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Thursday / February 21.
  • Final Four Helps Calipari’s Father Grieve

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    HOUSTON — The past several months have not been easy for Vince Calipari.

    His wife, Donna, died Nov. 28 in Charlotte, N.C., following a long battle with cancer. She was 74.

    “It’s been really hard,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said Friday at Reliant Stadium as his Wildcats prepared to play UConn Saturday in one national semifinal. “They had been married 54 years. He hadn’t left the house in a while.”

    Vince Calipari emerged to watch Kentucky win the SEC Tournament in Atlanta, and has followed his son’s team through the Regionals in Tampa and Newark.

    “At first I didn’t want to come to the games,” he said courtside Friday. “But it’s been good. I enjoyed it. It helps a lot.”

    He added: “It ain’t bad when you’re watching in person, but when you’re watching on TV you can shut it off…and go in the other room. Hoping when I come back, things will change for the better.”

    John said being around basketball has helped his father grieve.

    “He’s here,” said Calipari, who has taken three teams to the Final Four. “Really, getting to spend some time with him, you know, letting him enjoy and take his mind off the grief that he’s going through right now. It’s been a hard road.

    “I’ve said, for us, I haven’t even had time to step back away, which I will when the season’s over. But the thing that I’m happy about for both of my parents, is my mother got to see me coach at Kentucky before she passed away. I told our president, I thank you for that.”

    Vince Calipari has also been able to spend time with his daughter-in-law, Ellen, and grandson, Bradley.

    “Ellen and Bradley, the family, that’s been a lot of fun,” Vince said. “I haven’t seen them in a few weeks. It’s been nice being around.”

    “They’re on the bus together, they’re staying in rooms side-by-side with a combining door where they can see each other,” John said. “It’s good stuff. It’s really good stuff.”

    Vince wasn’t a basketball player growing up, and said John got involved in the sport in gradeschool. John also played baseball.

    Now, after a long and sometimes tainted career, his son has a chance to win his first national championship after having his previous two at UMass and Memphis vacated.

    Kentucky President Dr. Lee Todd said last week in Newark that after interviewing Calipari in 2009, “He convinced me that this banner won’t come down.”

    Now the father hopes the son will win his first championship in a year that has been filled with so much grief.

    “I’m glad I came now, and I’m glad I’m here,” he said. “And we’ll be here Monday.”

    (PHoto courtesy John Clay)


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    Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle. A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.