It's hard being a Kentucky fan for a lot of reasons, not the least of which are sky-high expectations every season for the basketball team. In no uncertain terms, Kentucky fans expect to be ranked in the top five every single year and compete for the NCAA Tournament championship. They get upset when the team sputters, plays inconsistently, carelessly, or downright badly. Wildcats fans groan and gnash their teeth, write long comments on websites venting their spleen at everything from the players' demeanor to the coach's substitution pattern. When the Wildcats are winning and playing well, Kentucky fans are as happy as a Hobbit with a hot breakfast of bacon, eggs, toast and butter.
So we find ourselves in a grumpy mood, do we? Well, comes now Coach Cal to harsh my mellow further by using the hackney-to-death word "process," something I tired of a long time ago. But there it is, pushing my buttons again.
Okay, I'm just kidding. Yeah, I hate it a little, but in all honesty, it accurately describes what is happening, and even though it's overused coach-speak, Calipari (and Stoops) can be forgiven for using it. They are coaches, after all.
So with that trifling complaint out of the way, here's Coach Cal describing his latest version of "Embrace the process:"
Once all of our guys wrap up their finals, we’ll start the beginning stages of Camp Cal where we will start to correct some of the issues. It’s pretty obvious we have to work on winning time in the last three minutes of a close game. We’ve been there and have failed three times in winnable games, so we’ll focus on that these next couple of weeks along with a few other things.
Having said that, don’t expect things to change overnight. This is going to be a yearlong process. Yes, I want to win every game I coach, but our ultimate goal is to be in that conversation at the end of the year. I know we have to be more organized, our mission has to be clearer to the players, and I have to be less emotional during the game because we’ve got a bunch of young kids. I can’t put winning before their growth.
So it's to be "Camp Cal" again. Does that make you tremble, oh lifelong member of the Big Blue Nation? Remember the last time we had to do a "Camp Cal?" I do, it was only 12 months ago about this time. How did that work out?
Well, okay, that was pretty negative. But I confess, I didn't need the echo of 2013 at this particular moment in time. Still, there is reason to hope that the "Camp Cal" approach will work better with this team, but it's no sure thing. What is encouraging is that this team isn't getting beaten by back-to-back blowouts, including a crushing at Rupp Arena. They've lost three games by a combined 14 points, so I'm thinking there is a lot more to work with this season, and that we are much farther down the line toward being a good team than we were then.
Having said that, we're not a good team yet. The problems are maddeningly small, and mostly on defense, and I think they can be resolved with more intensive practice. Also good news, the next two games have a week in between them, and that will help get some good practice time in. All we can do is hope that the extra practice time yields dividends sooner rather than later.
None of us knows what the future will bring. What we don't want to see is the team tear itself apart, and I consider that fairly unlikely with Calipari in charge, although you never really know for certain. What we should expect, and what I personally do expect, is for the team to get better. Are we good enough to beat Louisville? I don't know, maybe not yet — but I hope we will be by the 28th.
Thomas Mario Adams III wondered in another thread if he were ahead of himself worrying more about April than December. I think what Calipari is trying to say here is that April is where he's pointed to, and the bumps along the way that may happen are inevitable.
But we don't have to like them.