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TRANSCRIPT: John Calipari’s 2018-19 Preseason Roundtable


On whether he’s concerned the Bahamas trip will make the season feel longer:

Yesterday was our first day of basketball [since the Bahamas]. They’ve been on campus almost two weeks and yesterday, what we did was mostly defense, so all the stuff I did on offense, there’s only a couple things I’ll add in this time frame. It’s mainly so we can guard it. I told them, ‘If we’re really going to be good, it will be because we’re outstanding defensively.’ We just did a lot of defensive stuff yesterday for an hour.

The four hours a week, most of it is going to be team stuff. The individual stuff, I told them, ‘You’re responsible for you and being more consistent in your skills.’ That means you’re going to have to get in the gym, a little bit with us, but a lot by themselves.

On whether or not Jemarl Baker and EJ Montgomery are finally healthy:

Yeah. I told those guys, asked them if they knew Wally Pipp. They did not. I told them the story. So, EJ is saying, ‘I’m not going to be Wally Pipp. I’m just telling you, I’m fine.’ He said, ‘I’ll never act hurt.’ You try to tell them, ‘Look, you know your body better than anybody and if you’re hurt, you should never be playing. But, when you come out and you’re not playing, understand other people are moving by.’ It’s just how it is.

On if that was the only disappointing thing on the trip:

It wasn’t disappointing that he didn’t play. He was hurt.

On if he was disappointed he didn’t get a chance to see EJ play:

I’ve seen him. He’s really good. He’s really skilled. I’ve watched him enough. He’s more skilled – he’s better than I thought he was. He just has to get in a situation where everyday he’s got to fight and slowly he becomes what he’s going to have to become to be his best version.

I told them yesterday — everybody keeps asking me — I said the biggest thing about this team is the Brandon Knight culture, which was time in the gym. That’s what this group that walks in here, they love being in the gym. They just love the game. They love getting better. They love competing. That’s fun for them. Not running around, [saying] ‘Can’t wait until this is over so I can go.’ That’s not who they are. They love being in the gym. The teams I’ve had that way, normally, they’re reaching beyond what you think they should be able to do. Those kind of teams.

On if that’s something you can recruit for or if it’s something that’s a pleasant surprise:

You kind of knew. I didn’t know that Keldon [Johnson] was to that level. And I didn’t know that Tyler [Herro] was, even though his dad kept telling me, ‘Believe me, he’ll be in the gym all day.’ I didn’t know that though. I knew Immanuel [Quickley] was like that. And then what you have is, when you start having those guys and Ashton [Hagans], all of a sudden, when you start having four and five, it starts challenging the other guys. When you’re not in there, they all know it. It isn’t like there’s a secret. It’s, these are the guys spending the most time at this. Last year, the guy that spent the most time in the gym and spent the most time at this was Shai [Gilgeous-Alexander]. It wasn’t close. He went from our twelfth player who no one knew to a lottery pick. It’s good. Like I said, yesterday, Brad even said to me, ‘Man, are we farther along than last year.’ I said, ‘Well, we did spend 21 days practicing and in the Bahamas.’ Twenty days, anyways.

On what type of defender Ashton Hagans is:

I talked to him, there were some times yesterday when we were doing some stuff, and what I did was, I said, ‘You are one that doesn’t need to take chances. Just keep balling people. You take a chance because you’re trying to stop.’ I’m done. I don’t want to keep going. I said, ‘You’re not that guy. You’re the guy that just keeps mucking stuff up, that stays to the guy to where the other guy just wants to pass it and get rid of it.’

But we’ve got a couple. I think Immanuel will play that way. We just – you’ve got to get that other wing guy to be that way and then, watching PJ [Washington] and Reid [Travis] yesterday and even Nick [Richards] and the guys there, they’re all trying. I think they’re excited. I think they like each other.

On PJ saying the freshmen are already more intense than last year and whether they’re pushing the veterans or vice versa:

Players drive the culture. It’s not the other way around. It’s just how it is. The culture here has always been about putting in the work. Being committed to the game. Sacrificing. If you don’t sacrifice, you can’t play here. If you don’t give up something, you’re not going to play here. You’re not taking 30 shots here a game; it’s just not how it is. That culture of achievement and personal achievement along with team achievement is a culture we’ve developed here. Being responsible. Being responsible for each other.

