BOZICH | The Best Kentucky Basketball Column I Never Filed - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH | The Best Kentucky Basketball Column I Never Filed

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John Calipari is chasing his second NCAA title at Kentucky this weekend in Dallas. John Calipari is chasing his second NCAA title at Kentucky this weekend in Dallas.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – This is the University of Kentucky basketball column that has been parked in my laptop for about a month, never working its way to the SEND button.

This is a column that I worked on, made another call, re-thought and then worked on again. But, until now, the column remained stuck in draft.

I'll bring it out today because it's the perfect reminder that you rarely know what you think you know. Better to let the story marinate, percolate, season and simmer.

With Kentucky bound for the Final Four in Dallas this weekend, it's an even better reminder that it wasn't only media wise guys and social media shriekers who were convinced that John Calipari had made his final trip to AT&T Stadium with his team to play Baylor last December.

In early March, I talked with two guys who have coached college basketball at high-level Division I programs. Guys who have been friends with Calipari for more than two decades. Guys who like Calipari, respect him greatly and have defended him against his considerable critics.

These guys, Calipari's coaching friends, did not understand what Calipari was doing with this UK team. He was deeply along the road to 10 defeats, including two to Arkansas and one to South Carolina. Finishing six full games behind Florida in the Southeastern Conference. Earning that eight seed in the NCAA Tournament.

These guys, Calipari's coaching friends, wondered what was going on.

One had befriended Calipari during his early days at Massachusetts. He said that Cal always loved to tell a story about his early days at UMass. He was building the culture that created the atmosphere that got UMass rolling in the mid-Nineties.

The way Cal told the story, UMass had won a game early in the season by more than 50 points. But it wasn't a 50-point victory that impressed Calipari.

He told his players that. He told them that he didn't like the way they had finished the game. He didn't like how sloppy they had gotten with the basketball. So Calipari told his guys that even though they had won a game by 50 points, they needed to be in the gym at 6 the next morning to fix everything they had done wrong.

And they were.

"I reminded John of that story," the coach said. "I told John that he needed to get back to coaching toughness into his team. That's his strength."

That friend wasn't the only Calipari pal who could not understand was what going on at Kentucky. The other friend, a guy who has known Calipari since they were teenagers, wondered if Cal was having issues that he did not expect while trying to coach several freshmen, especially the Harrison Twins, Aaron and Andrew. The twins, this coach said, could be a challenge.

He said it didn't appear that everybody on the Kentucky roster had embraced doing things the Calipari way. He also said that Kentucky was not starting games with the edge that Calipari has always wanted his teams to have.

"I'm not sure he can fix this one," the coach said. "These guys aren't getting it."

Seemed like a perfect column. It wasn't only me wondering what was going on with the Wildcats. It was guys who know the game – and know Calipari.

But I never finished writing that column. I wrote most of it. But not all of it. I never moved it out of draft.

Now it's a great example of why sometimes the best columns are the ones that never make their way to the SEND button.

Three seasons ago, Connecticut had to win five games in the Big East Tournament to be certain of an invitation to the NCAA Tournament. The Huskies cut down the nets.

Two seasons ago, Louisville canceled Senior Day after losing to South Florida. U of L followed it up with a brutal loss at Syracuse. The Cards' 2012 season ended in the Final Four.

Now it is Kentucky that is making everybody re-think the things everybody thought they knew when March arrived. Even in columns that never made it out of draft.

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