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Basketball Season Coverage

TRANSCRIPT: John Calipari at 2018 Kentucky Basketball Media Day

JOHN CALIPARI: Why is there so many people here? Is this — before we start, is this media day or coaches’ day? (laughter)

Have at it.

Q. Any concern about Keldon’s ankle, any lingering —
JOHN CALIPARI: No, he’s full to go today.

Q. You published the notes from your very first press conference. Why did you hang on to those?
JOHN CALIPARI: I do hang on to — probably anywhere that I’ve ever had to speak, I have it — I put it together, and they’re more notes and I don’t read. They’re just bullet points. So I was cleaning my desk off, and I was going to throw a tablet out, and I lifted the — and I had stuck it under there. I don’t have any idea when I did it or why. So I pulled it out and looked at it and smiled, and I sent a picture of it to TJ and Eric and just said, how about my notes from the first press conference. I can’t remember all of it, but I do know that what was on there I talked about.

The reason I kind of like that we sent it out was it’s kind of stuck true to what we talked about, you know, the culture that we were trying to develop and making it about the players first and competing for championships and getting — holding players accountable, and all the things that we talked about there is kind of how we’ve pieced this together.

Q. Tell us about how the Bahamas trip helped the players develop.
JOHN CALIPARI: Well, the Bahamas — again, I think we should be able to do something like football does in spring football. And again, I’ve been saying it for a number of years, why don’t we own the first two weeks of August, college basketball? Maybe you want to practice and bring foreign teams to you so you don’t have to travel. Bring them here. They can be televised or not televised. You could practice and not play anybody. It doesn’t cost you anything. There’s no cost to it. And if you choose to travel, maybe it’s every other year, you can take your team and go somewhere.

And the main reason is it’s good for the kids. All the college basketball — it would be good for the kids. If we make rules that are based on that premise, is this good or bad for these players, the kids, you’re not going to make many mistakes when you say it’s good for them. For this basketball team, a lot of anxiety was wiped out. So now they can be more comfortable going into what they were about to face, because we can all say what we want to, when they’re 17 and 18 years old and they have a swagger but it’s a swagger that the minute the raindrop hits their shoulder, they’re, ooh — they’re 17, 18 years old. To be able to go down there and do what they did, to share, to play together, to know that everybody is going to be involved in this, I think it helped.

It did put us ahead more than I want to be. You guys know that have heard me talk. I don’t want us to look like it’s January in November because you can’t get better. You can’t — your team can’t keep improving. What we’ve tried to do here every year is play our best basketball in March. If you look and say, wow, by the end of the year, that’s when they’re playing their best, well, if you’re playing like this in November, how in the world are you going to get better? And if it is, it’s going to be just a little bit.

But the anxiety, bringing the team together, having a spirit about them, having an ability to say, I get it, I know where he’s trying to take this now, it was all really good.

Q. The non-conference is loaded, also the SEC schedule is going to be tough. From top to bottom, is this the toughest you’ve seen the SEC since you’ve been here?
JOHN CALIPARI: Oh, yeah. Somebody went up to watch Vanderbilt and one of the pro scouts hit back and just said, they’re good. They’re good. They’re better than we thought they would be. They’re good. You start talking Vanderbilt, we play them twice. You know Florida twice. You know Tennessee twice. You know — whoever the best teams are, we’re playing twice. Let me just put it that way.

And so I’m happy for the league. It makes it tougher for us every game we play. Every road game we play will be hard to win. Doesn’t matter how good you are. It’s going to be a ridiculously hard game.

So last year, how many teams did we get in last year? And if you remember me talking about that for the five years, and now it becomes — keep getting teams in and keep advancing those teams.