This group has – I always said, Brandon Knight changed the direction and what we wanted and how we wanted it done and he took that to another level. We ran with that for a while. Then sometimes you get away. You get a group that’s not as – either the game was easy for them to this point, they were enabled, whatever you want to say and then reality hits and ‘Wow.’ So, when you say the young guys – Michael Kidd-Gilchrist kind of drove that group to approach it different. We had some veterans on that team. This could be similar to that in that [sense]. You know, Reid walking in, he is a veteran, but he gets after it. He works, he’s in the gym a lot. It’s a good mix and they’re going to help each other.

The young kids have no idea what they’re about to face; the veterans do. But if the veterans try to get these young kids to back up, literally, the young kids will laugh at them like, ‘You know, no. That’s not how we’re doing this.’ You can come out every time you miss a shot. Well, ‘I’ll get in the gym more.’ So, anything that’s thrown at these young kids, they’re like, ‘No. I’m not buying it.’ It’s a good group. It’s a good veteran group. Someone said, ‘What do you like about your team?’ I said, ‘I’ve got some vets. I got some older players.’

On how he feels going into his tenth season at Kentucky:

You know what? That is amazing. Tenth season. I can remember asking Coach Hall, ‘How long a run is this?’ He said, ‘About ten years.’ [Laughter] He said about ten. You know, the lifespan of a president, an athletic director, this level of coaching, it’s usually about ten years. Then after that, stuff gets harder and harder.

On how old he felt at his introductory press conference:

The thing that happens to you is you still see yourself a certain way until you look in the mirror. Then you say, what in the hell happened there? But, everywhere I go, I joke and just say, ‘I want you to go look at the picture of me at the press conference when I first took the job and look at me now and feel bad for what you’ve done to me, all you people.’ And again, that is not that long ago. You’re not talking 15 years ago.

But this is one of those all-encompassing – I was just in an NABC meeting and one of the coaches said, ‘Cal, how much in a year do you think you travel?’ I went, ‘I have no idea. I just go until I don’t go anymore.’ So, I told Eric [Lindsey], I may go back and just try to figure out, how many days did I travel, with recruiting, with personal stuff, with game days, with speaking, university functions, how much did I travel? How many did you say it is?

[Eric: “It’s about a third, a quarter to a third that you’re gone. At least a third.”]

Well, we’re going to find out because I have every calendar and I’m going to go through and just add them all up. So, it’s not just coaching here. It’s not just sitting in the chair. It’s not just watching game tape. You’re involved in a lot of stuff here. And so, if you don’t want to take that on, it’s probably the wrong job. I’ve said it before, the seat carries a different weight here, in this state. You can move people for good or you can move them the wrong way, if that’s what you chose to do.

On how much longer he can coach:

I didn’t think I’d be coaching in my sixties when I was doing this, mainly because of the pace I was going. But then again, it took me 20 years to get a job like this, so at this point, I don’t know.

On whether or not his career has flown by or gone in slow motion:

It’s flown. It’s flown. And the opportunity – this is one of those places where you can coach a basketball team, still be involved in the community, but the university and the department takes care of the things that, when you’re at a smaller school, you’ve got to do yourself. There are many things I don’t have to touch here that literally I oversaw when I was at the other schools.

Then, the biggest thing for me is the impact we can have on kids and their families. That’ll keep me going. And if I ever get to a point where I’m not feeling that I’m having that kind of impact, that the program is not having that kind of impact, then that’s when you start thinking.

I’m not going to do this for numbers. I’m not going to do it to win more games than the other guy. That’s not how I operate, but right now, this thing has been pretty good for everybody. My comment – it was funny, the FedEx guy came in and was standing out front saying, ‘Cal, one of the greatest things you’ve ever said,’ and I said, ‘What’s that?’ He said, ‘No crying on the yacht.’ I said, ‘Where did you hear me say it?’ He said it must have been written somewhere. But that’s here. You’re going to complain, coaching at Kentucky? There’s no crying on the yacht.

We’ve got guys trying to coach until they’re 80. I don’t know how I’ll feel trying to coach in my 80s, but, you know.

On whether or not Adolph Rupp’s 42-year run weighs on his mind:

Well, I would say Kentucky, during that time, when he started, ended up being three or four different jobs. So, when he first got here, it was this kind of job. And then he started going and it was this kind of job. Then they built that arena and it became another job. And then, by the end, it was probably those last eight or ten years, it was a different job. Recruiting changed. Things changed. And that’s what’s amazing, that he was able to do that for 42 years.

