In an interview with ESPN the Magazine, Cal opened up to Andy Katz about his time in Lexington and how the job has changed him. Most of the interview is stuff we’ve heard before, but here are a few interesting tidbits:
— Cal said that while he was “waiting on a phone call” for the Kentucky job in 2007 after Tubby left, the timing was better in 2009:
“The timing was better because Tubby had won a national title [in 1998], and everybody in town still loved him. So following him would have made the job much harder for me. No disrespect to Billy Gillispie, but it didn’t go well [during his two seasons at Kentucky]. If, following Tubby, we had a bunch of good players who left early, fans may have been up in arms. I tried to tell them that having five players taken in the first round of the NBA draft was the best thing to happen to our program, but there were people who fought me then, saying, “This isn’t about the championship.” Well, it is about championships. But the kids bring you championships, so at the end of the day, it’s about the kids. The program is bigger than all of us. But you’ve gotta make this about the players, and that’s what I do. They may not have accepted that in 2007.”
— As for those stereotypes about Kentucky fans being obnoxious or vicious? False:
“Everybody wants to say that Kentucky fans are vicious or obnoxious. They’re not. They’re crazy in that they watch the tape of our games more than I do. But they’re passionate and smart. Someone said, ‘I’ll bet your fans were mad that you lost to Duke [on Nov. 13].’ They weren’t. They said, ‘Hey, we’re young. We’re gonna get better.'”
— Cal says he started using social media to connect to the fans, not to recruit. And don’t even call him a tech wiz: Cal claims he doesn’t even own a computer. DeWayne Peevy is the one who does most of the tweeting, which is always approved by Cal before going out.
— Who does Cal think are Kentucky’s biggest rivals?
“We treat every game the same, but if we’re playing Louisville or Indiana, North Carolina, Duke, Kansas, UCLA — and I could probably name Tennessee, Florida and a couple of others — those games matter more in our fans’ minds. We have a lot of [big] games because of who we are. But a rivalry can’t be one way. It has to be big for both schools.”
— Yet, Cal is quick to point out that because his players are so young and come from all areas of the country, some rivalries, namely Louisville, might not mean as much to them as they do to us.
— The $64,000 question? Cal says he plans to be at Kentucky “probably another six years, maybe seven” before he passes the job on to someone else. His current contract runs through 2019.
That’s plenty of time to catch UCLA. Be sure to read the interview in full: