John Calipari

ESPN is working on a “30 for 30” documentary about Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari, to be released April 13, between the end of the college basketball season and the start of the NBA Playoffs, according to’s Richard Deitsch.

The film will be produced by “30 for 30” extraordinaire Jonathan Hock, who is responsible for The Best That Never Was (2010), Unguarded (2011), Survive and Advance (2013) and Of Miracles and Men (2015). Hock told that he and his crew made 10 trips to Lexington for the project, with the intent of telling Calipari’s life story through the 2015-16 Kentucky season.


“I think the most important thing the film does is embrace the antipathy to Calipari as part of who he is,” Hock said. “You can’t be John Calipari without the haters. I have had more fun filming Calipari than I can remember having following any team. He is so unfiltered and entertaining and real when you are embedded with him. He has been wide open. Making the film has been a really great experience.

“The thing I find most interesting about Calipari and what makes this film fit within the personality-driven films I have done about Marcus Dupree (the lead subject of The Best That Never Was) or Chris Herron (Unguarded) is that Cal comes from a working-class world. He is of the laborers. His mom worked at a cafeteria and his dad handled bags at airports. His grandparents were coal miners. So I think when Cal wakes up in the morning and looks in the mirror, he doesn’t see this super-wealthy, successful, famous coach. He sees those coal miners looking back at him, and that is what keeps him going and motivated.”

Calipari seems like a kind of misunderstood guy. Long perceived as slimy and dishonest, he’s remade his reputation in recent years, becoming known as a coach who cares about his players more than anything, even winning. He’s been insistent in recent years that while he loves winning championships, it’s more important to him that his players are drafted high and go on to great things. Where some people see his focus on “one and done” players as a cynical exploitation of the NBA’s age limit, he seems to see it as a way to best serve a group of players who probably shouldn’t be in college in the first place.

Hopefully this “30 for 30” will give us a better sense of what really drives Calipari. ESPN documentaries don’t usually focus on big names who remain newsmakers today, but the film could provide interesting contest for a figure who isn’t going away anytime soon.

About Alex Putterman

Alex is a writer and editor for The Comeback and Awful Announcing. He has written for The Atlantic, VICE Sports,, and more. He is a proud alum of Northwestern University and The Daily Northwestern. You can find him on Twitter @AlexPutterman.

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