The biggest thing, he’s the one that created what this program meant to this state. He did it. And it’s amazing that it has not wavered in — how many years ago did he coach? [Forty-five, Forty-six] And that’s the end. During that time – when he started, there was nothing here. In this day and age with social media and all the other stuff, it’s just hard to start now. Start in the last year or two and say, ‘Okay, I’m going to stay in one place 50 years.’ Too many things can happen. There’s too much stuff. Stuff that would be pushed under the rug just doesn’t get pushed under the rug. Stuff that was not that big a deal that would be within your little region is now national. It’s on the ticker. Stuff that no one had to deal with, one or two people that you deal with media wise, now you’re – totally different environment for coaches.

On how he’s changed as a coach over time:

It’s more about the process as you get older. It’s more about, how is this affecting the people around you? For me, the longer I do this, the less it’s about what I’ve accomplished. Somebody will say, ‘Have you ever?’ I’ll say, ‘No, I haven’t.’ At some point I’ll look back and say, ‘Wow, we had a pretty good run.’ I don’t right now. I just keep pushing and seeing where we can go with this.

But you learn that when you make it about everybody else, it becomes easier. When you’re finished trying to grab and push and pull in and you’re pulling in, pushing out, it’s easier than dragging into you. I think that’s — you wish you were that way when you were 30, but you were trying to survive. I was. I had nowhere to fall. So, your approach to it was a lot different. But, being here, seeing the other side of it, which is, you have what you need, and your focus becomes what you’re doing within the program, or you have more time to be involved in charity work. I’m doing more of that, ten times more than I’ve ever did when I was younger. I would say my wife – I always try to give back and be charitable, but not to the level of what we do here, which means I’m probably spending twice the time doing that than I’ve ever spent in my entire life.

On whether back giving back makes it easier to keep going:

Yeah, it does. This platform will go away at some point. No one’s going to worry about what I’m saying or what I think. I laugh at times. I said, I wonder if someone will say, ‘Hey Cal, let’s go get a coffee and talk basketball’ when I’m done. You laugh about it because I try to take care of veteran coaches any chance I can because of it. And everybody says, ‘Nah, no way.’ You’re here and it’s a position that, like I said, it took me twenty years to get a job like this. And, so, not as anxious to leave and probably going to stay much longer than I ever thought I’d stay in coaching.

I had a call last night, one of the guys in the fantasy camp sent me a picture of him and said, ‘What is so memorable is listening to your comment as I made this play,’ and then you play the video and you could hear me on the side saying something to him. And you think about, they’re getting from that an unbelievable memory. So, you’re taking care of all these people involved, but the other side of it is all that money is going to causes and people that really need it, so, it’s like, wow. This is a win-win. Literally, I thought, why am I doing this fantasy camp? It’s just one more thing on my schedule. It’s stupid. This is ridiculous. I don’t need it. And then at the end, I’m like, we’ve got to keep doing it. Everybody’s benefitting from it. So, could I have done that at the other schools? No. No. Could we have done a telethon? Yeah, and raised about $100.

That’s what’s been unique. The people here – one, this is a generous state. And it’s not a rich state. Some may say it’s a poor state, but it’s a generous state. It’s a provincial kind of place. In other words, they’re from where they’re from and they’re proud of it and you ask somebody, they’ll tell you the county they’re from.

The other thing they’re protective of is their basketball program. What’s beneficial to me is I’m their basketball coach. You come after me, this army comes after you. So, if you’re going to say something, you better be right because if you’re not, that’s part of being here. I don’t have to defend myself. Someone says something, there’s an army that’s watching it. It’s not personal. Sometimes people take this personal and it isn’t. Whoever is in this seat will get the same treatment that I’m getting. This program and this seat belongs to this state, and until you get here, you don’t realize to the level that it has an impact on people and their lives.