Q. Roy Williams caught a fair amount of flak for saying he was dumbfounded for the allegations and testimony in the trial. For a coach at your level with your experience, are you surprised by anything that’s going on?
JOHN CALIPARI: I haven’t — I’ve been going like crazy. If you guys know, I got in last night about 3:30 in the morning, so I haven’t followed all the stuff. It is a black eye. It’s not good for basketball. I hope the decisions we’re making out of this are all based on what’s best for the kids, not to change just for change’s sake. But I do think it brought the outliers in, that this has brought light to, like, this can’t be done.

Other than that, I’m really literally not — I don’t know what’s been said or — I’m like in, and I just got in a little while ago. You won’t believe this. I didn’t come in at 8:00 this morning since I got in at 3:30, 4:00. This thing that we’re all doing, hopefully it brings about bringing this stuff together. Let’s just not make decisions that aren’t good for these kids, and our evaluation of them or whatever else that may be.

Q. You said the Bahamas trip got you guys maybe farther ahead than what you want to be at this particular time. Can you slow growth of a team down? Do you have markers throughout the course of a year where you want to see them at?
JOHN CALIPARI: Well, we haven’t started scrimmaging yet, and I thought this would be a scrimmage team, but I didn’t want to start down that road yet. So we haven’t done anything with zone, offense or defense. Very little. And we’re going to have to because I think the first four or five games you’re going to have teams playing us a majority zone.

And the other side of this is the pressing. This should be a pressing team. Well, we haven’t really done that yet. So I’ve zeroed in on four or five things where I’m trying to create habits of individual players and then habits of our pace of game. So that’s what I’ve zeroed in on. In other words, we’re flying, but you don’t play real fast. You’re still in control. You’re having poise, and what does that mean and what does it look like? So that’s what we’re trying to do right now and not get ahead to where we’re a full-blown — I think we did a walk-through before the first combine, and I said, let’s take it out on the baseline.

What did we do in the Bahamas? I don’t even remember. They did. What did we do on the sideline? They went and got in — it’s the first time we even talked about sideline, baseline. Haven’t talked about press attack.

So I’m not slowing down like not working, but I’m slowing down what I’m giving them to master right now, and let’s master this individually.

And it’s good because we have still young kids that we’re going to be relying on.

Q. Opening with Duke, it’s an unusual opening game. How does that impact preparation and the whole thing?
JOHN CALIPARI: You would know. I’m not — we agreed to do it, but it’s just a hard game — it’s a hard game for Duke, too. They’ve got young guys. It’s just a hard game out of the gate playing a program that has really good players and is really well-coached and is not intimidated by the scenery, and that’s who we play right out of the gate.

But it also wakes you up early in the morning. You’ve got to — you just know that let’s not get too far ahead. And at this point, I can’t tell you exactly what we’ll have in. We won’t have everything in. It’s going to be November whatever. But we’re going to have enough to try to say, this is how we’ll play this game, and hopefully we have enough in that we can compete with that team playing with what we have in.

Q. There are reports out there that you’re really, really enamored with this particular team. First of all, can you confirm those reports, and secondly, if so, what do you attribute the energy and enthusiasm on your part to?
JOHN CALIPARI: This — the guys that did the combine, the NBA crew that came in, all those coaches, they looked and said, it looks as though Cal is really enjoying coaching this group. Well, when you don’t have to coach effort, when you don’t have to coach the enthusiasm, the passion you have to play with, when you don’t have to coach a competitive spirit, fight, go, come on, dive on that, I don’t have to coach that with this team. So now you know what you’re coaching? Basketball. So now you coach basketball, and I love coaching basketball.

That other stuff is like having to take the guy to the dentist, open your mouth, take the needle — I mean, it’s painful for them and it’s painful for me. This is going to hurt me much more than it hurts you. But the reality of it is when you’re coaching basketball and they’re trying to do what you’re asking them to do and they’re literally — these dudes are like, we’re having to kind of get in between, like stop. But after it’s over, they’re great.

But that’s what you look — fight like heck on this court. Make each other better, compete. You try to beat him every day, he’s trying to beat you every day. If he’s beating you, you’d better get in the gym more because eventually he’s going to leave you in the dust, yet when it’s over, we’re all together. We’re family. And that’s how they’ve been doing it.

