Q&A: John Calipari talks after NCAA Selection Show

 Posted by at 7:54 PM on March 15, 2015
Mar 152015
John Calipari

John Calipari

UK Coach John Calipari spoke to an assembled group of media members who were invited to his house Sunday to watch the NCAA Tournament Selection Show. Here’s what Calipari had to say after seeing the Cats’ draw:

On not having any NBA teams in their bracket, which he joked about earlier: “It’s a good bracket. I didn’t get to see it all. I haven’t really studied it, but you kind of wanted to know who those four were with us. When you look at all four brackets, the West may be a little lighter than the others but not much. I mean — is West Arizona and those guys? (Yes). It was pretty hard. That one’s hard. What was the other one? I don’t know. They’re all pretty — again, my concern right now is just making sure we’re in a great frame of mind, and this team right now is. We’ll take tomorrow complete off from basketball. We may watch some tape later tomorrow night, and that tape is going to be our Arkansas game. And it won’t even be with me. It will be with the staff. Let those guys go over the tape with them. We’ll come back Tuesday, practice. We probably won’t leave until Wednesday to go to Louisville.”

On how much it helps to be close to home to get extra rest: “It’s helpful. I mean, if we had to go west and leave like tomorrow, that’s a tough deal. If you can take a day off, practice and then not have to travel until Wednesday that’s a big plus for us. You’re talking an hour and 15 minutes down the road, so…”

On Manhattan/Hampton being a tough matchup: “Yeah. Manhattan is good. I watched them play — Steve’s team. Which game did I watch? Maybe the championship game. I watched some of that, and I thought they played hard. They pick up, they’re aggressive. They’re not going to back away. They’re not going to be afraid. Steve has done a great job with that team. And they struggled early, so what’s happened is they’re at their best right now. But they’ve got to beat Hampton. That’s the greatest thing about this tournament. I’ve coached a bunch of teams in here, and any time you get ahead of yourself you hurt yourself and usually it’s wasted time because the team you think is going to advance loses. They didn’t even win, so why were you spending any time? So the best thing you can do is stay in your own little pocket of those teams that we have to play: the eight/nine in our region, the team we’ve got to get in our region. If you’re lucky enough to get that, you get that winner of the eight/nine. Just worry about those two games.”

On Steve Masiello saying Calipari has helped him along the way: “He and I have always been good, because I think he’s crazy like I am. I’ve seen some stuff, and I tease him all the time. But I think he’s a terrific coach. He’s a great recruiter, gets after it, coaches his kids, not afraid to coach his kids. The stuff that happened here, I reached out to him and I called our people, ‘Let’s help him make this right.’ Shoot, I even told him, ‘Hell, you can stay there (points at pool house). If you need to be on campus, stay in the back. I’m fine with that.’ But he got done what he had to get done. I was really proud of our school that there was no — everybody just said, ‘How do we help this?’ And he — I’ll tell you it’s a great story. He’s bounced back and took all responsibility: ‘I had to do this.’ So I’m happy for him.”

On how the idea to invite media to his house for Selection Show came about: “Well, no one stole the student’s transcripts so I had to leave them out. But uh…(Laughter). I mean, I’ve just always done it. We’ve always invited media and the players and, you know, let you guys see these guys and be a part of this with us.”

On no celebration when No. 1 seed was announced: “You mean here? I wasn’t in here. I didn’t see it. Look, we all knew we were going to be the one-one. I mean there was no surprise. I think they were trying to figure out who’s going to be the two, three, four, five, six. Who is it? West Virginia, let me just tell you something. West Virginia probably got more out of their team — Bobby Huggins — than any team in the country. And here they are. You know, you win a couple games and you may be facing them. And we know now they beat us in 10, we beat them pretty good in 11. It’s like always a good game, and they’re in there. So I think these guys just wanted to see, ‘Like who is in there?'”

On if he was surprised they didn’t make Wisconsin the No. 2 seed in UK’s bracket after all the recent talk: “I didn’t think they could. I mean how could you do it and then — I mean you had to get in front of cameras and explain yourself. In this era of social media and transparency you couldn’t go in there and say, ‘Kentucky is going to play Wisconsin in a regional final.’ You couldn’t do it. I didn’t think they’d do it. I just said, ‘There’s no way unless they’re ready to take the grief that’s going to follow it.’ You’re talking about — Wisconsin is playing good. There are a lot of teams. I mean, Arizona is playing out of their minds right now. I think Villanova is playing great. Virginia, they’re a little bit beat up but they’re still — I mean, you’ve got eight teams, from that eight, in my opinion someone is going to win the thing form those eight. After that there’s some teams that have a chance to advance and do some stuff, but I just don’t think — those eight teams.

