Choked Up: UK coach John Calipari emotional during Rupp Award presentation to Anthony Davis
Kentucky forward Anthony Davis bends to reach the microphone as he speaks after being presented his award as the Associated Press NCAA college basketball player of the year on Friday, March 30, 2012, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey / April 1, 2012)
It was the first of three straight awards he would pick up here — he received player of the year honors from the United States Basketball Writers Association and The Associated¿Press — but this was the first one and I also knew Kentucky coach John Calipari would be presenting the award to his star freshman.
However, I was not expecting what I saw — Calipari broke down as he was presenting the award. The Kentucky coach had only said a few words when he stopped, wiped his eyes and just handed the trophy to Davis and then hugged him.
“Yes, that really surprised us, too, and made me cry,” said Erainer Davis, Anthony’s mother. “I guess with Anthony being such a humble, wonderful person and not changing through all of this, it made Coach get emotional just like it did me.”
Anthony Davis admitted Friday he was a bit stunned by Calipari’s reaction as well and never anticipated anything like that from his coach.
“He gets emotional when it comes to his players. It means a lot to him. When he talks about one of his players doing something great, he gets every emotional,” Davis, who also received the John R. Wooden Award Saturday from the Los Angeles Athletic Club as the national player of the year, said. “That just shows how much he really loves us and not just because we play for him and he puts on a front. He really loves us and you can tell by the way he acted when he had to talk about me. I had not seen that from him. It really touched me. I know it made my mom cry and almost did me, too.”
Kentucky athletics director Mitch Barnhart helped bring Calipari to Kentucky three years ago. He spends time with him and sees him often in public settings. He had never seen that type of emotional outburst from the coach, either, and especially did not expect it less than 48 hours before UK would be playing Louisville in the Final Four.
“That very much surprised me. I¿have not seen that often,” Barnhart said. “I think that speaks to what he thinks not of just Anthony, but this whole team. He loves this group of guys and he’s very emotional about them and what they have brought to this program in a very short period of time. It means a lot to him. He is as tied to a group of guys as I¿have seen. I¿have been around him three years and in that time, I have never seen him get as emotional as he did with Anthony. It was very touching, very special.”
Barnhart says “for a kid 18 or 19, Davis has been an incredible representative for Kentucky” this season and will continue to be that way even if he leaves for the NBA since he’s expected to be the No. 1 pick in the June NBA draft. He led the team in scoring (14.3 points) and rebounding (10.1) going into Saturday’s game with Louisville and led the nation with 175 blocks, also a single-season SEC record.
“He handles himself with such grace for kid of such a young age. I went to the last couple of awards ceremonies for him and he is just maturing beyond his years and experience level. He’s never had that experience and he jumped on the stage and showed up and here it all came. He’s handled it great,” Barnhart said.
“His parents are wonderful, nice people. They are incredibly humble, and that’s Anthony. He will be an incredible ambassador for Kentucky, Cal and a program I think he appreciates very, very much. We have appreciated his talent level, but we have appreciated the way he has gone about everything.”