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John Calipari is ready to hand over the reins, saying “It’s their team”

We don’t know if John Calipari purposefully got himself thrown out of his team’s matchup against Arkansas last Saturday, and we probably never will. But either way, it’s safe to assume he did know it would instantly become a test for his young team inside a rowdy road environment.

Coach Cal must have been happy with their response (Kentucky did win, after all), because he said he actually didn’t want to emphasize his own presence during the Cats’ next game – Tuesday’s rematch against Georgia inside Rupp Arena. Calipari said he almost followed his own rules for the entire game… Almost.

“Until the last four or five minutes, you know that I was letting it unfold – it was player-driven today,” Calipari told reporters after the game. “Then, two things that happened: Ashton shot a shot early in the shot clock with five minutes to go, and then we started breaking down. And then I had to say, ‘We’re not losing this game.'”

He says he had to step in for the last few minutes, but if Calipari had his druthers, he’d let the players run the whole show themselves, from the game’s tip-off until its final buzzer.

I would like to go full games without having to be actively involved in it. This team became empowered during that last game [against Arkansas]. And now I think they’re feeling that it’s about each other.”

If Keion Brooks and his current mentality is any indication, Calipari’s assumption is correct. To Brooks, having a “player-driven” team means “we’re going to hold each other accountable.”

“We can’t always rely on [Calipari] to basically bail us out or save us. We’ve got to do it amongst ourselves,” Brooks said after the game Tuesday. “The better teams that travel far in the tournament and have success in March, they’re player driven. They’re teams that don’t rely on their head coach to bail them out or save them anytime something goes wrong.”

After the Cats earned their second win over Georgia, Calipari said he checked in with his team to ask how they felt about a player-driven game. According to Coach Cal, his team was all for it, which earned them an eye roll from their head coach. As for Coach Cal himself, he believes this team actually feels ahead of schedule, saying it’s usually mid-February before his squad becomes “empowered” enough for the coaches to even consider going player-driven.

Still, that doesn’t mean the players have total control.

“They’ve got to be responsible to each other, they’ve got to do their role [and] they can’t break things off and do what they choose. If they do, they’ve got to be on each other,” Calipari added. “You’re empowered. You clean that up yourself. If someone’s not happy with playing time, I’m telling them to go to Ashton [Hagans] and Immanuel [Quickley]. Talk to them – it’s their team.”

That won’t be a problem. Or at least it shouldn’t be, according to Brooks.

“We’ve got to continue to hold each other accountable and continue to listen to one another,” Brooks said. “When we get on each other, it’s not in ill-will or anything like that. We’ve just got to stay positive and keep working with each other.”

Article written by Maggie Davis

I love sports, podcasts, long walks on the beach and Twitter (@MaggieDavisKSR)

15 Comments for John Calipari is ready to hand over the reins, saying “It’s their team”



  1. ColoradoCatFan88
    10:27 pm January 22, 2020 Permalink

    I remember the exact moment he’s referring to because that’s when our team stopped attacking. Love Coach Cal, but I’ve never been a fan of “taking the foot off the gas” too early & he’s been that way his entire career. I was at the 2012 national championship game & if there was 5 more minutes in that game we would’ve lost it. He forced the team to stop attacking & kill the clock almost the last half of the 2nd half. It was awful



  2. CrystalBall
    10:49 pm January 22, 2020 Permalink

    Think it is the coach’s job to be “actively involved in it”.



    • StillBP
      7:16 am January 23, 2020 Permalink

      I think Cal knows more about this college basketball thing than you.



    • CrystalBall
      1:18 pm January 23, 2020 Permalink

      For sure. But if he isn’t “actively involved” in coaching the team, why is he there, and why is he being paid?



  3. ClutchCargo
    12:22 am January 23, 2020 Permalink

    A team whose coach has to micromanage what happens on the court late in the season isn’t built for what’s to come in the tournament. November/December? Yes. Much beyond that? No, give me a player led team every time.



  4. bbn606
    10:27 am January 23, 2020 Permalink

    That would be a good idea, seems like more and more coaches are micromanaging the games.



  5. CrystalBall
    12:16 pm January 23, 2020 Permalink

    Don’t understand. Are you saying that Cal should NOT coach the team the rest of this season and let the players make all the decisions?
    He should be able to still be “involved” without micromanaging. Shouldn’t he? Just asking.



    • ClutchCargo
      2:16 pm January 23, 2020 Permalink

      “Still, that doesn’t mean the players have total control.

      “They’ve got to be responsible to each other, they’ve got to do their role [and] they can’t break things off and do what they choose. If they do, they’ve got to be on each other,” Calipari added. “You’re empowered. You clean that up yourself. If someone’s not happy with playing time, I’m telling them to go to Ashton [Hagans] and Immanuel [Quickley]. Talk to them – it’s their team.””



  6. VirginiaCat
    12:36 pm January 23, 2020 Permalink

    It’s a balancing act with potentially more upsides than downsides. Empowering the team promotes the emergence of leaders and gives the players a broader perspective. Players feel more invested and are more likely to take responsibility. On the downside, I strong disagree that Cal should delegate playing time decisions to the players. That will lead to hard feelings between players and disrupt team chemistry. There are some matters that a coach should never delegate and playing time is high on the list. Overall, though, the “player driven” concept has merit if it is implemented with care.



    • CrystalBall
      12:43 pm January 23, 2020 Permalink

      Ok. Thanks for your reply.



  7. Looother
    7:32 pm January 23, 2020 Permalink

    At least a “player driven” team will have enough sense to know when it’s time to switch to a zone defense…



    • VirginiaCat
      9:33 pm January 23, 2020 Permalink

      If Cal truly embraces the “player driven” concept, maybe he will listen if the players tell him that it is time to play a zone. It’s like water on a rock, if enough people are saying the same thing, maybe it will have results.



  8. CrystalBall
    10:38 pm January 23, 2020 Permalink

    I will offer them 5 bucks to play zone. That is legal now, isn’t it?



  9. MrFlip41129
    1:41 am January 24, 2020 Permalink

    In Cal I trust.