“Those eight teams — they’re really good, those eight. And it’s not just us. There’s no … everybody talking like … Let me just tell you, it’s a one-game shot. Foul trouble, struggle, injury, have a bad game, someone else play out of their minds — which we’ve seen happen against us. Kid from Texas A&M gets 40. We’ve seen it. Like, ‘Oh my gosh, who is this guy?’ So, it’s not the best of five. It’s one and done. I’m telling you that my message will not change. Let’s be the best version of each individual player. Let’s be at our best. If that’s not good enough, I’ll live with the consequence. I’ll live with it. And I told them, you’ll have to live with it. It’s not, ‘Nine out of 10, they’d have beat ‘em.’ Yeah, but we didn’t beat ‘em that time.’ I’ll live with it. I already live with one in 2008. I did fine. Look, I didn’t slit my wrists. I was good.”

On the plane ride home: “Quiet. We were all tired. Three games in three days. Noon starts. No shootaround. Get up early. I’ve been waking up at like 5 and then going back to sleep. We’re all tired. We all got on the plane, and I don’t think there was two words spoken.”

On him seeming pretty comfortable with the draw: “I was good with whatever they did. I have, in my opinion, the best team and the best players. That doesn’t mean you win. This isn’t best of five, best of seven. It’s one game. But as long as we’re at our best, that’s the most we can ask of these kids. And I’ll be fine.”

On Willie saying some of UK’s players, including himself, didn’t have “their minds right” before the SEC Tournament: “Today showed a lot, because that game was so physical. I watched the tape on the plane back. That was a physical game that we withstood. I thought we had a couple, three turnovers, that there was no reason for. Three. So, when you start talking about a 10-turnover game against a team like that, it’s pretty good. Willie made the best statement. They said, ‘how’s you gte yourself going offensively?’ … ‘Well, Coach put me on that guard’ — the Harrell kid — 6-3 guard. Willie had to get in a stance, he had to play like a guard. He said, ‘It made my motor go. I played with more energy. And it helped me on offense.’ I told the team what he said. I didn’t say it. Willie said it. And I told all of them, ‘If you think in those terms — ‘I’m going to get myself going defensively and the offense will happen’ — you’ll see this thing go to another level.’ But that’s hard, because doing what Willie said, you have to be on point. You have to have high energy. You have to be really focused. You have to be in an attack mode. And it’s hard. They’re not robots, they’re not machines. It just doesn’t happen all the time.”

On five SEC teams in the field: “I was happy. I was hoping Texas A&M would back their way in. You know, it’s tough. Texas A&M’s issue was the House kid went down. If House doesn’t, they’re playing us and they could have beat us. They had us double overtime (in the regular season). So, it’s unfortunate that injuries play a part of this.”

Does it help to play in a gym (Yum Center) that they played in earlier this year?: “I don’t think so. I’ll be anxious to see how many blue jerseys are in there. The (SEC) Tournament, it was crazy. It was 97 percent Kentucky fans in that building. What? They said 10,000 came to the opening games, because they couldn’t get tickets to our games. So they just bought tickets and went to the opening games to be a part of the thing, which is great for the SEC and our fans. I would expect we’ll have a pretty good crowd, but let me just tell you something: Those other teams will have their allotment of tickets. And they will be there.”

Now that you have to go undefeated to win it all, do you talk about the history of this?: “No. It has no bearing. Willie said it best. ‘Everybody’s zero and zero.’ Teams that are 20-10 could win the whole thing. 22-10 and they finish 28-10 and win the national title. What was Connecticut’s record last year? I think it was 28-10. What was our record going in? We ended up getting in the tournament and bam, bam, bam. It doesn’t matter. We had nine losses, I think, going in. Doesn’t matter. Everybody is zero-zero, including us, which is nice. We don’t have to worry about it now. We’re all the same.”

Does that help that now everybody — not just UK — has to deal with that pressure?: “I’ve said it, now everybody has the same issues. You lose, you go home. See, to play us before, you live for another day. Now you’re strapped up to the chair. OK, you lose this, you’re done. And it’s like, ‘OK, we’re all in the same boat. Now how do you play?’ We have been in these dogfights, but it doesn’t matter. All that aside. One game, one day, you gotta play.”


  One Response to “Q&A: John Calipari talks after NCAA Selection Show”

  1. Did a bit of research today after the selection show. Here are the Strength of Schedule Averages for each of the brackets. The total number represents all 16 teams in each bracket. Then devided by 16. KY fans won’t be surprised. The Mideast Bracket (The Cats Bracket), total number is 783 devided by 16 teams…..SOS…..48.93 for all teams. The Western Bracket (Wisconsin’s Bracket), total number is 850 devided by 16 teams….. SOS…..53.125 for all teams. The East Bracket (Villanova’s Bracket), total number is 915 devided by 16 teams…..SOS…..57.187 for all teams. The South Bracket (Duke’s Bracket), total number is 1014 devided by 16 teams….. SOS…..63.375 for all teams. While the bracketology predictions weren’t written in stone, they are confirmed now. The KY Wildcats have the toughest road to the final four.

    Duke, with the most losses of all the #1 seeds, has the easiest road to the final four. If SOS were done so that the best records were rewarded, shouldn’t the teams with the best records have the easiest path. Isn’t the seeding system a reward system? Would it be correct to say conclusively there’s some “home cook’n” going on. Draw your own conclusions.

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