FedEx presented a new Cal Cast to podcast listeners this morning and it is 39 minutes of John Calipari reflecting on the 2016-17 season.
At this time I will now listen to the podcast and write about it as I go to provide you with a rundown of all of his comments. So give it a read below and please keep in mind it’s almost impossible to transcribe anything Cal says because likes to bounce around, so things may get a little sloppy. Work with me here. It’s early and I’m trying. Let’s go…
— Things begin with Cal’s definition of success: “Success is knowing in your heart you’ve done everything to put yourself in a position to win. You’ve worked as hard as you can work and you’ve come together as a team, in a team sport like we play, and you’ve given your very, very best in all areas.”
— “The success I feel is — did we do everything we could to try to help these young people and put them in the best position as a team to win?”
— He met with Tai Wynyard one morning earlier this week to discuss what Wynyard learned about himself on and off the court, and what he needs to do to succeed. “I left that meeting feeling so good because Tai Wynyard’s gotten better… Man, has he gotten better.”
— He said the team was fast and free-flowing early on, but had to adjust halfway through the season because opposing teams had tape on them and found ways to slow them down. “But by the end of the year, we were playing our best basketball. They were committed to defense.”
— He had quick compliments for everyone on the team and how they improved. The best? “Seeing Derek Willis, are you kidding me? I couldn’t put him in my first two years. This year, we counted on him to make plays to help us win games.”
— One of his messages to his team in preparing for the competition of basketball and in life is to always be reflective. He said when you lose, you learn from it. He is reflective as a coach, which is why he always asks himself, ‘What could I have done?’ In the case of the UNC game, Cal said he wishes he could’ve called timeout before Carolina went the length of the floor for Maye’s game-winner. “When you look at the tape, that ball was in so quick I couldn’t have gotten a timeout anyway,” he said. “There was no way I could’ve called it that quickly. But my mindset was I wish I would have done something.”
— “We had some guys not play well our last game, but I’ll tell you who did… Dom and Isaac. They stepped up and made up for anyone not playing well.”
— He wonders how anyone can question how much his players care after seeing the videos from the postgame locker room. “They wanted to win a national championship for each other, for the program, for the fans, and they fell short. That’s what makes this tough.”
— He doesn’t judge his own success on wins and losses. He doesn’t even know how many he has. He doesn’t judge himself on national championships either, because how often does someone win one at schools outside the Power 5 like UMass and Memphis?
— Pause for Zip Recruiter and Papa John’s ads.
— Going into the NCAA tournament, he saw 30-win teams in Wichita State, UCLA and North Carolina on UK’s path to the Final Four. “But let me say this: Just about every year I’ve been doing this, we’ve been in Murderer’s Row. That’s just how it is.”
— He thought North Carolina was the best team. He respected UCLA and Kansas and all of the other good teams, but North Carolina was the best in his mind before the tournament began because of their guard play and their ability to make baskets and score a lot of points.
— He said North Carolina made baskets they don’t usually make. One example: “Pinson made that basket in the corner, running to his left which is the way we want him to run — he doesn’t make baskets going left, but he made that one. And then Jackson just throws a runner up that hangs there — bang, bang, bang — then goes in. That is going to happen in this tournament, so you can’t give up easy baskets because they’re going to make some of those when you defend the right way.”
— He thinks Kentucky will be ranked fifth once the tournament is over.
— He loves the fact that the NCAA selection committee is trying to be more transparent with its decisions than in years past. He also thinks they need to go to the S-curve. If it were the S-curve method, he believes Kentucky would’ve been the No. 1 seed in the West over Arizona. “I’m not sure Arizona should’ve been rated above us.”
— In talking about the fan base, Cal said it’s very hard on the players because you’re in a fish bowl and you’re a rockstar. “If you do one thing they’re making a 30 for 30 on you.”
— “Every game’s a Super Bowl.” DRINK!
— He happily points out that 70 percent of his players at Kentucky have been drafted and 70 percent of those have earned second contracts.
— More on the passion of the fans and how no one has it better than Big Blue Nation… He said BBN gets more smiles because UK is winning way more than anyone else. Then there’s Rupp Arena and the fans committed to traveling. “They could have a conference tournament in Fargo and it’ll be 90 percent Kentucky fans.”
— “Being a fan here, it’s a privilege.”
— Time for a media call-out! He said people were down on this team in the middle of the season because they were listening to a “pundit” who has an agenda. “He had an agenda to try to flip you. They try to do that to our fans every year that I’ve been here.”
— Pause for Blue Apron ad. (Featuring Ellen Calipari!)
— The podcast transitions to lots of Final Four talk toward the end. He talks about his friendship with Mark Few, the job Frank Martin did at South Carolina, UNC being the best team in the field and the guard play at Oregon.
— He also said he is going to the Final Four with his son (they’re already there) after originally thinking he would stay home. He had dinner with Tyler Ulis, Eric Bledsoe, Devin Booker and Brandon Knight and then “had his feet on the wood” at the Suns game last night. (That means courtside seats.)
— He said he cherishes moments like these with Brad, especially now that Brad’s all grown up. “These experiences I get to have with my son… I’m getting older. He’s getting older. I try to hold his hand. He won’t hold my hand anymore! I kiss him, he says, ‘Dad are you crazy?’ I don’t kiss him on the lips but I kiss him on the cheek or his ear, and he wipes it off. So I’m going to go out there for that.”
— He will attend the Hall of Fame dinner and an NABC function but he doesn’t know if he’ll stay for the Final Four games. “I’m not sure if I can stomach anymore basketball,” he said.
— One last message to Big Blue Nation, thanking the fans for everything. He said everyone has been great to him, Brad and the entire family.
And that’s all I can type about the latest Cal Cast. I encourage you to listen to it all when you get a chance. If you can’t, I hope this did a good enough job of relaying his messages.