COLORADO SPRINGS — Usually there is one in every collegiate gym. That player who doesn't necessarily light up the box score, yet whose uncanny feel for the game far exceeds the instincts of more physically talented teammates.
They are called coach material. And given his history as a role player at Kansas, followed by what has been a successful coaching career, one might easily assume Colorado men's basketball leader Tad Boyle has worn the label of "coach material" since his all-state days at Greeley Central High School.
John Calipari completely disagrees. As a potential coach, Calipari always believed Boyle made one heck of a personal finance advisor.
It has been a good-natured yet hard-working reunion this week in Colorado Springs for Boyle, Calipari, and Danny Manning as the coaching staff for the U.S. U19 World Cup team. It was 33 years ago this fall that trio began their lone season together at Kansas — Calipari as an up-and-coming assistant, Boyle as a heady senior guard, and Manning as the mega-talented freshman destined for greatness.
When Boyle opted to dive into the business world after graduation, putting off his pursuit of a coaching career for years, Calipari was confident his one-time protégé sometime one-on-one foil had found his calling.
"Here's what my wife and I think of him. Tad got into financial advising and we didn't have much money," said Calipari, the Kentucky leader who this spring signed a contract extension that will pay him $7.75 million in 2017-18 and $8 million per year for the next six seasons through 2023-24.
"And we gave him our money to invest. That's what I thought of him. He's just one of those guys you knew you could trust with your children. He and I, at the time I was a little bit slimmer and a little bit younger. We played one-on-one and I busted him. He could not guard me. When he called and said he was getting into coaching I said, 'What is wrong with you? Where's my money?'"
Throughout a career both wildly successful (he has led three programs to a total of six Final Fours) and mildly checkered (though not personally implicated, he is the only coach to have two Final Four appearances officially vacated) Calipari has maintained steadfast respect from his coaching peers. That includes Boyle, who didn't dispute Calipari's bragging rights from those old one-on-one games.
"We've crossed paths many times, but in terms of being in the same gym on the same team, it's the first time in 32 years I've been reunited with those guys," Boyle said. "The one thing about Cal, if you asked me to describe him in one word it would be 'loyal.' He's a very loyal guy. He's a fun guy to be around."
Given the short window the group had for selecting the U19 team, Calipari sought out potential assistants with whom he could work with fluidly. Boyle and Manning, now the head coach at Wake Forest, fit that bill.
This past week, in between sharing old stories, they have whittled a training camp roster of 27 down to the 12 players who will compete for a world championship beginning July 1 in Cairo, Egypt.
"Danny has done things with USA Basketball and so has Tad. And Tad being right down the road, it was easy," Calipari said. "I coached them both at Kansas so I know them. We've stayed in touch and they are terrific coaches and really good guys. And two guys I'll enjoy being around for three weeks."
Calipari, Boyle, and Manning are hoping to lead the U19 team to its third consecutive gold medal at the World Championships and its fourth in the past five tournaments. At the very least Boyle and Manning will be reunited yet again sooner than later, as the Buffaloes and Wake Forest are on a collision course to meet at the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands in November. Both teams have to win their respective opening games for Boyle and Manning to clash for the first time as head coaches.
"We all stay in touch. When you're a Jayhawk, we all stay in touch," Manning said. "When I first got to college (Boyle) helped me navigate my first year. It's refreshing to be on the court like this and have some familiarity. We talked about the (Paradise Jam) bracket but that's about it. That's still a long ways off."