Kentucky head coach John Calipari, center, celebrates with his team after the NCAA Final Four tournament college basketball championship game against Kansas Monday, April 2, 2012, in New Orleans. Kentucky won 67-59. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
John Calipari, who led the Dominican Republic National Team to its best finish in international play last summer, has accepted an offer to coach the Dominican Republic at the 2012 FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament.
“I’m really honored that the Dominican federation and Eduardo Najri and Jose Miguel Bonetti have once again asked me to coach their national team,” Calipari said. “It was a wonderful learning experience last time that turned out successful for both the Dominican Republic and my staff.”
Calipari will attempt to guide the Caribbean nation to its first-ever Olympics after leading the Dominican Republic to the doorstep last summer.
“This country is very excited to have Coach Cal back,” said Najri, general manager of the Dominican Republic National Team. “We were following closely during the NCAA Tournament and he had 10 million followers rooting for him in the Dominican Republic. The fact that he’s going to join us again is a great honor and we look forward to finishing what we started last year in Argentina.”
“To have a coach of Coach Cal’s experience is a luxury for our country, said Rafael Uribe, the Dominican Basketball Federation president.
With Coach Cal at the helm last summer, the Dominicans captured the bronze medal at the FIBA Americas Championship in Mar del Plata, Argentina. While clinching an automatic berth to this summer’s Olympics qualifier, the Dominican Republic defeated archrival Puerto Rico and world power Brazil.
“Our goal was to become the best team we could be and in turn reach the Olympics,” Calipari said. “Our team had the best finish in the history of the country and we felt like we became the best team we could be, but we fell just short of qualifying for the Olympics. I think all of us, as a staff and a team, feel like we have some unfinished business.”
The Dominican Republic will train at the Joe Craft Center in Lexington at the beginning of June before heading to Puerto Rico for eight days to participate in the FIBA CentroBasket tournament. Coach Cal will not be with the team during its trip to Puerto Rico while he conducts his duties as the head coach of the University of Kentucky basketball team, but he will rejoin the Dominican Republic team in Venezuela at the 2012 FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament. Del Harris and Orlando Antigua will coach the team in Puerto Rico.