Timing is everything. Anthony Davis timed it perfectly when he left the floor to block John Henson’s shot against North Carolina last season, setting the season off on the perfect trajectory toward greatness. Ask Tyson Gay about timing. Had he competed in any other 100 meter race in the history of the Olympics before 2008, he would have won the gold medal. Instead, he just happens to be racing during an era in which Usain Bolt is nearly untouchable when the stage is the biggest. Timing is everything in sports. And not just on the court or the field, or whatever other surface might be used. Timing is everything in other situations as well…
Timing is crucial when it comes to managing news, perceptions of news, reactions of fans, good breaking news and bad breaking news. John Calipari has masterfully navigated through all of this in his three years at Kentucky. If something negative comes out in relation to Kentucky men’s basketball, the news rarely festers. Before people can have too much time to digest, worry or make mountains out of mole hills with the information– Calipari is right there. He foresees the potential worries, puts them at ease, and then everyone moves on to the next thing. The next thing… once again, another great timing move by Calipari. When the news has dried up about the Kentucky program, Calipari creates news. Literally. Call it a coincidence if you will, but I call it calculated. Calculated and brilliant. Need a current or relevant example? How about when Calipari brought up the notion of games being played between 5 teams over the course of two years, home and away. North Carolina, Kentucky, Kansas, Louisville and Indiana were mentioned. Does Calipari actually believe such an event could take place? Maybe he does. But that’s not even really the point. The point is that the idea being floated around was devoured by every single national media member, causing them to speculate about the possibilities and mention Kentucky in the news. Not to mention, he put Tom Crean and Rick Pitino on the spot a bit to put their money where their mouth is when it comes to non-conference scheduling and the difficulty by which they subscribe to.
The main point is, Calipari has his thumb all over the pulse of the fans and the media. Whether it’s Calipari himself or the in-tuned staff he has surrounded himself with, not much slips past the guy. Did you notice Sunday evening when negative reports were coming from a certain Draft Express blogger about the performances of some of the Kentucky guys at the Adidas Nations events? Before the whispers and fretting got too loud among a pocket of Kentucky fans worrying about the state of next year’s team, Calipari logged onto Facebook. Or his Facebook handler logged on. Regardless, Calipari struck and he struck quick. He immediately sent out a message about the positive comments he had been getting on Willie Cauley-Stein. Then he eased the pain of Kyle Wiltjer’s poor shooting by instilling his confidence in him to hit big shots for Kentucky next season, just like he did this past season. And then he quieted a lot of the Nerlens Noel doubters by tactfully reminding us that Noel hasn’t had 6 weeks on campus this summer to begin the molding process that will take place before he even sets foot on the court in front of thousands in Rupp Arena. Calipari felt the pulse of Big Blue Nation quickening, to a nervous tick, and he didn’t waste any time jumping on it and changing the vibe.
One of the knocks on Joker Phillips over the years has been his lack of timing when it comes to similar issues. When the news of the ticket sales decrease came out, he spoke out, but it took just a little too long. Phillips hasn’t historically put himself out there quite as much with the fan base. That might just be the way that Phillips operates, but I think over the past few weeks we have started to see a slight transformation with Phillips and his approach. It started with a passionate response to the ticket sales at a luncheon. It continued with a more visible presence on Twitter (yes, that kind of stuff matters…whether you choose to buy into it or not). And he took another nice step on Friday at Media Day with a candid one-on-one interview with Matt Jones on the KSR radio show. Phillips faced some tough questions, tougher than the ones he generally fields in more formal press conferences. I’m not saying Joker has it down to a science like Calipari. But I am saying that he could certainly take a page from Cal’s book when it comes to timing on such issues. And it seems as if that might be exactly what Phillips is starting to do.
Timing is everything. Then again, so is winning. If you can find a way to combine the two like Calipari has, well, you have seen the results.