary

In Players First, John Calipari relates for the first time anywhere his experiences over his first four years coaching the Kentucky Wildcats, college basketball's most fabled program, from the doldrums to a national championship, drawing lessons about leadership, character, and the path to personal and collective victory. At its core, Calipari's coaching philosophy centers on keeping his focus on the players - what they need to get the best out of themselves and one another. He is beloved by his players for being utterly honest with them and making promises that he always keeps, no matter what. He knows that in this age, they come to Kentucky to prepare for the NBA; every year he gets players who in a previous era would have gone directly into the pros from high school but now have to play college basketball for one year. Calipari has fought against this system, but he has to play within it, and so he does, better than anyone.

The result is an extraordinary leadership challenge: every year Coach Cal gets a handful of eighteen-year-old kids who have been in a bubble for the previous four years at least, filled with hype about their own greatness, and they come to Kentucky feeling sure that they will play for their coach only for seven months before they go on to greater glory. Every year, he has to reinvent his team. After his 2012 NCAA championship, it was particularly dramatic; he lost his first six players in the first round, meaning that someone who couldn't even start for Kentucky was a first-round draft pick.

The overall record at Kentucky, and for his career, puts Calipari in the pantheon of the greatest coaches in the history of the game. Bold, funny, and truthful, like Coach Calipari himself, Players First is truly the first deep reckoning with the meaning of his experiences and the gifts of insight they offer.

©2014 John Calipari and Michael Sokolove (P)2014 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

"If you are a college basketball fan like I am, you’ll understand why I’ve long admired John Calipari’s leadership style. While no coach treasures a win more than John, this terrific book reveals his greater purpose - to lead his young players to better lives, and then challenge them to give back to others." (Harvey Mackay, author of the New York Times number-one best seller Swim with the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive)

 “John Calipari tells his players: Embrace the work. Embrace the sweat. Embrace the pain. I say: Embrace this book. It’s basketball at its finest.” (Simon Sinek, optimist and author of Start with Why and Leaders Eat Last)

What listeners say about Players First

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IU alum and fan...now loves Calipari

When I heard Coach Calipari's interview on ESPN's Mike and Mike, I knew I had to read his book. There's so much more to the man than appears from a distance. I think I'm going to find myself rooting for Big Blue with him on the sidelines...until they come up against the Cream and Crimson.

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I became a much bigger fan of John Calipari...

Any additional comments?

This book covers a lot of ground about Kentucky basketball and the reasons the program, and John Calipari, is so successful. A strong reading performance and great, candid stories. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in coaching or Kentucky basketball.

2 people found this helpful

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Gotta love Coach Cal.

What's not to love when you're a HUGE Kentucky fan!!! I loved every minute of this book.

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Full of outstanding coaching philosophy lessons

Great book with some outstanding coaching philosophy lessons along with some very entertaining stories of season successes and failures and how to build upon both.

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must read

I loved the scope of the book overall but also the references to why recruit this kid over that kid. Or what made this kid more advantageous to play in our team needs than that kid. a great inside lool

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Calipari is great

I loved how Calipari talked about his strategy and his approach to coaching. He gave me some great ideas to try with my team.

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for any mentor

Whether you're a coach, instructor, manager or mentor, this book will improve your confidence and renew your passion as a leader. Time well spent.

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For the Wildcat and Aspiring Coach

Good examples. Best for overall ideas on coaching styles. Also good for Wildcat fans, as there's quite a bit about stats and accomplishments.

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If you love basketball you'll love this book.

Easy to get through. Great narration. I would recommend this book to new and novice basketball coaches.

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Great flowing book. Easy to listen to.

Narration was perfect. Must listen/read for any UK fan. I'm off to find more from this narrator.