A hallmark of John Calipari’s best teams at Kentucky has been relentless effort and competitiveness; Calipari saw that on the floor Tuesday night, only it was coming from the other team.
“Duke played with a chip,” Cal told reporters today. “They were going to show us that they were better and each individual player was going to 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 again. Did we get arrogant, all of us, me included? I don’t know. We’re going to find out.”
Starting with today’s practice, Calipari said he’s going back to his old ways in hopes it lights a fire under his squad.
“I’ll say it again: I like this team. I like the people, the players, the way they treat each other. Now, we’ve gotta have a little chip. We’ve got to get hungrier.”
That mindset extends to him.
“You know, I was calm that whole game. Matter of fact, was really positive. Didn’t say much. I mean, I really didn’t. Even at halftime or after. I didn’t raise my voice but once or twice to say, why would you do that? Once or twice. But maybe I need to coach at like the beginning of last year if you remember. 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 when Shai [Gilgeous-Alexander] got really good and I could just say go do what you do and we’re good. Maybe I’ve got to do that.
“I’m still learning how to coach these guys individually and collectively. But I’ll say this: they’ve got to go play. Just go play. Go battle. 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. It’s been pretty much my history as a coach. If you didn’t dive on the floor, I’m taking you out.”
Luckily, Kentucky’s got seven straight home games to work on the kinks, starting tomorrow night with Southern Illinois, an experienced squad that returns all five starters and is ranked in the top ten of the preseason mid-major Top 25. Calipari just wants to see something — anything — from his team in the wake of Tuesday night’s embarrassment.
“Like I told them, we’ve gotta get five guys that will fight like heck and leave them in and play them as long as they can play. Find those five that will fight together and play together and leave them in. And the rest of you will sub when they need a break.”
“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.”