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How John Calipari taught Karl Towns to stop being so nice on the court

Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

John Calipari’s new book, “Success is the Only Option: The Art of Coaching Extreme Talent,” just hit the shelves, and Sports Illustrated has an excerpt that I’m happy to share with you. In this passage, Calipari describes how he got Karl to stop being such a nice guy and start fighting in the post. Cal said leaving Karl on the bench that game was an eye-opener for the freshmen, who was facing failure in basketball for the first time:

A game at South Carolina sticks out in my mind as a turning point for Karl. It was mid-January, so not all that early in the season, but he was still catching on to how we wanted him to play. That’s normal; it always takes time. I’d see flashes of what I wanted, then he would revert. He made two of his three shot attempts that night, missed both his foul shots, and grabbed a grand total of one rebound.

 I never leave a player on the bench as punishment, but it’s only fair to keep the kids out there who are doing more. Our platoon system only guaranteed minutes to players who were battling. He played just twelve minutes that night.

After the game, I saw Karl’s parents. He probably had rarely struggled much at anything before, and I knew it wasn’t easy for them to watch. I normally try not to talk to parents about basketball (I’ll engage them on almost anything else about their child) but I made an exception. “I’m not letting up,” I told them. “He’s going to be unbelievable by the end, but I’m not letting up on him.”

His mother said she thought he was fighting better in the post. “No, no, no,” I said. “He’s not battling enough. You want him to shoot threes? Nope, sorry, I’m not letting him go out there.” I then hugged her and kissed her cheek.

Of course, this story has a happy ending. Fascinating stuff, so head on over to SI.com to read the rest.

[Sports Illustrated]

Or, buy the book for yourself at Amazon.

Article written by Mrs. Tyler Thompson

No, I will not make you a sandwich, but you can follow me on Twitter @MrsTylerKSR or email me.

6 Comments for How John Calipari taught Karl Towns to stop being so nice on the court



  1. Patrick_David
    11:46 am November 16, 2016 Permalink

    “Of course, this story has a happy ending. Fascinating stuff, so head on over to SI.com to read the rest.”

    Or even better buy the book!



  2. jrdh13
    11:57 am November 16, 2016 Permalink

    great read..



  3. Bluebloodtoo
    12:06 pm November 16, 2016 Permalink

    The one thing I love about Cal is that he does really care about the kids and teaching them things to improve their life. I get that the book is a business venture for him as well, but how many people in a competitive career like Cal’s will write several books about what makes him and his system successful and tells his competition how to do it?! Most people would NEVER give their competition anything that could help them get better. I get that I’m assuming his intent is to help the kids, but it’s hard to see it any other way.



  4. jonthes
    2:35 pm November 16, 2016 Permalink

    I agree, but he should have popped Karl out for threes against Wisconsin. He was our counter, and he had long by then learned how to play the post.



    • foamfinger
      4:05 pm November 16, 2016 Permalink

      True, but we don’t know exactly what Cal’s game plan was for that game, or if they ever planned to play with Towns more out on the perimeter.

      In the long run, though, it helped Towns more and we can’t be upset about that. Every UK player that does well in the NBA is only feeding us better recruits who have great work ethics and, it looks like, personalities.