On how difficult it will be to leave one day knowing the impact you have on players’ families:

If I could. I may not physically be able to. Literally, not to – I don’t want to say brag – I don’t have to do this anymore. I can stop coaching and I’ll be fine, my family. The problem is my wife’s family lives until they’re like 105 years old. She may have a problem. I’m good. I looked at the stuff and said, we may run out, but you’re going to have a problem. I’m going to be fine. I don’t have to do this because of that. I literally don’t have to do this to win more games than so-and-so or more championships than so-and-so or legacy stuff. I’m not worried about that. That stuff comes when you’re dead and gone and done and it won’t be evaluated by most of you. It will be evaluated by others. I feel good about what I’ve done and however history states it, it will state it. I’m not going to have a whole lot of control over that.

So, again, the impact you have on all these things kind of makes you wake up in the morning, keeps you going. Yesterday we practiced and I was so jacked to be practicing. We only went for an hour and did all defense, but I think they could tell I was excited to be back. I’m excited about the team because the culture that they’re creating is going to be one of personal and team achievement. Think about coming here, where you’re going to have to share. You’re not promised you’re going to start. You’re not promised you’re going to have the ball in your hand, that every play’s not going to be you, that you’ve got to carve your way out, carve your little piece of the world out, but you’re going to be taught in a way that’s going to prepare you for the future. But you’ve got to accept that. As a parent, sometimes you’ve got to watch another person’s son be the star and not your son. But your son was the star two games ago, but he got in foul trouble or didn’t shoot it well so the other guy did it and you’ve got to deal with all that. This is a hard proposition but what I’m feeling right now in the next couple groups is, kids are looking more at results now than what they’re being told and I’m feeling pretty good about where things are.

On whether or not the timing of this group has been good for him after the last three years:

This will be a grind because of the schedule. The schedule is a grind. The good news for me is I don’t remember because of how I think. I’m not thinking back of the misery, the three weeks of misery to get them and then, the anxiety of, are they going to get it? ‘Well, every team of yours has gotten it. This team hasn’t.’ And then they get it. Well, I only remember that they got it. And I remember that we made a run and we could have been there and we were right there again. That’s what I remember. I don’t – even last year’s team, how we finished and what we did, that’s what’s in my mind. Not the misery of this because, believe me, every season we go through – you remember the team that was 38-0, I think our first two league games went to overtime. I believe so. They went to overtime. ‘Well, they’re not that good.’ And all of a sudden, we started getting better. But there was a time, where, maybe we’re not as good as everybody thinks.

On whether or not Kentucky should have more titles during his tenure because of all the draft picks:

We could have won nine [titles]. I wish we did. It’s different when you have teams for three years than when you have them for one. It’s a different animal. But, we easily could have won the years we were in the finals. The 2015 team could have won. We could have had four or five. But we don’t. We could have. But we don’t.

On whether or not any of those near misses jolts him awake at night:

Doesn’t jolt me awake, but when you talk about it, I wish we could have gone 40-0. I wish we could have done it just to be able to say, hey, you win 38 games three years and no one’s won 38, but 40 is, you know.

When we won the national title, my wife, when I grabbed her and said, ‘That’s over now. We don’t have to deal with this anymore. They can’t say it. They can say what they want, it’s done.’ The next thing is, ‘You haven’t won enough. You should have won more. You’ve had all these kids and why haven’t you won more?’ You’re right and I should be John Wooden. I should have won nine, ten, eleven. But people’s opinions, that’s fine. I accept it and know. Maybe someone here could have. Maybe the next guy will. Have at it. Good luck.

On the randomness of the tournament:

Yeah. You know what’s funny? Everywhere I go, everyone says, ‘How do you do it there?’ I go, ‘What do you mean?’ ‘They expect you to win it every year, these people expect that.’ I don’t feel that. They want to win it every year, and there are some that are the outliers that would create anything they could to say this hasn’t been a great run, but I don’t feel like if we don’t win a national title that I just busted. I don’t feel that way. What I say to them is, ‘They want to be in the hunt for recruits, they want to have a chance to win it every year. They’d love to win it every year but they want to make sure we’re one of those teams every year.’ That’s fair, I think. Being at Kentucky, that’s a fair thing to want. And my hope is, every year, we’ve been, whether it be in recruiting or one of those teams talked about, we’re one of them. I’ve said before, those times that you expect it the least is the time you bounce through. No one thought we’d win in 2012. What were they saying? ‘You can’t do it with freshmen. There’s no way they’re winning it.’ And we won it. So that did that away. Now it’s, you know.

