LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — John Calipari met with the media today before the University of Kentucky's Final Four showdown with Wisconsin tomorrow night.
Calipari was asked about a variety of topics, coined a new phrase to replace "one and done," talked about criticism of him from earlier in the season, and about the improvement in his team and his own health struggles this season.
Quick video is posted here to YouTube (forgive the sound of my own key-strokes when he said something Tweet-worthy here and there).
Q. This has been a unique season with your team coming in with so
much hype, having these struggles and then really finding yourself over
the last month. I'm curious for you, what have been the life lessons
over the past six months?
CALIPARI: Well, first of all, don't believe all the hype,
including me. Know that each of these kids needs to be coached, needs
to be challenged. You need to define their roles, however good they
are. At the end of the day, they can't do it by themselves.
With a young team, early in the season what I learned, you got to make
it really hard, you got to be really specific, you got to start defining
things earlier than I did.
But I will tell you, this has been, for me, to see the joy in individual
players, and I'm talking from our best player to one of our walk‑ons,
it's been amazing ride. I will say to you that I think you can see that
we coach every player as though they are our star.
Marcus Lee got coached, even when he was not playing, like he was Julius
Randle, the same way. Dominique Hawkins got coached like he was Andrew
Harrison. So when their opportunity came, they were ready. These kids
are all important to us, not just the guys that are scoring the most
Q. How has this season tested you physically as well as emotionally?
CALIPARI: Well, I had hip replacement awhile back and I'm going
to have another hip replaced. So for about the last three months, if
anybody's ever had a hip issue, they will know exactly what I'm talking
So the season, the end of it is coming at a good time, let me just put
it that way. I'm going to have to deal with this after the season is
over, but the adrenaline you have and how you feel for your team pushes
you through all that.
Video of the UK news conference is in four parts below:
As well, UK's players were interviewed in the locker room during the Calipari and starters' news conference. A sampling of what some of them told reporters:
Aaron Harrison, Freshman, Guard
On what turned his season around… "I have just been more focused. I got a big burden off my shoulders and just started playing basketball again. I wasn't thinking so much about missing, but I just thinking about shooting the ball."
On "#RESTINPEACEAUNTSHERYL" on his Twitter bio… "She passed away about two years ago. Her sons live with my dad now, and they lived with me last year after she died. She died from cancer. I know she is looking down on me and my brother. I know she is proud of us, and I know she is proud of her sons. They are great kids, too."
On playing back in Texas… "It is really exciting, but I try not to think about that. Coach has told us to think about the game and stay focused on the game because the last time we were here, we had a lot of other things on our mind. This time around in Dallas, we are going to be a lot more focused than we were last time."
Andrew Harrison, Freshman, Guard
On playing at Kentucky… "We all just wanted to come here to Kentucky and play with other great players. We want to win, and that is why we came here. When you come here to Kentucky, you can't be hidden. You have to play well at every practice and every game. That is enjoyable. When you come here, you just have to look forward to battles at practice every day and being under a microscope."
On elevating his game… "I have just been a little more aggressive and have been having a little more fun out there. I just make sure our teammates are happy."
On coming together as a team… "I don't think it is putting egos aside. When you are young, you just try to prove yourself. That is all what we were trying to do. I think we have done that so far, but at the same time, we have sacrificed for the team. Now we are winning games and having fun. That is all that matters."
On what stands out about Wisconsin… "The way they move the ball. The individuals they have offensively are great, and we are going to have to play a great defensive game to stay in the game with them."
James Young, Freshman, Guard/Forward
On what teams they have played similar to Wisconsin… "I would probably say Boise (State). When we played them, they used the shot clock really well. When it got late in the shot clock, that is when they drove it."
On coming together as a team… "With everyone coming out of high school as a star, it was really difficult. It was really hard for all of us to just come together at the beginning of the season and just play with each other. Once the season got going, we started to learn how to play with each other. It was really hard. Practices were really tough. We had to learn how to play each other's role, and figure out where people were going to be at certain times. It was tough, but as the season went out, we just figured it out."
On the turning point of the season… "Before the SEC Tournament, our practices were more like games and more physical. That is when we really started clicking."
Julius Randle, Freshman, Forward
On coach Calipari's recent "tweak" to the team … "I'm not supposed to talk about it, but it has definitely changed the energy of the team and our chemistry. It's brought us closer together. It just improved the team."
On the expectations of being the No. 1 team to open the year … "Just coming to Kentucky when I committed here I was aware of the expectations that the whole state has. This is Kentucky basketball. It did get a little crazy at times. The expectations are hard to fulfill. We're just trying to get better and improve, so we never fed into any of that. We just got better each day."
On the changes that have made Kentucky better down the stretch … "It starts on the defensive end of the floor for us. We are trusting each other on offense and just playing with more energy. Our roles got more simplified. We just came together as a team."
On Kentucky's "less is more" mentality … "I don't have to force up any shots or play a crazy amount of minutes. I don't have to look as much to create. Less of trying to do too much to try and win the game instead of doing the things we do well individually."
On his strength … "My strength is definitely a big part of my game and it helps me out a lot, but it's not my whole game."
Dakari Johnson, Freshman, Center
On having played in AT&T Stadium already this year … "It looks way different from the last time we were here. I'm sure Andrew [Harrison] since he's from Texas, he's got the butterflies. But everything is way different from the last time we came here. We've just gotta go out there and fight."
On being called a throwback center … "That might be a compliment. I'm not really a flashy guy. I just try and get the job done so whatever they want to call it is fine with me. I watched a lot of tape on Patrick Ewing. He was a New York Knick, and I consider him a throwback center."
On the challenge of playing Wisconsin's Frank Kaminsky without Willie Cauley-Stein … "I feel really bad for Willie. He really wants to be playing right now, but at the same time he's helping other guys. He's engaged with the team. Defensively, it really hurts us having him out because he can play a lot of positions. Other guys are going to have to step up. Kaminsky is a good inside-out player, and we know it's not going to take one individual to stop him, it's going to take a whole team."
Willie Cauley-Stein, Sophomore, Forward
On his ankle injury and how emotional it is to not possibly play in the Final Four … "(It's) Definitely (emotional), it's the NCAA Tournament. This is what you come to school for and this is what you work so hard for. To have it taken away from you, it's heartbreaking. But, you have to lose yourself in your teammates and be happy for what they are accomplishing and enjoy the ride that comes with it. After we won the Louisville game, you think to yourself, ‘how perfect the next two games would have been to play in?' You can easily say that, but it could also be a blessing in disguise."
Alex Poythress, Sophomore, Forward
On seeing playing time in the Final Four and how you hope to be remembered after this experience … " You are just playing out there. You are doing what the defense gives you. You aren't trying too much or trying too little. You try to do what you can do for your team. Hopefully, we will be remembered as national champions. We are so close. To get here and not fulfill our goal would be heartbreaking. But, we are not looking at it like that. We are so close and feel like we will do it here."