John Calipari said Thursday that his team was both outplayed and coached in Tuesday’s loss to Duke.
“They were a better team,” Calipari said of the Duke team that handed him his worst loss during his coaching career. “They played harder and with more of a chip, which is usually us, and I’ll even go farther and say they were better coached.”
As for the message Calipari had for his team it was simple:
“Let’s all look at it, and let’s learn and move on.”
Calipari’s team, who was off from practice Wednesday, will need to move on fast as they’re set to host the Southern Illinois Salukis at Rupp Arena on Friday.
Despite being a Missouri Valley Conference team, Calipari had a lot of praise for the Salukis.
“Southern Illinois brings back their four leading scorers. They’ve got inside players that can really play and shoot the ball well. A team that beats us if we don’t play harder than we play.”
As for more changes to the rotation, Calipari says he needs to find the five guys that will fight the hardest.“
“I gotta find five guys who’ll play together and fight like heck and leave them in there as long as they can play.”
Perhaps the biggest takeaway was Calipari’s assessment of the point guard situation. While Ashton Hagans and Immanuel Quickley have potential, they simply aren’t the kind of lead guards that Calipari has had in previous years at Kentucky.
“Shai (Gilgeous-Alexander) kind of spoiled us. Shai became like John Wall, Brandon (Knight). You know, he became – and now he’s in the NBA doing that. We don’t have that guy. He’s not on the roster.“
Here is a recap of everything Calipari had to say, courtesy of UK Athletics:
On what he wants players to learn from the experience on Tuesday …
“Well, first of all, you want it to hurt. And then I want you to look in the mirror and be real, no delusion. They were a better team and they played as a team. They worked together. We worked against each other. They played harder with more of a chip, which is usually us. And I’ll even go further and say they were better coached than we were. Let’s all look at it and let’s learn and move on. No practice yesterday. I was like jacked to get started, but we had to give them a day off and so we’re going to watch some film here in a minute and then we gotta move on. We got a game Friday and we got a tough one. And just so everybody understands, I was never intoxicated or blown away by Bahamas because everybody kind of goes back. There weren’t game plans. There weren’t teams that would grind it out and move it, move it, move it, move in on defense. And there were things that I saw. I knew then and I know now: We have a chance of being really good, but I knew even then, boy, we got a ways to go. And so that may have hurt us more than helped us. This may have helped us more than hurt us. We just gotta see.”
On what he means when he says they worked against each other …
“Each guy – we were out there, instead of playing for each other, they were trying to get theirs. I had one guy call me and say, ‘It looked like your guys had their hair on fire.’ I had another guy saying, ‘They were so quick. One pass and guys were – people all over them, shooting it anyway, driving.’ The game, it was a 12-point game, and we took three bad shots, quick, contested, basket, basket. All of a sudden, timeout. ‘What are we doing here?’ Start the second half, alright, we’re OK. Even though it should be 10 or 12, we’re OK. OK, now it’s 23. Timeout. Stopping the bleeding. They don’t know yet what that means. I’m going to ask them in there, ‘Do you know what stop the bleeding means?’ Band-Aid. Hold it. I don’t think they understand some things that we’re going to have to get down. And then, like I told them, we gotta get five guys who will fight like heck and leave them in and play them as long as they can play. Find those five who will fight together and play together and leave them in and then the rest of you will sub in when they need a break.”
On whether needing to run plays to score puts more of a premium on playing hard …
“Well, I think they (Duke) played exactly how they’re going to play, which is space the (court). They didn’t run any plays. They just (pass, pass, pass), ‘Take him. Throw it to the post, take him. Throw it here. If you get doubled, throw it to me.’ They shot the ball that night extremely well and I think teams will probably pack it in more, which we were – the game plan was to. I know it didn’t look that way, but that’s again, the Bahamas. Really focus on how we gotta do this together. That was the first one that we didn’t and you get pounded by it. I’m just telling you, they played harder than us. They came up with 50-50 balls. We still are trying to figure this out. We started the game, not one post pass. You know whose fault that is? Mine. Obviously if I’m telling them what to do; they’ll do it. They’ll do what I’m asking them to do. If I didn’t make it a point – like there are things that I think they know, they don’t know. They don’t. Well, you’ve got some returning players. They didn’t play well either. This is one that you grow from. You learn from and it changes your whole mentality about how you approach, or it kind of caves you in. We’re gonna see. We’re playing an opponent, Southern Illinois, (that) brings back their four leading scorers. They’ve got inside players that can really play. They shoot the ball well. A team that can beat us if we don’t play harder than they play, we lose and we move on to the next game. At some point you, every game you try to tell them and they don’t understand. Duke played with a chip. They were gonna show us they were better and each individual player was gonna show our players they were better. And maybe their coach was showing me he was better. But, they all had a chip on their shoulder. That’s us. My whole career that’s what it’s been about. Did we get arrogant, all of us, me included? I don’t know. We’re gonna find out. I woke up, got about four hours of sleep, got in at 3:30 in the morning and when I came in I was mad we didn’t have practice. I don’t get to see them. I couldn’t even meet them, couldn’t have an individual meeting, couldn’t talk to them, couldn’t say, ‘You’re gonna be OK.’ If that happened then we’d of had problems because it was a day off. Then I would have had to take today off.”
On if not seeing them is why they changed the normal pattern and didn’t have players talk today …
“No. [Looking at sports information director Eric Lindsey] Tell me why you did that? [Lindsey: Because they have not practiced or watched film yet or met with anyone since the game.] When he said we’re not having the players, I said, ‘Why is that?’ If you guys want I’ll bring Jemarl Baker out if you want to meet somebody. We’ll have him come out after I’m done.”
