BOSTON – Kentucky men’s basketball head coach John Calipari will receive the Race Amity Medal of Honor from the National Center for Race Amity at a conference in Atlanta in November, the organization announced.
Since 2013, the National Center for Race Amity has recognized those who have made significant efforts to engage race amity to advance access and equity in society.
“I’m incredibly honored to be considered for this award,” Calipari said. “This brings light to a cause that is dear to me. Throughout my career, bringing people together and assisting those in their time of need has been at my forefront. It is humbling to be recognized for this.”
Established in Boston in 2010, the National Center for Race Amity develops forums, workshops, service projects, films and other initiatives to advance cross-racial and cross-cultural friendship. The organization aims to move the public discourse on race to one that recognizes and celebrates our ability to overcome racial prejudice through association, amity and collaborative action.
Calipari, a Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, just completed his 14th season at Kentucky. He has guided six teams to the Final Four, led the 2011-12 UK team to a national championship and helped 58 players earn selection in the NBA Draft during his 31-year college coaching career.
The second-winningest coach in program history has a 387-113 record at Kentucky with four Final Four appearances, six Southeastern Conference regular-season championships and six league tournament titles.
Calipari is one of just two coaches to win Naismith Coach of the Year three times and, with an 832-253 on-court record, he ranks among the top 10 in all-time Division I victories.
Motivated by the drive to draw others to a good cause, Calipari has tried to lead by example and instill servant leadership as one of the pillars of his program. He continually encourages his players to lead with a kind heart and has included them in a number of causes throughout his career. Those experiences, while a player under Calipari, have paved the way for the likes of Devin Booker, DeMarcus Cousins and John Wall to earn the NBA’s Cares Community Assist Award.
Some of the initiatives his team participates in annually include feeding families at the Salvation Army each Thanksgiving, sponsoring families in need with food, rent checks and presents at Christmas time, visiting hospitals and working with Samaritan’s Feet.
Calipari’s way of giving is founded in his three principles of charitable work. Everything he does must meet one of three criteria: draw attention to a cause, provide immediate needs or generate lasting impact. Much of what he does remains private, but these are a few public initiatives he’s been involved with:
– Five telethons – Along with his teams, he’s raised more than $12 million with the American Red Cross to assist aid for the 2010 Haitian earthquake, 2012 Superstorm Sandy, 2017 Hurricane Harvey, 2021 tornadoes in western Kentucky and 2022 flooding in eastern Kentucky
– In 2012, launched The Calipari Foundation, which has worked with several key partners over the years, including partnering with his Fantasy Camp experience which has generated millions of dollars and includes matching funds for more than 30 charities since its inception
– In 2019, when Lexington federal workers were without pay due to a government shutdown, he and his wife assisted those families with financial help and grocery gift cards. He said at the time that nothing was more fulfilling than meeting the families who were being helped
– During the COVID-19 pandemic when students were learning remotely, he partnered with Fayette County Public Schools and its breakfast program to help families in need by delivering meals to participating schools and sometimes directly to families at their home
– Developed the “Unity Series” which is a five-year partnership between the University of Kentucky and the Southwestern Athletic Conference’s to play an annual game between the Wildcats and one of the SWAC’s member institutions inside of Rupp Arena at Central Bank Center. The games set to seek to raise awareness of the missions of the HBCU’s and to raise funds to provide opportunities for students at their institutions.
He is most proud of the creation of the McClendon Minority Leadership Initiative in 2020. It is a coach-driven initiative to provide access and opportunity for men and women of color within college athletic departments across the country. These future leaders gain practical experience and opportunities to build their network, while instilling the values of John McLendon: integrity, education, leadership and mentorship.
The initiative has enjoyed unprecedented success with 93% of its participants securing full-time jobs since 2020. In its first year, the initiative drew more than 80 coaches nationally from basketball, football and baseball across the country to serve as both MLI Ambassadors and the primary source of funding, reaching as much as $1.5 million. Now in its fourth year, more than 70 leaders have participated in the program and more than $3.5 million has been donated to the effort.
Calipari, along with his good friend and Harvard head coach Tommy Amaker who was a lead ambassador of the initiative, were awarded the National Association of Basketball Coaches’ Guardians of the Game Pillar Award in 2021. In 2022, the MLI Initiative, along with Calipari and Amaker, was recognized by The Mannie Jackson Award by The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Just last November, Calipari also was recognized for his work in putting others first when he received the Jefferson Award for Outstanding Public Service in Sports by Multiplying Good. The organization, which has honored many of the country’s most significant trailblazers and changemakers for more than 50 years, is the world’s most foremost and highly-celebrated organization focused on and honoring public service.