After last season, Brandon Knight left after his freshman year and was a top 10 pick. However, Calipari's best NBA building might have been with three players — Patrick Patterson, Josh Harrellson and DeAndre Liggins — he inherited from former coach Billy Gillispie. Patterson went in the first round in 2010 and Harrellson and Liggins were second-round picks last year.
Now he has more marquee freshman players plus returning sophomores Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb he'll be grooming for future NBA stardom this season.
How does he get players to understand that even when he's being hard on them and being brutally honest he's only doing it to make them become better players?
"What I've always tried to do is what I tell them is keep this real. You may not like what I'm about to say, but keep it real. We don't have time to mince words. We don't have time to mess around and play each other. If you have a problem, come in and see me, talk it through. If I have an issue with you, I'm going to tell you about it. If I have to do it in front of team, I'm going to do it in front of team," Calipari said in a recent interview.
"I'm not trying to hurt anybody. My job is to try to get you to be the best you can be so they have peace of mind, so they know there's more I could have done, there's nothing more we as a team, me as an individual, could have done, I'm happy. Now, fans may not be happy, but we can all be happy. That's what I'm trying to teach all these players."
In today's society, it's not easy to get players to buy into that theory. That's one reason Calipari pulls no punches in recruiting when he refuses to guarantee playing time or starting berths and even tells players Kentucky is not for everybody.
"You end up talking about being hungry and being humble. Are you hungry or do you think it's going to be given? Are you humble about the things that have happened to you? Are you humble about the opportunities you have so can you stay hungry and try to get better?" Calipari said.
"Then the other side of this is, for me, are you satisfied with your position. If you are and you're trying to be in a comfort level, my job is to make you uncomfortable. If you're not uncomfortable, I'm not doing my job. Being uncomfortable means you're continuing to get better, you're continuing to work. That's what this is about. And it's a challenge every year." Harrellson proved that last year when a preseason tweet he wrote upset Calipari and the coach forced him to do extra conditioning that changed Harrellson's career.
"Josh needed to be absolutely pushed, challenged, punished, conditioned, beat down. Other guys don't need it. If you coach every player like that, they transfer. McDonald's All-Americans, you try to do that to that are self driven ... If that is a McDonald's All-American, and it's Josh, then Josh would still need that. Other players, they need to be pushed in a different way. They're self motivated," Calipari said.
"Eric Bledsoe needed to be told daily, ‘You don't understand how good you are. Do you understand how good you are? You're a pro, kid. You're going to be putting your name in the draft.' John Wall, when you tell him how good he is, he had no idea. It all depends on who it is," Calipari said.
"That's the thing that I learned from Josh. I like to coach kids a certain way, which is we go at it, we go hard, we're honest, yet we still have a good relationship, and I'm not bull whipping you. That's not what I do. I'm not going to do four-hour practices. I'm not grabbing your skin. I just don't like doing it that way. Now, I get emotional, vocal, all those things. But some kids need that."