"La Familia" leads to break for players

"La Familia" is not just a catch phrase for Kentucky coach John Calipari, it is a philosophy that has brought his teams success, and will likely continue to bring them success.

The Kentucky Wildcats return to Lexington today following a short Christmas break with their families.

The players return to practice today with a rare live streamed practice at 5:00 pm.

Judging by comments on Twitter players were packed and ready to head for home immediately following the game with Loyola(MD) last Thursday. Following the game, which ended at approximately 5 pm players were not made available to the media for the first time in years. Presumably this gave the players more time to catch flights and to drive home, thus spending more time with family.

Not all coaches give their players a Christmas break, and even fewer are inclined to give players an extended four day break at the Division 1 level. Calipari has always given players an opportunity to be home for Christmas. The philosophy fits in with his "La Familia" approach to basketball and life in general. Calipari treats the team as a family, and the families of players as family.

Players who do not have an opportunity to spend Christmas with their own families have the opportunity to spend the holiday with Calipari's family.

Placing the importance on family time pays dividends for Calipari, as it is one of the things that makes Kentucky a "players' program" and Calipari a coach known for caring about his players.

The family atmosphere has landed Calipari more than one recruit, and has brought him many successful teams on the floor.

Calipari's "La Familia" concept does not just include his family, his players and their families. This concept extends to former players at programs where he has coached, for example Scott Padgett(pictured), Tony Delk and Wayne Turner have all been a part of Calipari's Kentucky staffs. Padgett is currently in his second season aas an assistant at Manhattan. Delk is in his first season as an assistant at New Mexico State. Turner returned to complete his degree and is in his second year on Cal's staff.

Calipari has also extended an invitation to all his former players at Massachusetts, Memphis and Kentucky to come to Kentucky to complete their degrees. He has invited them to workout in the Craft Center if they want a place to work out, but not work on a degree.

Cal's concept of "La Familia" extends beyond players he has coached, or players who have played at schools where he has coached, or players he has never coached.

LeBron James and Calipari have developed a relationship that is close enough that when James was a free agent in 2010 rumors ran wild that the two were a package deal. Like most package deals this was all rumor, no substance. Neither of these guys needs the other to land a job.

When Calipari brought Milt Wagner into the Memphis fold as a staffer during his first season at Memphis the rumor mill stated it was to give Calipari an edge in landing Wagner's son, Dajuan Wagner, then a high school junior and a top five player. Dajuan was at Memphis for a single season. Milt Wagner worked for Calipari for six seasons, finished his degree during that time. When Wagner left Memphis he joined former Calipari player Tony Barbee at UTEP, and later Auburn as an assistant.

The goodwill that Calipari showed Wagner in getting him into coaching and pushing him to complete his degree (Wagner played at Louisville) may have paid off big in the spring of 2010 when Michael Kidd-Gilchrist chose to join Calipari at Kentucky. Gilchrist's father played at Camden High with Milt Wagner.

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