 

We’ve got some veterans on this team. It’s hard to win with five freshmen. You don’t know at one point something may affect them. But to tell you I have any disappointment, I really don’t. I wish we would have won a couple more for all our fans and everybody there, but it wasn’t going to change my life any. Maybe more kids would have gotten drafted. I wish we could have done it but every year, I’m coaching to win a national title. That’s what I’m coaching for every year I coach here. Have we been in the hunt every year? I’d say every year but one. And if a kid didn’t get hurt, who knows if that would have been every year?

On what a grad transfer like Reid Travis can do for your program:

This is a funny thing because what he does do is coach on the floor because he knows more. Some of the things that we did down in the Bahamas defensively – we did some different kind of scheming – he was the one that got it and would talk people through. So there were things that we did that I know coaches watched and said, ‘How in the world are they doing that?’ Well, it’s because you have a veteran out there who can talk the other guys through it. He’s also one that’s kind of stepped back a little bit and is watching. He’s not just trying to take over the team. That’s not who he is. He’ll do that by example, by how he works. How he performs. He’s done well.

On whether it’s easier to have a team that’s ahead offensively or defensively:

The only reason you like a team that’s ahead offensively is so you can run your stuff. If you’re ahead defensively, nothing you run offensively looks right. You don’t even know if you’re a halfway decent offensive team. Sometimes you might be, other times you might not be because a lot of this stuff is confidence. You’re trying to build their confidence, you’re trying to build their camaraderie, you’re trying to build a sense of team and if your offense is ahead, your defense will catch up but it makes it a little bit easier, in my opinion. I may be wrong. Other guys do it the other way. They just do all defense all summer, all preseason, ‘Let’s get better defensively.’

On whether he was able to learn much about the different combinations from the Bahamas:

The only thing we didn’t do is, because of EJ, it made it a little bit different, but here’s what it did do. It gave Nick and PJ and Reid a chance to get a rotation going with those three. And those three did well. It helped them. How we play may be a bigger team. I wanted to try down there. I didn’t really get a chance to try it.

What we walked away from it with was, we’ve got a lot of guys. Who’s going to be the catalyst? And you need a couple. Who’s going to be the guy that can change the game for three or for minutes to help you win? Who is that? Still not sure who that will be. You try to have one or two or three of those if you can; if you do, your team is really, really, really good. In other words, someone’s got to be as good as everybody else in the country. That dude, he can physically, skill-wise – whatever it is – length, speed, quickness, John Wall, he can, for three minutes, he can change the game. Now, we can go win the game. I don’t know who that’s going to be for this team. That will probably play out.

On whether or not the Bahamas trip helped the team embrace the spotlight:

You could say that, but it was sold out, it was on national television and the teams were professional teams. You had NBA scouts looking at one of the kids from Argentina and two of the kids from Serbia. Then Canada plays with a kid that was in the NBA for a while. They weren’t, like, okay, we’re coming down here to beat everybody by 100. They were good teams. So, not only did you learn, alright, what am I supposed to do and how are we supposed to play, alright, lights come on and it’s sold out. Alright, it’s on national television. You’re doing interviews with national people. We learned a lot. I didn’t see anyone on our team who was afraid. As a matter of fact, some guys played better there than they did in practice. We had Brandon Knight, that was the case. Brandon Knight was okay in practices. I started getting worried. And then we went to Canada and he was the one guy that just stood out. He just took everything to another level.

On who he would compare Ashton Hagans to defensively:

He’s got a little bit of the stuff that Tyler Ulis would do, which is, you go and he’s there, and then you go, and he’s still there. And then you go, and all of a sudden, he took the ball from you. Like, where did he come from? He’s got a little bit of Tyler. Tyler had to play angles and really had to be advanced in what was happening next because of his size. Ashton hasn’t done that yet. Ashton just mauls you. He knows to stay in front and to body you. He’s not afraid to be physical.

On whether or not Ashton reminds him of DeAndre Liggins:

DeAndre was a little longer. DeAndre could guard – again, we don’t know this yet – DeAndre could guard three positions, maybe four if we had to. I’m not sure because Ashton off the ball isn’t the same as he is on the ball, where DeAndre could keep you from catching it. He’d be just as good off the ball, but this kid just turned 19 and my man was 23 at the time, so in four years, I bet you Ashton would be able to do all that.

On if Ashton could be the catalyst:

Yeah. Tyler was a catalyst on that team. And it was as much what he did defensively as what he did offensively.

