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Karl-Anthony Towns learned from John Calipari to stop being so nice

Calipari had to make some hard decisions with Towns when he wasn’t playing hard in the post.

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NCAA Basketball: Kentucky at Florida Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

John Calipari’s new book, “Success is the Only Option: The Art of Coaching Extreme Talent,” is now available, and as you can imagine, it features a ton of great stories about Cal coaching some of the best basketball players in the world.

Among them is Minnesota Timberwolves forward Karl-Anthony Towns, who has already established himself as one of the best players in the NBA. In it is an excerpt of how Calipari got his former star to stop being so darn nice on the court. It happened after a dud Towns put up vs South Carolina during his lone season at UK.

That’s normal; it always takes time. I’d see flashes of what I wanted, then he would revert. He made two of his three shot attempts that night, missed both his foul shots, and grabbed a grand total of one rebound.

I never leave a player on the bench as punishment, but it’s only fair to keep the kids out there who are doing more. Our platoon system only guaranteed minutes to players who were battling. He played just twelve minutes that night.

After the game, I saw Karl’s parents. He probably had rarely struggled much at anything before, and I knew it wasn’t easy for them to watch. I normally try not to talk to parents about basketball (I’ll engage them on almost anything else about their child) but I made an exception. “I’m not letting up,” I told them. “He’s going to be unbelievable by the end, but I’m not letting up on him.”

His mother said she thought he was fighting better in the post. “No, no, no,” I said. “He’s not battling enough. You want him to shoot threes? Nope, sorry, I’m not letting him go out there.” I then hugged her and kissed her cheek.

Towns played just 12 minutes that night and then got only 19 minutes the next game vs Missouri as Cal was getting his message across. Towns responded by scoring in double figures in 12 of his next 19 games as he really turned it up a notch and really began to blossom in his one and only season with the Kentucky Wildcats.

You can read more of the excerpt at Sports Illustrated, or buy the book on Amazon.