John Calipari loved what he got out of his team in last night’s season opener, a stress-free win over nearby Morehead State, a game in which everyone in a Kentucky uniform played really well.
“We looked like an organized basketball team,” he said afterward. “Can you imagine? It’s been 40 days. 30 practices in 42 days, and this is what we look like, so I’m happy.”
With little to criticize from his team’s effort and performance, Calipari turned on himself in his postgame comments to say he did Kentucky a disservice by loading the schedule in the non-conference. He expected to have some experience right now, but the lone veteran, sophomore Keion Brooks, is out with an injury to start the year so it’s all new faces at every spot on the floor, at all times.
“I did these guys a disservice, I did my team a disservice,” Cal said of upcoming games against preseason A-10 favorite Richmond, Kansas, Notre Dame, UCLA and so on. “But I thought Keion would be playing. So I thought, you know what, we got some veterans, we’ll be fine. Without Keion, it makes this schedule totally a different deal, and basically not really fair for these guys. No one’s doing what we’re doing.”
Calipari knows his 18-year-olds are still fragile, and that he will need to be “as positive and patient as I’ve ever been,” he admitted. “We didn’t have an exhibition to get going, we didn’t have some games, three or four or five games that we should have. And then we start and we play those five — no, no, we got nine games and seven of them are ridiculous. And so it’s going to be a tough road.”
Cal’s message to the fans: “Don’t you be mad at these kids. Don’t be mad at them. Be mad at me. Then you start saying, all you out there, ‘We want a stronger schedule. Why don’t we play everybody?’ Okay, now we’re playing everybody and you’ll see the result. And that same guy (Ryan Lemond?) said, ‘Look, I want us to play good. I’m fine with that record because I’m the one that wants them to play all these tough games. I’m not getting mad at these kids. I’ll get mad at Cal for playing that kind of schedule. What was he thinking?'”
Then came the line that made SportsCenter’s opening montage last night.
Looking at the road ahead, Calipari said, “Instead of being tested for corona, I should have been tested for drugs or something.”