Skip to content

Kentucky Sports Radio

University of Kentucky Basketball, Football, and Recruiting news brought to you in the most ridiculous manner possible.

Q&A: John Calipari on Bruiser Flint, DeWayne Peevy, new team

Yesterday, John Calipari met with reporters on Zoom for 30 minutes to cover a variety of topics, many of which we’ve already shared with you. It’s not every day we get to talk to Cal, so here’s a roundup of his comments, along with the video and a full transcript for your Thursday afternoon enjoyment.


Head Coach John Calipari

On losing DeWayne Peevy and Kenny Payne and the how he will adapt without him:

“Well, you know, as you guys know, I’ve only done this a few years, but I’ve had many staffs and what you do every time this happens is you’re trying to piece them together in a way that your team needs them to be in. Time changes. It’s different now than it was 10 years ago. So now, again, as I look at assistants, it’s all right, what is their relationship with players? Are they into that? Are they into that development? In this program, it’s the most important thing. Is their focus creating relationships with recruits? Or is their focus the next job? ‘I’m trying to get here. I’m trying.’ Well, in this job at Kentucky, our total focus has to be on what we’re all doing for these young people. With Bruiser (Flint), I worked with them so there’s no guessing who he is and what he’s about. We worked together and he is as good a guy, as good person. He’ll have unbelievable relationships with the players that we have. He’s a listener. I felt very comfortable. It was easy for me. I’ve done things in the past where I brought in assistants together, that I was having to hire two, and I brought them in together because I wanted to make sure they got along. How you’re going to have a team if your staff doesn’t get along? If one guy wants to, ‘I gotta be this guy and you gotta play my (player).’ We don’t ever. I’ve never done that. My staffs have been this is all of us doing everything. And so I think it’s going to be terrific. Now, on the other hand, I worked with DeWayne. He didn’t work for me – he worked for Mitch (Barnhart) – but we worked together and he’s become a dear friend. It’s like anybody else that leaves a community you’re in, a job that you’re in that has become a great friend and a great ear and a great voice that I trust. But, if I’m about him, you gotta wish him (well). And as he was going through this process and I was talking to some people, Ellen looked at me and she’s like, ‘You understand that he could leave. You’re helping (him leave.)’ I have to. That’s my job. That’s what I’ve been about. So, I’m happy for him. I think he’s going to do a great job. You know, when you heard the press conference, I think people said, ‘Why didn’t he get a job a few years ago?’ Again, hats off to Mitch. He’s done a great job of preparing people for their next step. In DeWayne’s life, for he Allison and the kids, this is that next step. And he’ll always be a phone call away . If I’m having an issue here I’ll call DeWayne. ‘DeWayne, tell me what you think. He’ll be doing two jobs: at DePaul and what I need him to do here.”

On if this change will re-energize him and what he can reveal about a new position he’s creating … 

“Well, the first one is, if you look at things—like, change is good. I mean, I’ve always been that way. It’s not like you want to lose friends. Forget about Kenny (Payne) working with us; he was my friend. But if it’s a two-way friendship, you’ve gotta cheer for them and their success, and if that means they have to leave to do that, well then you have to be about it. Look, you guys are getting to know me. I’m pretty much, I try to do the same thing every year and play the same way. What? I mean, what gets me going is trying to figure out a team every year. That’s what wakes me up in the morning. Creates some fear in my heart and some anxiety. Maybe I’m getting up because I can’t sleep, but it’s what moves me. I’m trying to come up with new ways like reworking the staff. We bring in another person that again, is he going to have great relationships with the players? Is he that kind of person? Is he a gatherer? Is he somebody that everybody will like, that will bring people together? Those kind of people, the reason they’re thought of that way is because they’re into the job they have, not the next one. They’re into that one. So you try to find those kinds of people and as you help them reach their dreams. We’re doing it together. So, reworking, possibly a recruiting coordinator, trying to get things more organized on that front. You know, figuring out on-court stuff. I’ve got some decisions to make on what I want to do. But I’ll tell you, here’s the one thing that hasn’t changed: I’m at Kentucky! I’m the head coach of Kentucky! Oh, yeah! And let me say this: Whoever the next coach here is will say the same thing. Stuff is going to change. This is going to happen. How about all those kids leave? How about you’re watching these playoffs and you’re like, ‘That kid wasn’t the best kid in the class and he was already a pro before he got there. I watched him at the beginning of the year.’ But then you watch them in that league, in that bubble. I don’t know if they have bubble trouble. I don’t know what they got, but they’re playing really well. And those are our guys. And that’s not going to change. So, you know, I’ve got some things I got to do. But here’s what I do know: I’m the head coach at Kentucky. What we do for kids and the opportunities, not everybody wants it, not everybody wants to go through this. And what I’m saying is the glare is on you. There’s no place to hide. You’re going to have other great teammates. You’re going to be coached and loved by me and have a relationship the rest of your life with me. But it’s hard here. It’s Kentucky. You can’t hide. Things that you could do at other schools, can’t do. You’re not going to be told you’re the only guy and I’m going to do everything through you. You’re not going to be told that here because there’s seven, eight other guys. But here’s what I do know: Change happens and the Kentucky program has kind of stayed where it is.”

