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Transcript: UK Coach John Calipari [email protected] Carolina Press Conference Interview

UK Coach John Calipari [email protected] Carolina Comments 

On South Carolina …
“Really guarding. Physical. Rebounding. Doing things a little different, denying in a different way. And then offensively they’re playing to their strengths. They’re older. They’ve got a young point guard who is big and (PJ) Dozier is doing well. The guys who can shoot are shooting. Their post-ups, they’re playing a little bit of a mush-mouth game. They throw some 2-3 zone in every now and again, not pressing as much as they did a year ago – more half court. Frank (Martin) is doing a great job. What’s fun to see as a coach, when you’re thrust into a situation and you’re building a program, he’s doing it the way you do it. The problem with this modern era of Twitter and Facebook and social media, people think it is supposed to within a half of a year – it changes. Well, it doesn’t. What he did – what are they 21-3 or 22-3 or whatever? Think about that. It makes me smile. He’s a great guy. I mean, he’s the salt of the Earth kind of guy, but he is also a terrific coach. They’ve taken on his personality. ‘He ain’t going to bully me personally,’ but they take on his personality, which is tough. They make faces like he does. But, he’s done a great job.”

On the differences between Kentucky at home and on the road …
“I think if you look around the country, everybody on the road is struggling. When you’re not a dominating team, it’s hard to win on the road. We’ve won games on the road where I was like, ‘There’s no way we’re winning this game.’ We beat a team that’s 80-5 at home. We beat them. This is a little different setup. I’m anxious to see how we respond. Tennessee was a quick turn and I believe Auburn was a quick turn where we didn’t have much time. This we have a little more time. I’d like to see how we respond. We don’t have Alex (Poythress). Dom(inique Hawkins) is still probably 80 percent. Jamal (Murray) didn’t practice yesterday. He bumped knees and did it in the game, so he didn’t practice. It’ll be – this is a great test for us. They don’t lose many games there and they’re playing well.”

On the play of Derek Willis …
“Well, he gives you another player on the floor that will stretch the defense. He doesn’t even have to make every shot; he just has to be prepared to shoot them. The biggest thing though in this game, he’s going to have to rebound. You gotta be willing to stick your nose in there and mix it up. Put your body on somebody. If you don’t put your body on somebody, I can promise you that they will put their body on you. And you’re at a huge disadvantage if that happens. They’re good at it. They’re good at offensive rebounding. They wedge. They tip. They’re going to go after every offensive rebound. It’s the best thing that they do. I think they get 12, 14 points a game on offensive rebounds. You think about that when you’re scoring 65. You’re not going to hold them to zero, but don’t let them get 20 because then you have no chance of winning the game.”

On if Jamal Murray will play tomorrow …
“I would hope so, yeah. I think he’ll practice today.”

On playing with energy on the road …
“Well, you think about it, we’ve won a couple big games and we’ve had a 12-point lead and a 21-point lead (and lost). And then stuff gets hairy and we’re still learning how to win, how to put people away and how to stop the bleeding. You don’t shoot a fadeaway. You don’t shoot an up-and-under. You don’t take the hardest play and turn it over to give them another basket. You make a play that either you make more than 50 percent of the time or you’re going to get fouled. And then you have to lock down defensively if you’re not making baskets because it becomes a game of they’re going to make a run. Now make another run back at them. Push them back. They’ll make another run then push them back again. Normally the team will give up especially when you have a 20-point lead, but we don’t have that mentality. We’re beginning to get that mentality, but three weeks ago absolutely did not. We were just playing. Like, next play. Not realizing and it’s part of what we’ve had to do as coaches is get them to understand that.”

On South Carolina forward Michael Carrera …
“Well, I’ll tell you what he’s doing better than ever: They’re going to post him up. It’s going to be a tough matchup, but he’s also making shots where in the past you could play him in a certain way that you could meet him in areas. But now he’s making shots and he’s still the – get down in the stance – he’s still an offensive rebounding machine. He’s still the guts of their team, the toughness of their team. He’s good.”

On Carrera being 6-5 and one of the best rebounders in the SEC …
“I just say, ‘Hopefully you’re not standing next to him.’ “

