Calipari wrote about his former player: “We are all better people for having crossed paths with him.”
One day after his tragic passing, the basketball world is still reeling from the untimely death of Terrence Clarke.
Among those grieving is Kentucky coach John Calipari, who traveled to Los Angeles to be with Clarke’s family. Upon his arrival, he wrote an essay about Clarke that he released on his website on Friday, calling his former player “as caring of a person as I have ever coached.”
“His enthusiasm and energy—not just for basketball, for life—are what we all hope to have in our journey,” Calipari wrote. “Terrence had figured that part out—that if you wake up every day with a smile on your face and a joy in everything you do, this life is beautiful.”
Clarke was a five-star prospect from Boston who was named a McDonald’s All-American in 2020. A foot injury limited him to just eight games last season at Kentucky, and he declared for the 2021 NBA draft in March. Calipari described how emotional the two of them were after learning the severity of Clarke’s injury.
“Terrence was emotional. I remember the emotions he and I both had when we talked about his last injury popping up on the X-ray. We cried together,” Calipari wrote. “He wore his heart on his sleeve and was sometimes quick to react, but he was also patently passionate about winning and losing, playing well, and his teammates.
“I loved it because guess what? He played for a coach who is exactly the same way.”
Clarke was reportedly leaving a workout on Thursday when his accident occurred. He had just signed with Klutch Sports a day earlier, along with former Kentucky teammate BJ Boston. Calipari said he spoke with Klutch Sports CEO, Rich Paul after news of Clarke’s passing came out.
“Rich Paul, his agent, talked to me right after the accident and we could hardly speak. We were both in tears,” Calipari wrote. “When Rich calmed down, he said to me, ‘Cal, he was going to be a first-round draft pick. The stuff he was doing, the shape he was in and the mission he was on, he was going to do this.’ It makes me even more devastated.”
Calipari expressed regret for not acting on an impulse in recent days to reach out to his players who were not returning from last season’s team, a group that included Clarke. He also described some of his current and former players as “inconsolable.”
“What I have said to them and what I will say to Big Blue Nation: It is not supposed to happen this way. We are not supposed to lose a young man like this with so much ahead of him this early. I do not question God why things like this happen, but I also don’t have the capacity to understand how it does. I just know that I wish it were me and not him. His life was in front of him. I have had a good run.”
Calipari plans to stay in Los Angeles as long as Clarke’s family is there, “to be present and be there for whatever they need.” There has been no public announcement for a memorial service, though Kentucky announced plans for a candlelight vigil on campus Friday night.
“Terrence was only with us a short time, but God blessed us when he put him in our lives,” Calipari wrote. “We are all better people for having crossed paths with him. Rest in peace, Terrence.”