Who Is John Calipari in Billions? Is He a Real Basketball Coach?

The very premise of a show like ‘Billions’ poses a unique set of challenges for its creators. They are not just depicting the signs of wealth on screen, but the limitlessness of it. From leasing an island for 99 years to hiring global pop stars to perform at their wedding — there is nothing financially impossible for people who have that kind of money. Over the years, real-life celebrities and prominent personalities have appeared in ‘Billions’ for the demonstration of what is possible for people like Mike Prince and Bobby Axelrod. In season 6 episode 4, titled ‘Burn Rate,’ a basketball coach named John Calipari makes an appearance to give a rousing speech at Mike Prince Capital. If you are wondering whether he is also a basketball coach in real life, this is what you need to know. SPOILERS AHEAD.

Who Is John Calipari?

Image Credit: Jeff Neumann / Showtime

The episode begins with the speech. John Calipari stands in front of a rapt audience, who hang on to his every word. He speaks about how he encourages his players to go after their dreams and how similar sports and the investment business are. Even Ben Kim, who has no interest in basketball whatsoever, is impressed. Meanwhile, Prince stands upstairs, watching how things are unfolding. The company apparently paid Calipari several hundred thousand dollars. But given how happy Prince looks, it is safe to assume that he thinks that it was money well spent.

Is John Calipari a Real Basketball Coach?

Yes, John Calipari is a real basketball coach. He is currently affiliated with the University of Kentucky men’s team as the head coach. Originally from Moon Township, Pennsylvania, Calipari went to Moon Area High School, where he played as a point guard. After graduating in 1978, he attended the Clarion University of Pennsylvania, where he was a letterman for two years — 1981 and 1982.

His coaching career started in 1982 at the University of Kansas, where he served as an assistant for Ted Owens and Larry Brown. He worked as an assistant coach at the University of Pittsburgh between 1985 and 1988 before assuming the duties of the head coach at the University of Massachusetts. He was there for about eight years, between 1988 and 1996. In the ensuing years, he coached and served as the Executive VP of basketball operations at the NBA’s New Jersey Nets, was the assistant coach at the Philadelphia 76ers, and coached at the University of Memphis.

In 2009, he joined his current team. Three years later, he led them to the NCAA Championship win. Calipari is one of the most successful coaches in NCAA history and has won Naismith College Coach of the Year in 1996, 2008, and 2015. His enormous success made it almost inevitable that he would be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. That ultimately happened in 2015. On the international level, Calipari guided the Dominican Republic national team to their gold-medal-winning campaign at the 2012 Men’s Central American and Caribbean Basketball Championship.

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