So yeah, I am excited that way. We still need a couple guys, and I don’t know who they’re going to be, to be those separators, to be those catalysts. Who is going to be that guy? No one knew it would be Shai (Gilgeous-Alexander) last year. No one knew. I didn’t know. And so it develops. We all know why it was Shai. He was here at 7:00 in the morning shooting. He watched video of himself and other people. He was in the weight room. He was unbelievable. He never missed a class, never missed a tutor, did everything he was supposed to, was wired to say, I’ve just got to get better, and he makes himself a lottery pick and looks like he’s starting for the Clippers. What? They were like, who is this kid? He’s long, he’s — yeah, he’s pretty good. Where is he from? Who was he? And now all of a sudden he does that. Well, guess what, now we’ve got six or seven guys in the gym.

I did say when we got off the plane to Kenny, I doubt if anybody is in there at this time because it was really late. But at 12:00, 11:00, if you drive by, those lights will be on out there, and those guys are in there.

I don’t know, sometimes it’s fear, not good enough, or sometimes it’s a chip on my shoulder, I’m going to prove that I’m better than everybody thinks. Sometimes it’s just a competitive spirit that it’s a habit you have. You want to see how good you can get.

You know, we try to recruit it. This thing — John Wall and Eric Bledsoe coming together was the start of that. Even DeMarcus (Cousins) coming when we had big guys here my first year. It proved that, look, I don’t care who’s here, we can play together, we can do this, plus we’ll get better because we’re playing against each other. Then you had Brandon Knight who would be in the gym at 11:00 at night in January. What are you in here for? He had the guy holding the rope and he’s running with the rope around his waist, the guy is holding him and he’s sweating. What are you doing? He said, just wanted to get a workout in. Why don’t you do it earlier? I had chemistry and I wanted to make sure I was studying for the test tomorrow. You’re leaving in three months! But he brought that here. Plus he was a straight-A student.

And then the kids, I don’t know, it was great, somebody showed me that there was an article out about the kids talking about how we approach them, that it’s not you’re going to start, you’re going to be the face, you’re going to be the best player, every shot is going through you, we’re going to showcase you. You’re going to be this, you’re going to be the one they look back to 30 years from now and say you built this program. We don’t do any of that. I’ve said it publicly. I’ve said it, and now all of a sudden they did it, each individual guy separately, and it kind of came back with what we do.

Now, you may ask, why would you give out trade secrets. Would you ask that? Why would you tell them what you’re doing? Who else would be stupid enough to recruit that way, to tell them it’s going to be really hard, we’re going to have really good players, I can’t give you anything, you’re going to have to earn it. I don’t know, I mean, are you good enough? If you’re not good enough, you shouldn’t do that. If anybody else wants to go down that route with us, I say have at it, let’s go.

But that culture has been built here, and it was fun to see every guy — because I can remember the home visits. Even they talked about Reid (Travis), my comment to Reid, you averaged 20 points last year, how are you going to be if you’re averaging 13 or 14 or 12? You averaged 10 rebounds last year; can you average 12? Here’s where you’ve got to work. If you come here, here’s what we’re going to do to try to help you. Can I just say this? That’s why we don’t get everybody we recruit. That’s exactly why we don’t get everybody we recruit. Some kids want to know, it’s guaranteed that they’ve got this spot. We just don’t do it.

I would hope to think that’s why we have the guys that we have that came here. They want this challenge.


John Calipari will avoid potential North Korea situation with Rick Pitino

John Calipari used Rick Pitino and North Korea in the same sentence today.  Yeah, things got a little weird at UK Basketball Media Day.

After flying in from a west coast recruiting trip, presumably to see Jaden McDaniels, at 3:30 a.m., Coach Cal was a little loopy.  He warned the media members a few times before letting a few fantastic quotes fly.  The highlight of the day happened when he was asked about his former foe, Rick Pitino.

