John Calipari

Most of the time, ESPN’s 30 for 30 series is focused on sports’ past; what happened, and why? Their newest one, to premiere on April 13, takes the unusual step of covering someone who’s still very much active, though, and someone whose influence is still hotly-debated. That would be University of Kentucky men’s basketball coach John Calipari.

The film, One and Not Done (which was first announced in December), is directed by Jonathan Hock. Hock has helmed three other 30 for 30s: Of Miracles and Men, The Best That Never Was, and Survive and Advance. He said in ESPN’s release that this film looks at Calipari’s personal story, his sports success, and the NCAA and the one-and-done rule, and ESPN’s John Dahl said Hock’s resume helped convince them to do this while the story was still unfolding:

“One and Not Done’ is really three films in one,” said director Jonathan Hock. “It’s a biography of an immigrant son’s American Dream, an intense and revealing all-access sports film, and a meditation on corruption and the true meaning of big-time college sports. Making this film was a chance to write history while it’s being made, the kind of filmmaking opportunity that keeps me coming back to 30 for 30 year after year.”

…Says ESPN Films Vice President and Executive Producer John Dahl: “With our 30 for 30 series, it’s unusual for us to focus on someone whose career is still a work in progress. But in this instance, with Jon Hock directing, we thought it was warranted. Few figures in sports today draw such strong opinions and already have the kind of influence and body of work that John Calipari does, and the film provides a deeper understanding of what he’s all about.”

The film will feature behind-the-scenes footage of Calipari’s current Kentucky team. It will also have exclusive interviews with former Calipari players, including John Wall, Anthony Davis, Marcus Camby, Lou Roe and Derrick Rose. Back in December, Hock told SI’s Richard Deitsch Calipari was an interesting subject given the polarizing opinions about him and his personal background:

“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 has both plenty who love him and plenty who hate him, and he certainly makes an interesting subject for a documentary. Also, despite his career still being underway, there already have been a ton of notable stops in it, and he’s undeniably had a major impact on the college sports world. However, there are lots of challenges to doing a documentary on a still-active subject; for one, there’s the consideration of if and how it will affect the perception of that coach (and thus his recruiting efforts), and for another, what if the story changes drastically afterwards? We’ll see how this one turns out.

[ESPN Media Zone]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.