On how close this schedule comes to “burying” his team:

What you didn’t know when you did it – some of the stuff, we’re locked into. But you didn’t know the league was going to take the top five teams and have you play them all twice. That’s what you didn’t know. Every team in our league, us and the other top five, we’re playing. I don’t know if the other teams are playing each other twice, I don’t think so, they can’t, but I know we are. So, when you take our non-conference schedule and then throw that schedule in, I don’t think we’ve played a tougher schedule since I’ve been here. So, again, it’s going to be thrown at these kids and I think they know it.

On whether or not he’d be interested in doing a home-and-home series with Memphis:

Probably not a home-and-home, but [Penny Hardaway] and I have talked. I like Penny and I congratulated him and he and I talked a couple different times, but I don’t believe – look, it’s hard for us to go home-and-home with anybody; it just is. So, the ones that we have and that we’re challenged to do, we do. But I think he’s going to do a fabulous job there, I really do. And the city needs him to do well there. It’s a place that, kind of like Kentucky is as a state, that city is. The basketball program moves people in that city and I think he’ll do fine. I don’t think a home-and-home would be in the cards, but playing them, maybe we can figure out something.

On Immanuel Quickely’s 18 assists to 2 turnovers in the Bahamas:

He does. Again, what he does, he’s like a Brandon Knight in the building. Always here, always working. In the weight room, he’s like Shai. Always the best in the weight room. I’m trying to get him – he wants to be perfect. And he almost was down there. I want him to be a little more aggressive, take more chances. He’s used to, boom, the ball comes out, alright, let’s hold. No. Boom, the ball comes out, get in that lane and keep coming. There will be a time where it’s a dead ball, where everything dies and you have to take it and get us back to what we’re doing; he’s learning that. But he was terrific. I thought defensively he did well too. He can play any position. He can be out there with three guards, shoot it well enough. I don’t think he was overlooked at all.

On whether or not he has a read on the team after the Bahamas:

Pretty good. They’re all different, though. It’s funny. We’re talking about doing what the NBA has done and the NFL. Remember when the NFL used to have pieces of paper they’d show their players? They’d come down and they’d be on the sideline and the offensive coordinator would come in with a sheet of paper and show them? Now they’re doing it with iPads. So now the come down and there’s video that they show them. The NBA is going to that. We’re right now talking, why aren’t we going to that?

So, I have guys like — Malik Monk, I could talk to. I never had to draw [a play]. He’d say, ‘What do you want me to do?’ ‘You’re going to come down off, they’re going to pin you down, you’re going to loop up.’ ‘Got it. Alright, you want me to loop up. Alright.’ And he’d run and do it. Other guys, they have no shot if I don’t draw it. None. They have no idea what I’m talking about. They can’t. Other guys, I draw it, they leave the huddle, they come back and say, ‘This is what you want me to do?’ I hope they do that because if they don’t do that, they’re not going to do what I’m asking them to do. Other guys need to see it on video. Shai needed video. He needed to see it. So, my thing is, why not have video? You can still use a board. You can do the video. But I would say they’re a smart group. And I think they have a pretty good feel for what we’re trying to do.

On the NCAA’s switch from the RPI to the NET:

We were a part of that. I was on that committee that recommended that and I did it based on – my feeling was, you have people gaming the RPI. That are playing schedules that are gaming the system and all of a sudden they start playing themselves and nothing moves, and now they get nine teams in and all of them lose right away. Wait a minute. I’ve always looked at efficiencies because I think that talks about the strength of your team. So, what they put together was a combination. I also felt it would be – what would it do to Kentucky? I don’t think it does much to us. It may even hurt us a little bit, but I thought, for the rest of our league and for teams, whether it be the Atlantic 10 or USA where I worked before, it gives them a fighting chance. In other words, outliers come in. Not changing things drastically, it’s just these outliers are not going to be there. When you start combining all this stuff, it brings it closer to where it’s fairer. If you’re in certain leagues, you have a big advantage because of who you’re playing and who they played and their winning percentage and all of a sudden, you’re like, wait a minute. But we could beat those guys. Or we did beat those guys. But, yeah, your RPI is 25. It just got – and they used it for 40 years. We kept coming to the group saying, guys, it’s been 40 years. Don’t you think the game has changed a little bit and other stuff has changed a little bit? So, I was really happy that they did it. I was trying to get them to do it before. I’m still trying to get the S-Curve. Do you know why? So certain schools don’t get a good draw every time and other schools get a worse draw every time. When you go by the S-Curve, 1, 2, 3, 4, and then it’s 5, 6, 7, 8, and then it’s 9, 10 and now, you rate all the teams and it’s totally balanced. Now, maybe within that line, because there are two league teams you have to change it a little bit, but they don’t agree with me.

