Monday, April 2, 2012

John Calipari talks about KU days


— Kentucky coach John Calipari has done a lot of things and been a lot of places during the four decades he has been a basketball coach.

From Final Fours and national championship games to NBA benches and back again, Calipari has become one of the best in the business. But a quick look at his career path shows it all began back in 1982 in Lawrence, when he was a graduate assistant with the Jayhawks.

Sunday, as Calipari took a break from preparing for tonight’s national championship tilt against Kansas, he shared his humble beginnings with members of the media.

“When Ted Owens asked me to join his staff, I said, ‘What position?’” Calipari recalled. “He said, ‘Volunteer.’ I said, ‘How much does that guy make?’ He said, ‘You’re going to live with the assistant, Randolph Carroll, and you can work at the training table to eat. And then you’re going to help me run my camp, and I’ll pay you some camp money.’ So I said, ‘I’m going to work at the training table?’ ‘Yes, for the Sinclairs.’ So Paul Sinclair ran the training table. I would be in the line (asking) ‘Would you like peas or corn? Peas? Great.’ I served the baseball team, basketball team, football team. It was a great experience. I mean, I had no worries. I have great memories of Lawrence, Kansas.”

2008 title talk

One memory that isn’t so pleasant for Calipari is his loss to Kansas in the 2008 national title game as the head coach at Memphis. The veteran coach fielded plenty of questions about that game on Sunday, chief among them inquiries about what he learned from it.

“Make free throws, that’s what I learned,” Calipari said.

Missed free throws late in that one allowed Kansas to crawl back and ultimately win in overtime after Mario Chalmers’ miracle three-pointer. Calipari said he was not worried about a repeat of that heartbreaker because this year’s team (73 percent) has been good at the free-throw line.

“We’re a terrific free-throw shooting team,” he said. “I think we were No. 1 in our league in free-throw shooting. I have no issues with that whatsoever.”

Asked if he has changed his approach to how he coaches free-throw shooting, Calipari deadpanned: “Yeah. I’ve recruited better free-throw shooters.”

Wildcats on T-Rob

Like the 27 opponents who faced Kansas before them, the Wildcats spoke from a position of great respect when discussing KU All-American Thomas Robinson on Sunday.

“We know he’s a great player,” freshman center Anthony Davis said. “Rebounds the ball, finishes with authority. Probably one of the best players that we’re gonna face this year. It’s gonna be a great challenge for me, so I just can’t wait to play.”

Added Calipari: “We know how good Thomas Robinson is. We all know. We went against him in New York. He is as good as they get. He’s a vicious competitor, great around the rim, expanded his game. He can make the top-of-the-key three, loves driving that thing hard left and getting to the rim. He has become a better handler and passer. So we know how good he is.”

Under pressure

With most national pundits picking Kentucky to win, there’s a belief that the Wildcats could be feeling extra pressure. Calipari said that was not the case.

“I was dancing in the breakfast room this morning,” he said. “I’m fine.”

His players echoed those sentiments.

“We never really put pressure on ourselves,” Miller said. “We took every day, day by day, trying to get better that day. We were just worried about what we control, that’s playing as good as we can. We’re not thinking about any pressure or anything like that. Of course, people outside of us try to put pressure on us. But we don’t listen to people outside of what we call ‘the family’ anyway. It’s been basketball for us the whole tournament. I think that’s probably the reason why we’re so successful.”

What would this mean?

One of the big-picture questions that was asked most often to both teams was, ‘What would it mean to you to win a national title?’ That question also provided one of the day’s funniest moments when the Wildcats were on the podium.

Even though the question was directed to the players, Calipari spoke first.

“I’m going to tell you, we’re not thinking about that,” he said. “We’re playing a basketball game. When the game’s over, we’re going to all look at each other and say, ‘What just happened? What does this mean?’ Right now, we’re not. If you guys want to answer, go ahead.”

Senior guard Darius Miller was the only one brave enough to chime in.

“Like coach said, we’re just trying to play basketball right now,” Miller said with a huge grin.

Special delivery

Saturday, during Kentucky’s 69-61 victory over Louisville, UK forward Terrence Jones went flying into one of the Louisville cheerleaders in an attempt to save a ball bouncing out of bounds.

The 6-9, 252-pound Jones collided with the woman and felt horrible about it afterwards. After the game, he said he’d like to send her flowers.

“I didn’t even see that I was in the cheerleaders until I was on the ground,” Jones said. “Her being littler than me, that’s real tough, and I just wanted to let her know I’m sorry.”

