HAZARD — Only a week and a half after their amazing run to the national championship, University of Kentucky men’s basketball coach John Calipari came to Hazard Thursday as part of his Trophy Tour. Thousands of Hazard and Perry County residents filled Perry County Park to see the national championship trophy and get a photograph with Calipari.
The Trophy Tour made stops in Ashland, Pikeville, and Hazard on Thursday. The tour then began again on Friday and continues into the weekend, covering several spots across the commonwealth. According to Kentucky Assistant Coach Orlando Antigua, the tour was all Calipari’s idea to give back to those fans that can’t always come to games, but always show support.
“It was Coach Cal’s idea,” Antigua said. “He asked is there a way that we can show the Big Blue Nation our appreciation for their support, and he thought it would be great if we can go out to the masses instead of the masses always coming to us.”
Due to the tour’s tight schedule, Calipari wasn’t able to sign autographs, but he did take photos. Fans came up in groups of around 20 and got a photo with the coach and the trophy that was then put on his website, www.CoachCal.com.
Antigua said that he, Calipari and the whole staff of the Wildcats have always appreciated the fans in Kentucky, and they consider the team’s win a victory for the commonwealth.
“It is a small way of saying thank you and that we appreciate their support throughout the years,” he continued.
Calipari quoted longtime UK coach Adolph Rupp when he said that Kentucky is the commonwealth’s team.
“Coach Rupp back in the 70s said that every person in the commonwealth, when they are born they put a basketball in their hands,” Calipari noted. “Many of them grow up dreaming to play for the commonwealth’s team; the rest grow up dreaming for that team to win a national title, and I am going to tell you I don’t think it has changed right now when I look at this crowd.”
One of those members of the crowd that had been dreaming of a national championship is Brianna Richardson, who got to the park at three hours ahead of time to get a front row spot. She said that her and her family, especially her mother, are huge fans of the team and were excited to see Calipari.
“It is a big event,” she said about the tour and the turnout.
Along with the tour, Calipari has stayed busy with his coaching duties and preparing next season’s team, leaving little time to enjoy the victory. Just a week after the national championship was the first round of students signing to play for the Wildcats. Antigua said they continue to recruit and isn’t hopeful for a break anytime soon.
“We have got to continue to recruit and we have got to get our young guys and see what they are going to do, and try to field the team,” said Antigua. “There are no breaks, there is a lot of stuff that has to get done in between there.”