John Calipari did not have a pulpit to preach upon at Big Blue Madness in 2020. Coronavirus forced many changes to college basketball. As Kentucky’s men’s basketball program adapts to remain the gold standard, Coach Cal revealed he’s making a tweak to his staff.
Even though Jai Lucas was initially hired for an off-the-court coaching role as a special recruiting analyst of sorts, that was never the case. Calipari said that starting in September Lucas, Joel Justus and Bruiser Flint operated as Kentucky’s on-court assistant coaches. Jon Robic is focused primarily on scheduling and scouting, while Tony Barbee has moved off the court to become Calipari’s associate head coach.
“Tony’s become the associate to the head coach. He’s like the co-head coach. I want him in my ear whether it be for practices, game, watching tape, our tape, the opponent’s tape, give me gameplans. Focus on that,” Calipari said.
“Joel and Jai, I want you on that recruiting ten hours a day.”
Calipari made the decision following Kenny Payne’s departure. The goal was to specialize roles to resemble an NBA coaching staff.
“It’s a staff of the future. It’s where this game is going. It’s how you can be effective for your young people. I want our staff to have great relationships and great time and communication with these players. You do it through practice where they respect your knowledge, in individual sessions where you’re spending time in the morning, in the evening, showing you care, listening because this is hard. These kids are chasing greatness and you know what, there’s a lot on their shoulders now with COVID and all this other stuff. But we’re here for our guys. We’re a players first program. That will never change.”
W/all the changes in college basketball, we've found ways to continue to be at the forefront and remain the gold standard on & off the court. We will always foster a culture that puts our #PlayersFirst, but it's also about putting our players in a position to be #BuiltDifferent. pic.twitter.com/KiUNVrias1
— John Calipari (@UKCoachCalipari) October 29, 2020