John Calipari met with the media on Thursday ahead of his team’s upcoming game against Southern Illinois. But most of the conversation was about the Cats’ last game, the embarrassing loss to the Duke Blue Devils in the Champions Classic.
Here are five comments that stood out:
He wants the Duke loss to hurt.
Before Kentucky and Duke tipped off — so, before any of us knew a beatdown was ahead — John Calipari said a potential loss would be put in the rearview mirror and serve as a learning experience for his team. Well, it was a loss, and now he wants it to hurt.
“First of all, you want it to hurt,” he said of how he wants the game to impact his players. “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.”
Maybe the Bahamas did more harm than good.
Looking back, the four-game run in the Bahamas gave us all a false sense of confidence, within the fan base and within the team. Calipari said he was never blown away by the Cats’ four convincing wins in the Bahamas because he knew there were no game plans and the opposing teams weren’t there to grind it out.
“I knew even then, boy, we got a ways to go,” he said. “And so that may have hurt us more than helped us.”
The loss to Duke, though — “it may have helped us more than hurt us,” he said.
Players weren’t playing for each other Tuesday night.
Calipari always preaches “brothers’ keeper” and playing as a team to his young players. It’s his message every year. This team did not do that against Duke in the Champions Classic.
“We were out there, instead of playing for each other, they were trying to get theirs,” he said. He also said a friend called him the next day and said, “It looked like your guys had their hair on fire.”
Cal told his team, “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.”
Guys were acting like it was high school.
“We took bad shots. Quick, contested. Guys were acting like it was high school,” he said. “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?”
“I like this team.”
“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.”
If they get hungrier, they’ll have a chance to eat tomorrow night when Southern Illinois comes to town.
See the entire press conference below. It’s worth your time.