Pitino is about to start a new podcast, The Pitino Press.  His first guest is Billy Donavan.  Could Coach Cal be a guest in the future?

“I’m not a scheduled guest,” he said.  “I’ve talked to him once, or maybe I talked to him twice.  I’ve texted him occasionally, but if he asked me I would probably do it because he did my podcast.”

Pitino has also been on a preseason speaking circuit.  He’s talked to a few different college basketball teams, like Syracuse and Manhattan.  Pitino will not be speaking to the Kentucky basketball team.

“I probably wouldn’t have him come talk to the team.  It would put North Korea on the back-burner, let me just say that.”

At UK Basketball Media Day John Calipari wanted to talk about Kentucky Football

The 2018 UK basketball media day featured a first: not one, but TWO questions about Kentucky football.

Throughout the Kentucky football team’s incredible 5-1 start, John Calipari has been one of the team’s biggest fans.  Coach Cal is happy to see Mark Stoops and his players rewarded after an arduous turn-around.

“It’s great.  I’m happy for their staff and Mark but I’m really happy for the guys who came back. Josh (Allen) is one of the best linebackers in all of college football.  The guy is ridiculous,” Calipari said at the podium.

“What Mark has done and what Benny (Snell) and Josh and the guys have done to change the culture. Players ride the culture.  It’s not like you say, ‘this is what it is,’ and they do what they want.  They’ve gotta ride it, which means we’re going to compete and fight like heck, but we’re sticking together.”

The evidence of the change in culture is everywhere.

“Everybody was mad and angry.  Do you remember two years ago when we’d be sad and disappointed?  It wasn’t no sad now.  Everybody, their staff was mad, their players were mad, our fans were mad, the culture has just changed in football.”

The winning culture of Stoops’ team has even intruded into Coach Cal’s morning coffee group.  In the middle of one conversation, Calipari asked one of his friends who is on the schedule for November 9th.

“And he gives me the football game.  What the hell you giving me a football schedule for?”

Calipari frequently talks to Stoops, even when Stoops might not want to hear from him.

“I called Mark after the Texas A&M game.  If you’re a coach, when you lose, don’t call me and tell me it was good.  I don’t want to hear that.  If I see somebody on my phone and I know that’s what they’re going to try to do, I hit the ‘eat poop button.’  I’m not talking to you.

“So I text to Mark what I saw.  That the first touchdown they scored was okay.  Your defense I thought balled, but they were on the field for too long.  It wasn’t your best game, and you still went to overtime with a chance to win.  Incredible.

Coach Cal is not the type of guy to endorse moral victories.  However, he learned a lot about the football team and its brightest star, Benny Snell, from the loss.

“The best thing that came out of it was Benny.  In basketball we call it touches.  He didn’t get a whole lot of touches and he is like a Heisman candidate.  Now the game ends, they lose, the last play was…okay.  Benny, I can’t imagine what Benny did in the locker room but I know this: in front of the media he said everything the right way because he was thinking about his team.  That is big.  That is BIG when you’re a Heisman candidate and you don’t get the touches and the team loses because that kid wants a win.  He knew if I had the ball — ‘give me the ball twice in that situation, I don’t care, let the linemen fall down’ — but he never said a word.

“I told Mark that.  I said, ‘You guys are in a great place man.’  And I said, ‘Keep reminding everyone it’s taken you six years.  That wasn’t a two-year turnover. It’s been six years.'”

In previous years, the Kentucky basketball team stole the football team’s thunder.  Now Mark Stoops’ football team is invading UK basketball media day.  What a wild time to be alive.

Calipari: FBI findings are a “black eye” to college basketball

Given all that is happening in college basketball this week as testimonies blow up the FBI’s investigation in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that John Calipari was asked about the recent events in his sport.

