Every coach has some basic fundamental beliefs that his or her teams stick by in almost all cases. Bruce Pearl teams are going to press the crap out of you. Jim Boeheim’s teams are going to 2-3 zone. Rick Pitino’s teams are going to lose in Rupp Arena. Things like that. I would say if Calipari has some basic fundamentals, it would be these:
1. Man to man defense. Does Calipari ocassionaly play a zone defense, of course. It was actually effective at times last season. But overall, Cal likes to play man to man and he sounds almost like he’s passing a stone when talking about playing a zone more.
2. Crashing the glass. Even his teams that were not necessarily as big as his teams at Kentucky have always tried and dominate the glass. And that includes on both ends of the floor. UK has been one of the best rebounding teams in the country during Cal’s 5 years. Part of that certainly comes from talent and part of that comes from scheme.
3. Drive the ball. Guards are what make Calipari’s offensive system run. And those guards must be able to drive the ball and covert in the paint. He doesn’t want jump shooting point guards. He wants guys to get deep and either make the layup, pass to a big man for a dunk or setup that big man for an easy offensive rebound. I think in Cal’s mind a 2-footer is always easier than a 15-footer is always easier than a 25-footer. Seems to have worked so far.
But one thing we never seem to see from Kentucky teams that I think they may have a chance to capitalize on this year is the press. Normally, depth has not been one of Kentucky’s strengths, and part of that is by design. Calipari doesn’t necessarily try and play 9 or 10 guys on his roster. Give him 7 really good players and he is sold. But hey, next season he is going to have 9 or 10 guys that seem to be able to play good minutes. He’ll have length, speed, and athleticism. He will also have big men that can really move around nicely. It makes me wonder if a press could be a good option.
Calipari has employed a press in the past, but his press is more token press than it is press to turnover. And look, that has not been necessary in his 5 years. When you control the glass as much as Kentucky does, it forces teams to shoot the ball well to have a chance to beat Kentucky. And that will probably be the case again next year. Does Kentucky NEED to press next year? Of course not. Or at least it seems that way. But CAN they press? I would argue yes. And if that press can cut down on the other team’s possessions by 5 or 6, why not?
Good presses need length and Kentucky has tons of it. Since Rick Pitino left Kentucky, we really haven’t had a coach who has employed a serious press. But the roster next year says it could totally be a weapon. The question then revolves around if Calipari loosens his basic coaching philosphy, which really doesn’t emphasize forcing turnovers or speeding up the other team. I am certainly not suggesting that Kentucky suddenly turns into the mid-90’s UK teams. But I wonder if fans think or want to see more pressing from the Cats. What say you? Should Calipari tweek the defensive philosphy for a more full court style at times or should we just stick with the way it’s been?