cover image Players First: Success from the Inside Out

Players First: Success from the Inside Out

John Calipari, with Michael Sokolove. Penguin Press, $28.95 (368p) ISBN 978-1-59420-573-6

As the men’s basketball coach at the Univ. of Kentucky, Calipari is annually tasked with taking the nation’s best high school recruits and turning them into a team befitting the championship stature of a storied program. It’s not as easy as it looks. The coach may have these players for two years, if he’s lucky, before the NBA beckons. Having great talent also comes with the burden of a satisfying a rabid fan base and teaching kids who have long dominated their peers. There are several ways that Calipari’s experiences might have benefitted readers, but he and co-author Sokolove (a fine writer with a sports background) never find one. It’s hard to know what we’re reading: a behind-the-scenes look at how a great coach works, sports advice relatable to life or business, or a civilized attack on the rules and culture of college basketball. Calipari’s compassion and thoughtfulness can’t overcome the book’s thematic jitteriness; readers will get little more than a collection of random thoughts and sharp comments bound by the pull of Calipari’s name. (Apr.)