CRAWFORD | Amid his Greatest Hits, Calipari sounds four new refr - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | Amid his Greatest Hits, Calipari sounds four new refrains at UK Media Day

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John Calipari speaks with reporters at Kentucky basketball media day. (WDRB photo by Eric Crawford) John Calipari speaks with reporters at Kentucky basketball media day. (WDRB photo by Eric Crawford)

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WDRB) -- Give University of Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari 45 minutes, a hot microphone and a room full of media, and it’s instant copy. You don’t even have to add water.

But the coach realizes by now, his eighth media day as Wildcats coach, that some of his material might not be quite “fresh.”

“You won’t believe this. As I get older, I start forgetting things,” Calipari said. “For all of you here, if I ever tell the same story twice, just laugh and roll with it. As you get older, you start doing that kind of stuff. Just make me feel good. ‘We’ve never heard that before. That’s the first time I’ve ever told that story.’”

Perhaps the best news for Calipari in all this is that half the stories he’s told before, I have forgotten myself! We’re close to being on the same page, at least.

But who could forget some of his greatest hits? He played a bunch of them Thursday. He talked about how Kentucky isn’t for everyone, about how if the team won a national title but no one were drafted, he’d be disappointed, about how he wants players to become the best version of themselves, about Kentucky being the Gold Standard and wanting to try to stay ahead of college basketball’s innovation curve and about how Anthony Davis took the fourth-most shots on his team but was the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft.

You know the words, go ahead and sing along if you like.

But in addition to those songs you know by heart, Calipari played some things off the new album, too. A look at some of the best of his media day pronouncements on Thursday:

1). WHO COACHED THE TEAM LAST YEAR? This is one of those lines that will attract more attention than it should (heck, Jay Bilas retweeted this right after I Tweeted it, and why not, it’s a great line?) It will provide fodder for his detractors, but Calipari doesn’t seem to worry too much about detractors.

“Who coached my team last year?” Calipari asked reporters, and several mentioned Tyler Ulis. “Tyler coached my team last year. What was great about that for me? I still got paid.”

Of course, the line lends itself to the all-too-simple narrative that Calipari only recruits his players, he doesn’t coach them. What it really means, however, is that Calipari is willing to fit his coach into a mold created by his players, rather than trying to fit them into a mold created by him.

“Coach (Larry Brown, sitting off to the side at media day) tells me I’ve mellowed out, that I’m not as hard on the guys,” Calipari said. “Well, as the season goes on, you guys know I get a little more intense. The initial part of this is trying to figure them out. I can’t just say, ‘This is how we’re doing it, do it that way, this is the only way!’ I don’t know. Half the time I learn from them. . . . Like right now Malik Monk is doing stuff that is oh, boy. Do I let him do stuff that I haven't let other guys do? Maybe. I see De'Aaron Fox. I see how Isaiah (Briscoe) is shooting the ball. You know what I'm saying to Isaiah every practice? You shoot every open shot. If you have a 3 or a jump shot, you shoot it. If you don't shoot it, I'm going to get on you. I know you can get to the basket. I know all that. That's not what we need, and that's not what you need.

“So, yeah, I do things different. And the biggest thing is that's why every year we play different. . . . We had an early offense last year, and we worked and worked and worked because I was looking at tape of stuff that we did a year ago, and I saw it. I said, “Oh, my gosh, we never ran it after we did in the beginning because it wasn't good for our team.” So we do do things different each year, and it's all based on who we have.”

2). WHAT KIND OF TEAM WILL THIS BE? It’s a natural question, following on the previous question. If you’re going to build around the players you need two things: You need to know them, and they need to know the basics of offense and defense. So far, Calipari said, he has neither.

“If you're 10,000 feet looking down, I would say we're going to be a mauling, helping, rotating, shot-blocking team,” he said. “Probably picks the ball up (full) court because we can. On offense, a team that tries to score within three seconds, and if not, is doing something to attack the rim or throw it to the post. If that's not there, probably some sort of pick-and-roll, or give it to somebody who can jump this high or get a jump shot off if you can't get something easy. At 10,000 feet, I'm going to say that's what it would look like. Now, I'm going to be disappointed if in February this isn't the best defensive team, but right now we don't know terminology. We don't help each other. We don't understand what it means to even pick-and-roll defense, post defense. What if they cross screen? We haven't done it yet. What about a UCLA cut? We haven't done it yet. How about your out-of-bounds play? We don't have them in yet. What if you need a 3 late? We don't have it yet. What's the jump ball? I hope they all get around that circle. When you start like we do, young, you've got to let them go and figure out who they all are, and then we go from there.”

3). LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON? Brown, the NCAA championship coach and Hall of Famer who was a mentor to Calipari early in his career, stole a little of the spotlight on one of the final questions, when it was asked whether Calipari’s son Brad, who is a walk-on for the Wildcats this season, is as good a basketball player as he was.

Before Calipari could answer, Brown jumped in and said, “Yes.”

Laughs all around. But Calipari did talk more seriously about his son, while showing that Brad is going to catch some good-natured ribbing from his father for as long as he’s in Lexington. For starters, John Calipari said his wife has been to three practices in his coaching career -- and two were this season.

“My son was playing Mychal Mulder,” Calipari said. “Mychal went right and dunked on him. Then he went right and dunked on him. These are four straight plays. Then he crossed over, and he dunked on him, and he dunked on him. And I said, ‘Son, he just dunked on you four times.’ He said, ‘My hip is bothering me. Well, you better get it replaced. I don't know what to tell you, but he can't be doing that. But Brad came back, and he said, ‘You know what, I was too tight. I've got to get hands up and make sure I'm retreating back because I can't let him run by me.’ That's what playing against good players does. . . .

“He's trying. He can shoot the ball. He knew coming here that you understand this is Kentucky. He wants to be challenged. He wants to see how good he can be. He's in the gym at night with Kenny (Payne). Works as hard as anybody, if not harder. Shoots it pretty well.  Biggest thing he told me that kind of got me to say, OK, you can do it, is he wanted to get into coaching, which I never knew when he told me that. OK, this is a good place to go if that's what you want to do. . . . He's a great kid. He's done some stupid stuff, though, I'm going to tell you.  He's got two sisters, Erin and Megan. I was with them the other day. One's 29, and one's 26. And I said to both girls, “At what age -- 40, 43, 44 -- are you going to get your own credit cards? At what age?”

4). ON ORIGINALITY, AND COACHING. Calipari was asked what it’s like to see other programs around the nation trying to follow his blueprint for success (a blueprint, by the way, he will outline in a forthcoming book, Success is the Only Option, due out next month). Calipari called it the ultimate compliment, but then let reporters in on a secret.

“Can I just tell you, everything all of us do is stolen from somebody,” Calipari said. “The people that are around me that give me ideas that I pass along or we try, the one thing I never do, I never give credit to anybody but myself. So I take all of the ideas. So everybody thinks that all of the ideas are mine. Let me just tell you something. Whether it's staff, whether it's what we're doing on social media, there's always a group. I don't want to be in there trying to think I have all the answers because I don't, and I've been wrong before. I think it was 1978. Might have been 1977, '78. The reality is this is a group effort here.
“When they talk about it takes a village, to coach at this place, if you think you're going to go here and do this by yourself, good luck. That's when they find coaches in the fetal position under the desk, like where is he? He's hiding under there. You can't do this. And you got to listen to everything.”

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