John Calipari caught quite a bit of flak following Kentucky’s overtime loss to Seton Hall. The criticism was compounded when he told his players to pretend they actually won the game.
“I’m looking at it like we won the game,” he said five weeks ago. “We’re not that far off. We got better. That game, we improved. Didn’t shoot the ball particularly well, but we improved.”
The sentiment behind his statement was not clearly consumed. Even though Cal’s young team lost, he liked their progression. They were trusting his process, but it did not immediately produce results. He told them to pretend they won to not shake their confidence in his process.
Calipari is consistent. After the nail-biting win at Auburn, Kentucky’s head coach asked his players to think of an alternative outcome.
“Would you have thought of us as a team, or yourself as an individual, any different if that kid (Jared Harper) would’ve laid the ball in? When it’s about process, you shouldn’t,” he said on tonight’s call-in show.
Luckily, Harper’s shot did not roll through the rim. In the two-point win Calipari saw his team take another step forward when faced with adversity.
“When they are in a desperate mode, they play better. When they are up against it, they lose themselves in the team and they play better.”
The next step in Calipari’s process is shutting the door on an opponent. Kentucky built up a 17-point second half lead, but let Auburn crawl back into the game behind a barrage of three-pointers.
“I showed them ten plays in the second half that we made to give Auburn a chance to beat us….Ten plays! That’s gotta be down to two or three in a month. You gave them a chance by doing this, this and this.”
If Kentucky can cut down on the small mistakes and build off the win at Auburn, they’re going to be dangerous in March.
“We’re in this together. It’s hard to stop a team when there’s six, seven, eight guys that can do something with the ball,” he said. “We’re making strides, but it just takes time.”