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Tyler Ulis excited to coach former teammates at TBT, intends to play up-tempo

Zack Geogheganby:Zack Geoghegan06/20/24


After two years as a student assistant under John Calipari, former Kentucky point guard Tyler Ulis will now try his hand as the man in charge. The 2016 SEC Player of the Year returns to Rupp Arena as the head coach of Kentucky’s alumni team — La Familia — in The Basketball Tournament, which will take place later this summer.

La Familia is loaded with talented former Wildcats from the Calipari era, some of whom played alongside Ulis in Lexington and even in the professional ranks. Under Ulis’ guide, La Familia will look to take home the $1 million, winner-takes-all grand prize. This is a unique opportunity for Ulis, who says he’ll graduate from UK in a few months before heading down to Arkansas to join Calipari’s new staff in Fayetteville.

With his playing career behind him, the Chicago native has long-term aspirations as a coach. While this tournament will be nostalgic and entertaining, it’s an opportunity to grow as a teacher of basketball, too.

“Great experience for me,” Ulis said Wednesday morning on KSR. “Guys I played with in college, guys I played with in the pros. Hopefully we get a couple more guys. Some of those guys are my vets. I haven’t seen them in years, so it’ll be good for us to get back around each other, have some fun, and try to win some games.”

One thing is for sure: Ulis will have plenty of talent to work with…

As head coach, Ulis intends to tap into his playing days at Kentucky by playing an up-tempo style. With a significant chunk of change on the line (and possibly, professional basketball opportunities), he knows that everyone in this tournament is going to play with a bit of an edge.

“We obviously want to play fast, we want to play how we played before (at Kentucky) — lobs, getting up and down the court, play hard,” Ulis said. “I feel like this setting is just about coming in and playing hard. These guys are coming in trying to make a name for themselves, get contracts overseas or get back into the NBA.

“I think the main goal is just playing hard. They’re pros, so they’re going to bring a professional attitude. Understand that these guys are trying to win a good amount of money for themselves. As long as we play hard, I feel like everything else will work itself out.”

TBT, which includes 64 teams in this year’s bracket and features the famous Elam Ending, will tip off the 11th annual edition of this event with eight regionals (eight teams each) next month, one of which will come to Lexington from July 19-23. The semifinals and championship will take place at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA in early August.

The bracket and matchups will be announced on June 26. Tickets for the Lexington Regional are now on sale at

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