Is the team driving John Calipari to the edge of sanity? - Mike Ehrmann
Coach Cal's been acting a little bit strange lately. Maybe this team has driven him to the edge of sanity.
Okay, I'm used to John Calipari pulling out the stops and saying things that don't seem to make sense, or even seem a little daft. Perhaps the best example of this was when he avered that the 2010 draft was the " ... biggest moment in the history of Kentucky basketball." We all assume that he meant that in a purely recruiting context, not the context of Kentucky basketball history, but he was roundly criticized for it, fairly and unfairly.
Today, Calipari went for his obligatory media availability for the game against Texas A&M. He opened his mouth at one point and this fell out:
Okay, now you all know me. I have defended Calipari through thick, thin, and everlasting Hellfire, but man, was this a bizarre rant. For a moment, it felt like Coach Cal had been replaced by Bizarro Coach Cal, and when it was over, the laugh around the room was pretty self-conscious.
I think he just got going down a road, followed it to see where it led, and wound up in Cloud Cuckoo Land. That can be kind of embarrassing when everyone else is hanging around in real-ville.
Calipari probably forgot Jobu's rum today. It is very bad to forget Jobu's rum. Very bad.
There was also this one:
ON THE LAST GAME AGAINST TURNER (WHO SCORED 40 ON UK): "We could have done some different things. We could have trapped him and made somebody else beat you, but we had the wrong guy on him. So you have the wrong guy on him, the kid gets going and now the kid’s got beer muscles and all of the sudden he’s making every shot. Beer muscles, Jerry, mean you’re a weakling but you get beers in you and you want to beat somebody’s brains in that’s a monster. That’s called beer muscles. (Jerry Tipton to Cal: ‘I’ve got white wine muscles.’ Calipari: ‘I grew up in Pittsburgh, it was Iron City beer and a shot.’) "
I've got Four Roses Single Barrel muscles. Those are stronger than either beer or wine muscles. Trust me.
While I'm here, let's talk a little bit about the basketball team, now that we're back from the male-bonding coal mine.
ON WILLIE CAULEY-STEIN: "Willie went on-and-off yesterday. He’ll be a game-time, but he practiced yesterday. I didn’t have him practice the whole time. I wanted him in and out. We’ll see how much he does today. My expectation would be he may play a little bit, but if I don’t feel like it or the game’s not going like I want, we may just let him out another game. We’ll see."
I don't think rushing him back is on Calipari's mind, and that's a good thing. If Alex Poythress really has turned the corner as I suggested the other day, he, Nerlens Noel and Kyle Wiltjer ought to be enough to handle Texas A&M if they were enough to handle Ole Miss on the road.
Here's what Calipari said about Noel today:
"So what do we do (against Ole Miss)? What was every shot we took? A contested jump shot, a quick three. Every time out I’m saying the same thing, so again, their habits and their mindsets, instead of gutting it out it’s, ‘Let see if I can just make this and maybe we’ll win.’ No, its not going to happen that way. You’re going to have to fight until the game is over.
"We’ve got one guy who doesn’t think that way: Nerlens. He has that will to win. The other guys are more, ‘Am I going to be that guy to make that mistake’ and that’s – we’re teaching life lessons about you’re going to have adversity in life. You’re going to be put in a position that you have to risk something to gain something. No risk, no reward. In other words, I’m not afraid to shoot the game-winning shot because I’m not afraid to miss it. I’m not afraid to make the game-winning play because I’m not afraid to flub it and if I do I’ll come back next time and I’ll win the game. All the great players, that’s how they think."
If this wasn't obvious before, it was certainly obvious on Tuesday. Noel gets it completely. No, he isn't perfect, but he is playing exactly like we would expect him to play, and delivering on his promise. He is still very raw offensively, but defensively, he plays like an NBA-ready defender.
Kudos to both men. Nobly won.