On developing Skal Labissiere and Isaac Humphries as rim protectors …
“You know, the one thing that this has all done, and you feel bad for Alex (Poythress), but it’s given Isaac a chance to get in there and play and for us to evaluate this, because if Alex comes back then it may be between Skal and Isaac. You probably can’t play them both if Alex is healthy. But it gives them both a chance to fight and prove they understand how to win. We’re doing drills right now where they’ve got to defend for a certain amount of time and then there’s eight seconds to go and I stop. I just say, ‘OK now, this is how bad do you want to win?’ That’s all this is. You scramble. Every one of you (is) thinking about I am going to make the play. Well, what happens is a guy will just give up and they grab it. I said, ‘You don’t understand winning and losing has no bearing on you right now. You don’t understand. You accept, ah, it happened.’ So, we’re trying to get them to fight to win. Everybody is trying to make a play. Not just, ‘I hope someone makes a play.’ No, you’re trying to make a play too. That’s what we’re doing. Like yesterday’s practice was two-and-a-half hours. I don’t go two-and-a-half hours in the middle of February. And it was all body to body. I mean, that’s what this team needs. Now, if you remember, 2013-14 we were practicing almost three hours at the end of the year. We had no choice. I mean, that team just didn’t get it. We also screwed up because they said, ‘We’re going to call fouls, you can’t be physical.’ We played with our hands up and the teams that beat everybody up, and then so we just started beating everybody up. We went back to it. So this is just trying to get these guys to fight and accept it and not let go of the rope. But look I’m having fun with it. I’m enjoying it. I feel refreshed knowing now it’s the middle of February. You know what that means? The middle of February, it’s on. This is it. This is why we all coach and play. Or if you don’t you’re in the wrong profession. This is it. Let’s get this right. Gonna be a really hard game for us to win down there. We know that. This is about our progress and we’re making progress. I told themk, ‘I’m pleased, but I’m not satisfied.’ “

On comparing the coaching challenge last year to this year …
“Well, when I watch tape of last year’s team, I cannot believe I got all those guys to buy in. I can’t remember what I did, but I’ve got to go back and think about how in the world I get all those guys to – like Karl Towns. ‘You’re playing 20 minutes a game.’ Trey Lyles. Devin (Booker). ‘You’re coming off the bench,’ What? So that was the amazing part of last year. Winning all the games and trying to win every single game was an exciting thing, but this is different. We have to embrace that these kids have way more to learn and we’re not a dominating team. Games are going to come down to the wire. We’re trying to still understand how this team has to play. We’re still trying to figure it out both offensively and defensively. If you’ve watched, and most of you don’t watch, but if you’ve watched we’ve like changed offense every game. How we’re playing. Because I am trying to get something that I’m looking at and saying ‘okay this is the best way.’ I don’t know how you prepare for us now because how we played two weeks ago is different than how we played a week ago and last game is different.”

On if coaching that way is more fun …

“It wakes you up early in the morning. It really gets you to go to bed early. I try to go to bed at 9 o’clock and my wife is going nuts, ‘You can’t go to bed at 9 o’clock.’ I said, ‘I’m going to fall asleep in that chair or the bed.’ It tires you out, but it also wakes you up. We practiced yesterday and I was going back and forth with Tyler (Ulis), ‘Here are some things I’m thinking about. Tell me what you think.’ It’s not a lesson plan. I’ve had the same one for nine years. It’s every year I coach a different team. Every team I coach is a different challenge. I’m proud of this team with what they’ve been able to do. Are you kidding me? I’m happy with the staff because the staff is about one thing: How do we get individual players better? How do we get them scheming offensively and defensively so that we’re more productive as a team? If you watch what we’ve been able to do offensively and defensively then we’re like this. Now, there are some setbacks, but they’re not machines. These kids are not computers and they have bad games. You have to accept every once in a while that they throw a dud out there. It’s not what I want, but it happens.”

On how likely it is that Tai Wynyard will play this season …

“I don’t know yet. We’ll probably sit down and talk on the way to South Carolina. I’m not sure he wants to redshirt. I think he does, but we haven’t really talked about it. I was going to put him in the game and I looked at him like, ‘You don’t want to go in, do you?’ He’s doing fine in practice. I think he’s looking at Isaac (Humphries) right now and saying, ‘I’m behind Isaac. Why do it?’ There are so many things that can happen between now and the end of the year.’ 

On the national perception of the SEC …
“If I remember right, Texas A&M beat Iowa State, Florida beat West Virginia, and we had a chance on the road at Kansas. That was (the Big 12’s) better teams. Didn’t somebody play Oklahoma to a good game? LSU I think had a chance to beat them. The other side is we have lost some nonconference games that hurt our league. At some point, we’re not (going to lose those games) and this league is going to go to one, two, or three. Our nonconference losses, if you give them a chance to go back to those, even our own people that follow us will go back to that. ‘Well, they lost to Samford and Samford lost to Hawaii and Hawaii lost to Asheville. You should be with Asheville.’ I mean, no. They do that stuff. Sometimes it’s self-inflicted, but we have good coaches, good teams and we’re beating each other up. It shouldn’t hurt our league; it should help it. I think we have five or six teams that will get in the tournament. Now the question is where we get seeded. Where do those five teams get seeded? It’s not done. Texas A&M has gone on a little wrong-way run here. That could be us because of our schedule where it’s top heavy at the end. We have seven games left. Four on the road could be losses and lost to two of the teams that are coming to us now. You have to finish, play and get the best seeds. In the tournament, our teams have done well. It’s all part of the process.” 


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Transcript: UK Coach John Calipari [email protected] Carolina Press Conference Interview

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