On if they are an execution team …
“No, we can fly. We can open up the court. I think we did at times. We took bad shots. Quick, contested. Guys were acting like it was high school. Then we got down, ‘I’m gonna get mine now.’ What? You don’t play that way at Kentucky. You tried to get yours and now we’re down 30. Why’d you do that? ‘Well, he did it.’ Oh really? So he does it, so you do it, what about him? Then we had one place we could throw the ball and get something good other than running stuff and that was Reid (Travis). Well, teams are going to double team him. I’ll say it again: I like this team. I like the people, the players, the way they treat each other. Now, we gotta have a little chip. We gotta get hungrier. I was calm that whole game. Matter of fact, it was really positive. I did not say much. I mean, I really didn’t. Even at halftime or after. I didn’t raise my voice but once or twice just to (say), ‘Why did you do that?’ But just once or twice. But, maybe I need to coach like I did at the beginning of last year. If you remember how I coached at the beginning of last year, I was like the point guard. I became the point guard on the sideline until I could start backing up, until Shai (Gilgeous-Alexander) got real good and I said, ‘Go do what you do and we are good.’ Maybe I have got to do that. I am still learning how to coach these guys individually and collectively. But, I say this: They have got to go play. Just go play. Be who you are. If the other guy outworks you, you should not be in the game and don’t expect to be in the game. That is just pretty much my history as a coach. If you don’t dive on the floor, I took you out. ‘He takes me out every time I don’t dive on the floor for a ball.’ Are you saying that publicly to everyone? Please do that. It has nothing to do with missed shots or turnovers. It is fight. It is 50-50 balls. How many did we get? Not one. We had guys jumping because we did not put a body on somebody. Guys like, who the heck is that? Where did he come from? But, thank goodness, as much as I hated that to be our first game, thank goodness it was our first game. Could you imagine if this happened game five? Game seven? Five weeks of games and then you get back and it’s, oh my gosh. So we have time. Today, we are going to get after it, but we’ve got a game tomorrow. We didn’t get back until 3 what? [Lindsey: A little after 3.] Is that one of the reasons you don’t have players out here? [Laughter].”
On Ashton Hagans’ two fouls when he attempted to steal ...
”Again, I want him to be aggressive. I didn’t see him being – I know he went after it. I’d rather him go and deflect balls. Like, we didn’t get any deflections, we didn’t get any turnovers. There is a lot of stuff that we were not able to do that has to be who we are. But we are going to get back after it. I haven’t lost any faith. Look, I have been doing this so long. Have I coached a 1,000 games? [Lindsey: Close to it. More than 920.] Think about it. Why am I still coaching? Let me ask you that question, if I’ve coached 1,000 games. But, this hasn’t happened very often but when it does it needs to happen. It needs to happen for all of us, me included noq. You think this thing is easy? It is not easy. Never going to be easy. I coach at Kentucky”
On his comments about spending more time with the point guards and what he wants to get across …
“Well, situational, focus on game plan, trying to figure out where – like, I’ve had all kinds of different point guards. Like Shai (Gilgeous-Alexander) kind of spoiled us. Shai became like John Wall, Brandon (Knight). You know, he became – and now he’s in the NBA doing that. We don’t have that guy. He’s not on the roster. Do I play them like I played my UMass point guards? When I had Derek (Kellogg) and when I had Edgar Padilla? Do I play my point guards that way, which is more a facilitator than is the guy that’s going and – I’m still learning. I’m trying to figure it out, and that’s what happens. If I thought we could do some of the stuff just spread the court, ‘You go beat the guy.’ Come on. You’re watching the game. We don’t have those guys. It’s not who we have. But, I’m telling you, we have really good players. We’ve just gotta be a little bit more in tune to how we have to play to win basketball games. How you stop the bleeding. How you finish people off. How do you get somebody down and get it to 20, 25? What is a good shot? What is a bad shot? Here’s the other one: Do I try and create opportunities for different guys by doing different stuff? How do we get Nick (Richards) involved? I just thought Nick would be better right now, and so, OK, what do I do to help him get going? How do I do this? Most of this falls back on me, on my shoulders. They want to do right and they want to win. And they know what uniform they’re in and they know what that means. I don’t do the social media so I can’t imagine (what people are saying). I don’t read it. I could care less. Somebody said, ‘Your fans (are saying this and that).’ I know this: When I walked into that arena there was 75 percent Kentucky fans. I do know that. And they travel and they want to win. They care. If some of them are saying stuff, I’m not reading it anyway, so all I know is they are – they’re into this. I watched the tape twice. I’m telling you if anybody watched that tape three times they’re out of their minds. Some of them shouldn’t have watched it at all. Burn the tape. Don’t ever look at that tape.”
On how he reacts when someone in his program pops up in a report regarding the FBI probe …
“Well, the best thing about coaching here is you coach basketball. What you’re talking about, our administration and compliance are so thorough – doubly thorough – that I trust everything is fine. They get parents involved. I mean, they go to a point where it’s uncomfortable for me. ‘You shouldn’t have to be doing this.’ But then you say, ‘I’m glad you guys do that.’ My job here is coaching basketball, and for this right now, I’ve got to coach this team. Just keep coaching the team. I’m not listening. I don’t care. I’m not hearing anything. My whole mindsight is how do I coach this team and get them on the right path that they get it. Where the light bulb goes off and they’ll say, ‘Wow.’ I think it’s pretty clear that when you watch that some of the stuff we’ve got to get right.”