The Courier-Journal’s Tim Sullivan asked Calipari what he thinks of Roy Williams’ remarks — Williams said he is “dumbfounded” by the allegations against other NCAA programs —  to which Cal said he’s been out of town and hadn’t seen Williams’ quote, but the current trial is a “black eye” to the sport.

It’s a black eye for college basketball,” Cal said, echoing what he said at last year’s Media Day when news of the investigation first broke. “It’s not good for basketball. I hope the decisions we’re making out of this are good for the kids.”

“Other than that,” he said. “I don’t know what’s been said.”

LIVE UPDATES: John Calipari’s Media Day Press Conference

KSR is live at Kentucky Basketball Media Day. Refresh this thread for the latest updates from John Calipari’s press conference.

— When asked the impact the Bahamas trip had on his team, Calipari once again called for college basketball to allow practice and/or exhibitions in August ala spring practice for football teams.

“I think we should be able to something like football does with spring football. I’ve been saying it for a number of years. Why don’t we own the first two weeks of August, college basketball? Bring foreign teams to you. It can be televised or not televised. You could practice or not play anybody. It could cost you nothing…It’s good for the kids. If we make rules based on this premise, that it’s good for the kids, we won’t make many mistakes.”

Cal said the exhibitions in the Bahamas helped his team adjust to the bright lights and expectations at Kentucky.

“A lot of anxiety was wiped out. Then they could be comfortable going in to what they were going to face.”

Calipari on the college hoops trial: “I haven’t followed all this stuff. It’s a black eye. It’s not good for basketball. I hope they decisions we’re making out of this is what’s best for the kids, not changing things for change’s sake.”

Calipari on opening with Duke:

“We agreed to do it. It’s a hard game. And it’s a hard game for Duke. They’ve got young guys. It’s a hard game coming out of the gate playing a program that has really good players and is really well coached and is not intimidated by the scenery. And that’s who we play right out of the gate.

“It wakes you up early in the morning. You just know let’s not get too far ahead. At this point, I can’t tell you exactly what we’ll have in. We won’t have everything in, but we’ll have enough in to say this is how we’ll play this game.”

Calipari on reports he’s being enamored with this group:

“When you don’t have to coach effort, when you don’t have to coach the enthusiasm, the passion you have to play with, when you don’t have to coach the competitive spirit — I don’t have to coach that with this team. What are you left with? I have to coach basketball.”

— Calipari says Reid Travis has gone from 262 lbs. in the Bahamas to 245 lbs. and 5.4% body fat now.

“He was a little bit heavy– I don’t want to say heavy, he’s big boned. He weighs 262 lbs. I said, you’ve got to lose 20 pounds. [At the combine] he did jumping drills and he was jumping above the square. He was above the square standing flat-footed. He’s down to 245 lbs. now. I said maybe lose five pounds more.”

— As predicted, the kid reporter killed it, asking Calipari how he gives “sass,” aka attitude, to his team. As we saw in the Bahamas, this team thrives on talking trash, but Calipari is discouraging them from doing that by docking them “attitude points.”

Something tells me Keldon Johnson has a lot of those.

— “If this team becomes empowered and it becomes their team, then this becomes scary. But they’ve got to be empowered and to be empowered there has to be more than one leader. Last year’s team, I’m not sure we ever became empowered. We became a better team by the end of the year, but I’m not sure we ever became empowered.”

— Calipari on EJ Montgomery: “Just so you know, EJ has been just okay…until the NBA scouts came and then he played out of his mind. ‘So when the scouts are here, you decided to play a little bit.'”

— More on playing Duke to start the season:

“I would say that game will be just another game at that point unless we win, and then it’s huge. It’s huge. But the reality is that it’s so early that we’ll learn where we are at that point. Same for them. You’d have to ask the guys. I’m not sure what Reid would think of playing Duke, what these young kids would think of playing Duke? The rivalry is because these are such great programs, but to them, I don’t know.”