Asked if he had placed the order, Jones said: “I don’t know her name or anything yet. Hopefully I’ll get that.”


jayhawker_97 10 years, 6 months ago

well, i guess you heard from Cal himself:

Asked if he has changed his approach to how he coaches free-throw shooting, Calipari deadpanned: “Yeah. I’ve recruited better free-throw shooters.”

he's not a real coach, he's a cherry picker type. nuff said.

addlime 10 years, 6 months ago

I know it's fun and easy to go off on calismeary, but he just says that stuff to be funny. Truth is, his players run line sprints for every missed free throw as a team in each game. I'm sure this kind of emphasis helps the focus on free throws in practice and it's translated to one of the best free throw teams in the tourney. I doubt he was doing that with his Memphis team. They were terrible all season.

Alohahawk 10 years, 6 months ago

I could really care less about this embarassment from KU's past. I didn't read the above article. Not interested.

Tom Longhofer 10 years, 6 months ago

Ted knew he was going to be fired and bringing in the squid was his way of sticking it to Monte Johnson.

Probably the only mean-spirited thing Ted Owens has done in his life.

Martin Rosenblum 10 years, 6 months ago

Cal likes to serve food. He served up veggies at KU, goose eggs at UMass and goose eggs at Memphis.

yates33333 10 years, 6 months ago

Be fair. Cal is a good coach. He may have learned some of his floor coaching from Owens and Brown, but he surely picked up a great deal by his experiences in the NBA and at other big time NCAA schools. So he cuts corners in recruiting. He isn't alone in this. There is no point in naming names but these big time college coaches are paid to win otherwise they walk the employment plank. So they cut corners. The NCAA is unrealistic in some of its rules. Remember the coach that paid the fare of a player to either go see his sick mother or go to her funeral? We won't beat Kentucky by belittling their coach. Go gettem Hawks. Show the nation that the average Joes can beat the 1 percent with a bit of skill and a lot of heart and drive. Rock Chalk.

bad_dog 10 years, 6 months ago

Big time NCAA schools? Like UMass & Memphis?

Kentucky is Cal's first BCS level job.

HawkKlaw 10 years, 6 months ago

Wow Calipari, way to throw that epic '08 Memphis team under the bus. It doesn't make sense to me because even if you would have won the game you still wouldn't have won the trophy because that season was vacated.

But seriously, what a slimy way to place blame on your players. Even if it were true, a coach with class would not place 100% of the blame on his players' poor free-throw shooting. I'm sure D. Rose and Douglas-Roberts already felt bad enough about the loss. As the coach of the team it would make sense for you to take some responsibility for it. You could have called a timeout, gave your players a breather and set up a clear plan of action (foul at halfcourt). But you didn't. So blame the players if you want...Whatever helps you get through the day, Cal.

Phoghorn 10 years, 6 months ago

But...would the NCAA have investigated had Memphis won? Even if they had, would they have stripped the trophy or just barred Memphis from the tourney in 2009? I know the NIT has pulled trophies, but so far the NCAA has not. To be honest, I feel bad for the Memphis fans having to go through that mess following their loss to KU.

Glad KU won, so we did not have to face my hypothetical questions.

Martin Rosenblum 10 years, 6 months ago

There is still animosity here in Memphis against Kansas for the NC game. However, Memphis fans are usually anti-SEC and are staunch anti-Calipari. The sentiment today is pro-KU, given the choice to root for either UK or Cal. It's humorous, at least to me, that it's a lose-lose proposition in the making. UK wins, Memphis fans will be angry that he didn't win the game against KU, even though it would have been stripped. KU wins, Memphis fans will still have the taste left in their mouths for getting so close and losing, regardless of the coach who was on the bench. I think that the overwhealming hope is for KU to win. I hope their wish will come true so I will be less confronted displaying any KU ID.

Randy Bombardier 10 years, 6 months ago

As someone who has KU ties Coach Cal could be needed some day. We need to be kinder to him here folks.

Martin Rosenblum 10 years, 6 months ago

Maybe he could return to the training table and dish out more peas and carrots. Or, crow could be his specialty. His ties to KU are not exactly heralded in any archives as having made any diference or contribution to the athletic program.

Andy Godwin 10 years, 6 months ago

We have the best coach, hands down. Not just because of the wins, but how he handles himself, his players and represents the school. I have met him on several occasions and he is truly a special person. What you see is what you get. I as will all the Jayhawk Nation will be cheering and hoping for a favorable outcome. I would put my faith in Bill Self any day, any time. Rock Chalk!

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