Kentucky coach John Calipari has watched former player and assistant coach Derek Kellogg grow — like a proud parent. Kellogg, the Massachusetts point guard turned head coach, served on Calipari's staff at Memphis for nine seasons before taking over at his alma mater in 2008.

The way Calipari sees it, however, Kellogg's been a head coach for longer than he thinks.

"When he was a player, he never came off the floor. All the players loved him so much," Calipari told USA TODAY Sports by phone. "He's doing the same thing as a coach that made him such a great player. He's making everybody better."

Kellogg often turns to his mentor for words of wisdom, reaching out to him 4-5 times a week — whether it be texts or long phone calls — although recently he's been seeking more tactical advice.

One challenge Kellogg wasn't fully ready for as a head coach? Preparing his nationally ranked team to play with a target on its back. The Minutemen (16-1, 3-0) have exceeded expectations and are one of the country's most surprising success stories, vaulting to No. 12 in the USA TODAY Sports Coaches Poll on Monday. That's the highest ranking for the program since 1996 — back when Calipari was still roaming the sidelines.

"I don't know why he's calling me for advice. His team's better than we are," Calipari joked. The Wildcats are No. 14 this week. "Derek's always played and coached with this chip on his shoulder. That's what I'm trying to get my group to have."