— Tim Sullivan asked Calipari if he sees a problem with a shoe company paying a kid $100,000.

“If a shoe company wants to pay a player 100,000 while he is in school? Let me go farther, Tim. What if he was in high school, would you have a problem with that. [“No”] The problem with this is I don’t want this to lead to — I think every kid owns their name and likeness. I’ve said it for years. They own their name and likeness. That’s the issue right now. The Olympic model would solve some of that.”

Calipari then went on to run through all the issues he has with the proposed “fixes” for the sport, namely allowing players to go straight to the NBA, or, in most cases, the G-League.

“Ninety-two percent will be roadkill. I may be wrong. It may be 93. What do we do with all those kids?”

— Last question! John Calipari was asked about depth, but the reporter had to repeat it a few times because Cal couldn’t understand his accent.

“You’re from Eastern Kentucky, aren’t you?” Cal asked.

“Yes,” the reporter confirmed.

Then Calipari talked about all of players who have been drafted high despite averaging 20 or so minutes per game. You’ve heard all that before.

LIVE: John Calipari’s 2018 Media Day Press Conference

John Calipari is about to address reporters about the 2018-19 season. Tune in to a live stream of his remarks courtesy of KyWildcatsTV:

Important game day changes coming to Rupp Arena

Important game day changes coming to Rupp Arena

Are you planning on going to a game at Rupp Arena this year? With construction now underway on the new club areas for the 2019-20 season, there have been several game day changes, so take note.


The Manchester Street lot is now a construction zone and parking is mostly unavailable. As a result, spaces in the High Street lot and the Langley Garage will now be utilized for game-day operations.

UK Athletics has worked with Rupp Arena and Lexington parking officials to maximize parking areas for game days. The Transit Center Parking Garage (150 E. Vine St.), the Helix Parking Garage (15-160 W. Main St.) and Courthouse Garage (105 Barr St.) have been made available for the 2018-19 season in addition to the Victorian Square Parking Garage (350 W. Short St.) from prior seasons. Other Lexington parking garages will be an option for fans.


Student and media entrances have been relocated to the High Street entrance, so fans are encouraged to consider entering on the north side of Rupp Arena, facing the Lexington Center Shops and Triangle Park. All of these changes will surely bring delays, so arrive early to make sure you’re in your seat in time for all the action.


Effective Oct. 1, Rupp Arena is a tobacco-free facility. Designated smoking areas outside of the arena no longer exist due to the ongoing construction. Patrons who wish to use tobacco products will be asked to do so off of the Rupp Arena grounds.


Walkthrough metal detectors and Rupp Arena’s bag policy will be in effect again this season. Bags must not exceed 12 inches by 6 inches x 12 inches. Prohibited bags include, but are not limited to backpacks or any bag larger than the permissible size. An exception will be made for medically necessary items after proper inspection at a gate designated for this purpose. Express lanes for guests with no bags will be provided to assist in expediting the security process.

Doors will continue to open at Rupp Arena 90 minutes prior to tip-off.


  • All illegal substances
  • Artificial noisemakers and irritants
  • Backpacks
  • Banners
  • Beach balls
  • Cameras with detachable lenses
  • Firearms
  • Fireworks
  • Frisbees
  • Flasks
  • Glass and aluminum containers
  • Helium balloons
  • Laser pointers/pens
  • Mace
  • Outside food and beverages
  • Selfie sticks
  • Signs larger than 24 inches by 24 inches
  • Stadium seats in excess of 18 inches wide or stadium seats with hard plastic or metal parts
  • Video or audio recorders


  • Bags – one per person, not to exceed 12 inches by 6 inches by 12 inches; all bags are subject to inspection
  • Camera lenses – maximum length six inches; no detachable lenses
  • Service animals – as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act
  • Personal chairbacks – maximum width 18 inches and cannot have any hard plastic or metal parts
  • Strollers – small collapsible style

All of these changes will be in effect for Big Blue Madness on Friday.