Kentucky's loss to the Georgia Bulldogs last night was hard to swallow though, for the most part, completely predictable. Once again, the Cats showed a lack of cohesion on offense and a decided lack of fight in all other areas. Coach Cal, and in fact the majority of our basketball history, have spoiled Cats' fans. It doesn't take Bobby Knight to observe that. Given that, many among the Big Blue Nation sit here today, as they've done often this season, looking for someone to blame. Coach Calipari is receiving praise today for standing up and taking for not getting these kids to play (say it with me now) "the right way".
I'm not ordinarily one to come around and deconstruct things like this, but I didn't take Cal's comments that way at all. When taken in full context, while Cal may have superficially taken blame, last night's comments seemed designed to send the exact opposite message. From Jason King's column linked above:
"I’m so disappointed in the job I’ve done with this team," he said Thursday night. "I’ve never had a team not cohesive at this time of year. Every one of my teams ... cohesive. Every one of them had a will to win. Every one of them had a fight.
"If this team doesn’t have that, that’s on me."
More from Mark Story at the Herald-Leader:
"I'm not going to throw kids under the bus," he said. "What's happened this year, it's on me. It's my responsibility."
The UK coach paused, then laughed.
"The problem is, when I say that, I've got 12 players in the locker room who agree with me," he said.
I'm not prepared to call this accepting blame. The words are there, but the subtext drips with irony. In essence, Cal is saying that he's used the same methods that were successful with every other team he has had, and this is the first one that hasn't responded. When a coach or athlete says that he isn't throwing anyone under the bus, it is almost always a backhanded way of doing so. This isn't any different. You can almost see Cal winking at the interviewer (which, admittedly, he did not).
Before you write an angry comment to this article, here's the thing about Cal's backhanded condemnation of his team. He's around 90% right. John Calipari has proven himself to be a master motivator. He is the king of getting high school All-Americans to play together for the sake of the team. Superstars have always busted their butts and done the little things for him, because he can get them to the next level even when they aren't 18-point-per-game scorers.
Let's not forget, though, that because all of these things are true, John Calipari is a very rich man. Despite all the haters, he is considered by most to be at the very top of his profession. He is the most popular person in the Commonwealth. For whatever reason, and I honestly think that due to the individual makeup of several of the players, the magic didn't work this year. As anyone who has ever tried to motivate another human being knows, the real push always has to come from within. All you can really do is to provide the tools.
John Calipari obviously didn't forget how to coach, and no doubt some of these players were hard to reach. But let's not forget, he made more money this year than most of us will see in a lifetime because it was his job to do just that. He knows this, but I think his post-game comments were less of a mea culpa, and more a last ditch effort to get to his team.
Even in what is less than his finest hour, Cal never stops coaching.
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