Detroit Pistons: Derrick Rose’s lifetime bond with John Calipari

Detroit Pistons point guard Derrick Rose with his college coach John Calipari. (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)
Detroit Pistons point guard Derrick Rose with his college coach John Calipari. (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images) /

Detroit Pistons point guard Derrick Rose shares a special bond with one of the top coaches in the country.

Long before Derrick Rose joined the Detroit Pistons, Kentucky head coach John Calipari helped mold Rose into the player he is today.  Calipari coached Rose at the University of Memphis in 2008 with the goal of guiding the Chicago native to become a top NBA draft pick all through tough love that led to a friendship for life.

“To this day he’ll still say, ’Coach, I love you,’” Calipari said in Rose’s documentary on Stadium.  “Wait a minute, you played for me one year.  He’ll see me, we’ll talk, he’ll hug me and say, ‘Coach, I love you.’  C’mon, it just shows that he’s deeper than all of this.”

The Rose-Calipari connection goes back to Rose choosing to play for Memphis based on Calipari being one of the only coaches to show up at his childhood home on the south side of Chicago to recruit him.  Rose also knew of Calipari’s success with guiding players to become top picks in the NBA draft.

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“I could’ve gone to any other school, but I chose to play for him,” Rose said in Calipari’s ESPN 30 for 30: One and Not Done.  “We felt like we were on the same page as far as the NBA.  He told me he was going to push me, but at the time I didn’t know he was insane.  Looking back at it, I could tell that it was all love.”

The insanity that Rose mentioned refers to Calipari’s tough coaching style intended to push players beyond their limits.

“His friends in Chicago said, ‘Coach, he thought you were the devil; He called us and said, ‘I’m playing for the devil,’” Calipari recollected.

Rose responded, “I felt like he was picking on me the first couple months in practice.  He threatened me like five times to kick me out of practice.  It’s like damn, ‘Why you on me so hard man?’”

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Calipari: “I couldn’t just let him do what he wanted to do.  I had to coach him in a way like feel this out, yet here’s where you’re the best version of you.  This is what it looks like, and by the end of the year it wasn’t even close.  He was an absolute beast offensively, defensively, leadership.  All those things.”

Everything turned out for the best for Rose after being able to take his family out of poverty when he was named the first overall pick of the 2008  draft due to the hard work instilled by Calipari.

Nowadays, Rose and Calipari make time for each other whenever they cross paths as shown in Calipari’s documentary when Rose spoke to Calipari’s Kentucky team in 2015 when the Wildcats took on Duke at the United Center.

The two also ran into each other back in 2019 when the Final Four was in Minneapolis, along with the Minnesota Timberwolves hosting the Miami Heat on April 5th.  Rose was inactive for the game, but made sure to go out and show his appreciation for Coach Cal, as his players call him.

Calipari played an integral part in Rose becoming the No. 1 pick, hence all the appreciation (4:09) that Rose still shows to this day.  Through it all, Calipari knows Rose is still that humble Chicago kid that walked onto campus in Memphis back in 2008 with the dream of making it to the NBA.

“The injury and all this, it’s hurt him, hurt him to his core,” Calipari noted.  “Not winning a championship hurt him to his core.  Being attacked by it hurts him, but I will tell you that at the end of the day who he is he has not changed.”

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