Aside from his stint in the NBA, the last time John Calipari had a losing record was 1988-89, his first season as a head coach at UMass. With Kentucky sitting at 5-13 with six games left in the regular season, Calipari is determined not to give up on this team, if not for the slim chance they make a run in the SEC Tournament than to show them how to deal with adversity.
“Am I happy with where this is?” Calipari said in his press conference this afternoon. “No. Come on you guys know me. Like you asked the question, it’s been – I was in my 20s when I coached a team (with a losing record). But this team, that team had no chance at the end; this team does. And we’ve just got to figure it out together and I’ve got to continue to try and motivate, and push, and hug.”
“What I’m trying to do is to show my response to all of this stuff,” Cal added. “And I’m not talking about in games. I want these kids to see that when things go bad, how, what is your response to it? Do you blame? Do you throw people under the bus? Or do you evaluate? Do you take responsibility? Do you keep trying? Do you try new things? Do you block out all of the clutter that everybody throws? Because when things aren’t going good it’s there and everybody has an answer. I want them to see and I want other people to see the response that we have. I haven’t stopped, stopped believing, stopped coaching. I’m trying to give them a chance to win every game they play, and I won’t stop until they say the season’s over.”
Nothing has gone Kentucky’s way this year. From the pandemic to injuries to losses and subsequent criticism from fans, the dream of being a Wildcat has turned into a nightmare; however, Calipari is encouraged by how his players haven’t given up, still coming in for extra work after practice.
“I have respect because these kids haven’t stopped. I looked out in the building last night and there are guys conditioning. They’re conditioning. It was after practice. Four guys stayed in there and were getting extra work in. I have great respect for these kids. I told them, ‘I believe in you. We have some flaws on our team, but you know, we have flaws in the coach.’”
Calipari has been criticized for not only his coaching this season, but his often bizarre and defensive comments to the media. Today, he made it clear where the fault lies for a historically bad campaign.
“I’m not making any excuses. Our record tells what we are and what I am as a coach this year. I’m not making excuses. All I’m saying is I’m not giving up, and if anybody wants to give up. I’m fine. I’m not going to be mad. If anybody wants to take off on them or me, that’s fine. I’m not mad. It’s what it is. I’m not talking down to anybody. I’m not. All I’m saying is my job is not to deal with that. It’s to look at these 12 kids and say, ‘How can I make sure I’m looking after someone’s child? How do I help them play their best?’ I’m with them every day. I know who has got the confidence to go in there when things are going bad and who doesn’t.
“But I can say this, this group hasn’t given up on anything. And what I told you, conditioning, extra work, someone was in the gym the other day and they said after he worked out, he got conditioning. It was one of our starters. So, hopefully we start playing a little more consistent. Hopefully we throw one off a light that hits off the floor and bounces in the basket and we win on a play. How about an unbelievable block they’ll call a foul, and we shoot two free throws and win a game? I don’t care what it is. We just need something good to happen.”
Please let it be tomorrow. We all need something good to happen.