Don’t tell John Calipari his team’s turned the corner. Kentucky’s riding a three-game winning streak right now, but the memories of the four-game slide that preceded it are still very present in Calipari’s mind.
“If you think there’s no chance that we will revert, you’re crazy,” Calipari said. “You’re crazy. There’s a chance that we could revert. Let’s hope these guys learned a lesson and they didn’t like how that felt and they’re going to come out and play.”
Tomorrow night, the Cats will take on an Ole Miss team tied for last in the SEC with an interim head coach. That wasn’t enough for Calipari to rule out another face plant.
“We have a game coming up that it’s not the game, it’s us. (Mississippi) is good enough to beat us. They beat Missouri at Missouri. They had Tennessee – they lost by eight – and now they are coming here and a chance to play in Rupp. I know they are good enough to beat us. I’m worried about where are we. Have we learned or will we revert?”
Warnings and disclaimers aside, Calipari did admit that practice is much more pleasant these days.
“I’m not fighting guys everyday. I’m enjoying walking into practice. I can shorten practice now. They’re not fighting me. What do you want me to do? Every once in a while, a guy will revert and I’ll say, don’t do that. You’re playing too well. Don’t go back to where you were.”
The biggest change? Guys understand they must play together to win and they’re enjoying doing it, especially on defense.
“They want to win. The thing that they did not understand and hear is, if you don’t do this together you’re not going to have any fun. If you’re not going to do it together you cannot win against teams that are going to play like teams. Then when you’re losing it’s no fun. And then when you’re not enjoying playing with each other you’re really miserable.
“The biggest thing, too, on the flipside is this team now is beginning to enjoy defense. And if you enjoy defense and you’re playing together, you basically can’t wait for the next game to come up. I’m happy with their progress and what they’re doing.”
The difference in Kentucky’s play a month ago to now is nowhere more apparent than Calipari himself. He admitted as much.
“It tired me out this year. You see I’m getting my second wind. You watch me, I’m whistling and skipping in there now. But it’s not – I was dragging about three weeks ago.”