We now interrupt Signing Day for a little bit of basketball…
Last night, John Calipari ruffled some feathers in the media when he said he thought his team was “the most overanalyzed team in the history of sports.” In fact, Cal said it three times: to Dino Gaudio on the telecast, in his postgame presser, and again during his radio show. Cal went on a true Calipari rant about the media when asked about Willie’s comeback:
“Yeah, I told him to go back blonde. I said you play better blonde. But, no, he’s been practicing. Look, if you think he wants to play bad, he doesn’t. I said this after the game to the TV, this is the most overanalyzed team I’ve ever seen in the history of the game, at any level, in any sport. There is a weekly update on what we are and what we’re not.
Then they go to Synergy, and take out every play to show where we’ve ‑‑ I’ve never seen it. Our losses are worse than every other loss in the country. We lose, you’re not in the top 25.
Now you understand LSU has three NBA players, a junior guard and a senior guard. They’re no schmo team now. At the end of the day, they’ll be in the NCAA Tournament. LSU is good. This team has to deal with that. I went and told them. I told them before the ranking I thought we’d be as low as 19. I said it will be 17, 18, and 19, so when I was right I asked the staff, when is the last time I was wrong? They said 1978. I think it was ’78. Might have been ’77, but I think it was ’78 though.
So it’s hard to play here. How about this one? When I recruit these kids, I can’t hide you. Is that true? You’re not hiding here now. You have a bad game, you can’t play anymore. Another guy has a bad game, yeah, tough game. He’s a terrific player. My guy has a bad game, he can’t play. He just goes from a great player to he stinks in one game. You’re playing at Kentucky. Good luck.”
In true Cal manner, he said that he could “go on” about the matter for a while, and a few questions later, someone asked him to. Here is Cal’s response when asked how much of “the great amplification of this program” was the media’s fault:
“Here’s what I would say. It’s you guys here, but it’s national. It’s everywhere, and that’s why kids want to play here, but that’s what makes it hard here. Everybody has an opinion, and they write them, and then is it their opinion or their hope that they’re writing? I don’t know. You’d have to ask them.”
Now, Calipari is prone to hyperbole, and predictably, his remarks caused quite the stir on Twitter. Here is just a sampling of the national media’s reaction:
Hyperbole gold medal to Cal: "This is the most overanalyzed team I’ve ever seen in the history of the game, at any level, in any sport."
— Pat Forde (@YahooForde) February 5, 2014
Calipari’s good friend Bob Huggins, whom I covered as a beat writer at Cincinnati for four seasons, used to spend the first half of every season tearing into his teams for substandard efforts, quite frequently even after easy victories. Then, once he’d convinced the media his team was underachieving on a regular basis, he would begin using his postgame addresses following victories to criticize those who were criticizing the team — though they’d often done so by using Huggins’ own words.
This usually happened early in February, when he needed his team to gain confidence for the closing stretch of conference games and the challenge of March.
In any case, the notion that Calipari’s comments are a direct assault on “the media” is pretty silly. The same guy who opened the season standing in front of microphones saying …
“We don’t move the needle. We are the needle!”
… didn’t suddenly decide he’d prefer everyone just give his program some space to breathe. What he would like is for his historically young team to start treating the looking glass not as an accurate self-reflection but as a funhouse mirror, one it needs to smash en route to a collective goal.
Said it before, and it applies tonight yet again: John Calipari is a maestro. About eight to 10 times a year, on a national level, he’ll say something that will get serious run in the headlines. Often times, what he says makes headlines because it has an element of surprise.Where’s this coming from, John?
He and Kentucky make the sport more interesting, and for that most media members are grateful. Calipari is very intent with his words and when he chooses to say what he says. So his gripe against local and national media after Kentucky’s 80-64 home win over Ole Miss Tuesday night comes as something of a surprise — and will definitely cause some waves.
@GoodmanESPN Cal’s used that “opinion or hope” line for 10 yrs. So funny. (He also used to think the RPI was biased against him. For real.)
— Gary Parrish (@GaryParrishCBS) February 5, 2014
For the record, my ‘hope’ is that UK is great. I had the Wildcats preseason No. 1. When they’re great, I look smart. I root for me. Always.
— Gary Parrish (@GaryParrishCBS) February 5, 2014
Are DeCourcy and Brennan right? Are Cal’s comments about the media an indirect way to fire up his team?