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Volume 23 No. 17
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Calipari on Barnhart: ‘I move fast and so does he’

Barnhart’s pairing with Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari (right), which began in 2009, has been very lucrative.
Photo: getty images
Barnhart’s pairing with Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari (right), which began in 2009, has been very lucrative.
Photo: getty images
Barnhart’s pairing with Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari (right), which began in 2009, has been very lucrative.
Photo: getty images

University of Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari moves fast and needs an athletic director who can keep up. That’s where Mitch Barnhart comes in.

“If we come up with an idea, it’s not for a year from now,” said Calipari, who is considered one of the more innovative coaches in basketball. “It’s like, ‘Let’s go, let’s fund it, let’s get it done.’ You need that kind of cooperation from your athletic director.”

Barnhart hired Calipari in 2009 and he knew things were about to change. Not since Rick Pitino in the 1990s had a coach truly embraced the spotlight on Kentucky basketball and used it to his advantage.

Calipari was exactly the kind of coach the Wildcats needed. His mind often wanders beyond the court and into the marketing and media side. He’s constantly thinking about new and different ways to present the basketball program to recruits and fans, whether it’s a new locker room at Rupp Arena or a behind-the-scenes, 10-episode series on Facebook.

“The biggest thing is, you need a guy with an open mind,” said Calipari, who won the 2012 NCAA championship with the Wildcats. “My mind races. Some of it is good and some of it is not as good. Mitch has got to be willing to be honest and open. In other words, there are times that he just says, ‘Cal, let me tell you why not.’ But we also talk about how to overcome it.

“We did the new locker rooms at Rupp Arena, raised the money and everything, in six months. If we’d have gone through the state, it would have taken three years. … I move fast and so does he.”