Elder Calipari enjoying son's 3rd Final Four trip - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Elder Calipari enjoying son's 3rd Final Four trip

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By WILL GRAVES

AP Sports Writer

HOUSTON (AP) -- There are times when Vince Calipari grows so antsy watching his son John coach Kentucky he flips off the TV.

Turns out, not watching the Wildcats play can be even more nerve-racking.

"I shut if off and go in the other room, hoping when I come back things have changed for the better," Vince Calipari said with a laugh.

Given the choice, the 78-year-old prefers a seat in the stands, and he's proven to be a good luck charm of sorts for the Wildcats, who face Connecticut on Saturday in the Final Four.

Vince Calipari has been by his son's side every step of the postseason, a trip that's been both therapeutic and bittersweet for the Calipari family. Vince's wife of 54 years, Donna, passed away in November following a long battle with cancer.

"It's been a hard road," John Calipari said.

He took little time to mourn when his mother died, never missing a game on the bench. He says he'll address it when the offseason begins, though his father is pretty sure that won't start for a few more days.

"We'll be here Monday," he said.

It took some prodding, though, for Calipari to get his father to hop on the Kentucky bandwagon. Vince didn't attend a Kentucky game during the regular season, opting to spend time at his home in Charlotte.

Calipari simply wore him down over time. He encouraged his father to use the tournament as an opportunity to bond with grandson Bradley and "take his mind off the grief that he's going through right now."

Bradley and Vince sit alongside each other on the team bus and have adjoining rooms to make it easier to pop over for a visit.

"It's good stuff; it's really good stuff," John Calipari said.

This is Vince Calipari's second Final Four. He watched in 1996 as his son led Massachusetts to the national semifinals before losing to Kentucky. He skipped Calipari's last trip to college basketball's biggest stage in 2008 while at Memphis because "it felt like a business trip."

Not this time. Vince Calipari sat just off the floor on Friday while watching the Wildcats practice at Reliant Stadium, drinking in the atmosphere as the largely pro-Kentucky crowd voiced its support for his son, who has revitalized the program after a decade of slow decline.

The father never doubted the son would succeed, often boasting to his co-workers at the Pittsburgh airport in the 1980s that John was "going to be the best coach in the country" one day even though he was an assistant at Kansas at the time.

How confident was he? When John Calipari took over at Massachusetts in 1988, Vince thought it would only take "two or three years" for the Minutemen to make the Final Four. He was wrong. It took seven.

"Obviously, it's a little harder than I thought," Vince Calipari said.

He is well aware of the lightning rod his son can be. Both of John Calipari's previous trips to the Final Four were vacated due to NCAA rules violations, though the coach was not found at fault in either instance.

"There's a lot been said both ways about John, but he's a good son. He's a good person, he's a good coach, and he tries to help everyone he can," Vince Calipari said.

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