On whether or not college basketball needs to be fixed:

Some of the stuff we’re doing all came out of the FBI investigation and four guys getting arrested and it’s kind of morphed into how we evaluate players, which, some of the changes I don’t agree with. Those guys who we’re talking about, top 20 players. We have to get rid of one-and-done; I’m good with that. But why are we doing, a player stays in the draft and then a week later, can come back to school? Well, that’s not a top 20 player. That’s a top 150 player. Why are we worrying about that? I thought there were four guys arrested and I thought it was top 20 players.

Kids going directly to the NBA, I’m good. Kids going directly to the G-League, I’m not good. What I mean by that is, if we’re going to – for society – if we’re going to encourage young people to pass on education to take a stab at being professional, I am totally against it. I’ll be on mountain tops and top of buildings screaming it. When I’m done, in 30 years from now, and you’re looking at where I stood on things, people will say, well, he was against it and look what’s happened. My guess is, they’ll say, he was right because we have the highest graduation rate of basketball players, of African American basketball players. How many of those thought they were going to be one-and-done? They all did. Or, ‘There was no way I was staying in school all four years.’ So now they’re left with an education.

Here’s my thing. How are we going to – more important than just letting them go to the NBA – how are we going to get them the information so the 8, 10, or 12 that should go go? And the others go to college? How are we going to do that? Can we get the G-League to guarantee college education if they don’t make it? If they did that, I’d be for the G-League. Go to the G-League because you’ll get your education paid for.

I’m saying stuff – again, I say this all the time. If we make every decision based on what’s right for these kids, we won’t make mistakes. If we start talking about the good of the game and all this other – it’s basically, if you take care of these kids, which is why we do this, it will be for the good of the game. I let everybody know, I just don’t know how we got from, this is what happened and here’s what we’re talking about to over here. Why did we do it? A lot of it looks political, like it’s statements that make no sense to me. But here’s what I would say. Whatever we’re going to try, one, let’s just not be locked into, it’s got to be this way. If it doesn’t work, let’s change it. We’re going to try to do stuff. The second thing being, it’s not going to affect Kentucky. Whatever you do, don’t think, well, this will bring Kentucky down. It isn’t going to affect us. We’re going to eat first whatever you do. It doesn’t matter. Whatever they do, we’ll figure it out and whatever that game is, we’ll play. I’m more concerned about, are we encouraging young people. I get upset when none of those kids belong on a college campus. Whether you say that directly or indirectly. Why would you say that? Because then I didn’t belong on a college campus. I was just reading a book, Hillbilly Elegy. Basically, if you test well, if you’re a good test taker, and you come from certain families, your advantage to do things is enormous. If you don’t test well, you’ve got a big problem. If you’re not in a family – are we just saying because they don’t test well, it doesn’t mean they won’t work hard or they don’t have better character. All this stuff that we all cherish, we’re telling them, none of you belong in school. And on top of it, we’ve had straight A students that do belong in school and do belong with that opportunity. Anyways, that’s one of my pet peeves all the time. I don’t want to hear that none of these kids belong in school. That’s not true. They do belong in school. Everybody in this room knows, if you have a college education or higher education, it doesn’t mean you’re going to succeed. But not having it makes life really hard. You better be Steve Jobs. You better be somebody that didn’t need to go to school. Short of that, where are we going with this? What are we doing with society? What are we doing with the kids that need education the most and need the opportunities the most? What are we doing to them? Well, this is the good of the game. What?

Article written by Mrs. Tyler Thompson

No, I will not make you a sandwich, but you can follow me on Twitter @MrsTylerKSR or email me.

2 responses to “TRANSCRIPT: John Calipari’s 2018-19 Preseason Roundtable”

  1. Saul T. Nuts

    Geez, we’re so lucky to have Coach Cal as our coach.

  2. Luether

    He’s so lucky we chose him to be our coach…