On Peevy saying he wants to schedule a series with Kentucky …

“You know I’m going to help DeWayne in any way I can, and he may call me for scheduling, but I got some issues I’m dealing with that I’m going to be calling him about. We have him until Sept. 1 so I probably don’t want to hear anything about DePaul until Sept. 1, and if he talks about it–I said, ‘Enough DePaul stuff. We still got stuff we gotta do here.’ But, we’ve played in Chicago. I’ve been up in Chicago. I think DePaul’s a terrific program. The biggest thing, when I was in the Atlantic 10 and I took over a program that was in a similar position as DePaul, my question is, has anybody in the Big East been in the Final Four or the Atlantic 10? And at that time, Temple had been No. 1 in the country. So my question is, we’re in the same league, why can’t we be No. 1? Then again, I was young, I was stupid, I was dumb. I didn’t know what I was talking about. But that was my vision. And in the Big East, it’s the Big East. It still has the aura of the Big East. I grew up in the Big East. I had to fight the Big East. I was at UMass and we were like surrounded by Big East. I know it is a big beast. And so what I’m saying is, he’s looking at this, like, why not? And then everybody’s got to jump on board with that. Why not? You know, the statement he made about, ‘We want to win a championship.’ When I was at UMass, Michael Hooker, rest his soul, who was our president at the time, later became the chancellor of North Carolina, we’re at a meeting in front of media, he said, within the decade – this was the president of the university – ‘Within a decade we’re going to have a team in the Final Four.’ At that time we were top 20, top, 25 and I was sitting there like, ‘What?!’ And so my comment was–I was there with Joanie O’Brien, our women’s coach, and I said, ‘I think Joanie can do it and I wish her well.’ But through his eyes, it got us all to think different. Like, Final Four? No one in the Atlantic 10 has ever been in the Final Four. Why would we think we could do? Because he said we could. And I think that’s kind of what DeWayne did. But you’re going to see DeWayne’s a gatherer, he’s a listener, he’s a problem solver. He is a person who will negotiate. Like there are things like, ‘Cal, you can’t. No, we’re not doing that. We can’ afford. No, but how about we do this? It would this solve that issue.’ You just don’t want to hear when you’re trying to build, you can’t because we’ve never done it that way. Yeah, but that’s why we’re where we are so we got to try some different things! And that’s the kind of guy you’re going to have. A problem solver, a smile on his face, yet – and Eric (Lindsey) knows this – dude’s a tough dude now. Ooooh. Oh yeah, it’s in there. It’s just, you know. Like, we’re all rolling. I think, again, you all in Chicago are going to say, ‘Wow, this is something interesting going on here. Let’s jump on board.’ ”

On how Peevy said Cal helped him become an idea person and what types of things that led to success in Lexington with Peevy will translate to DePaul …

“Well, there was trust. I had to trust when he told me about Twitter because I didn’t know what it was. I mean, Eric can tell you, I can get on Zoom now because this computer stays on all the time because I don’t know how to turn it on and off. And the second thing, I know what three buttons to push. Like, move the little thing, whatever that arrow is. And so when he talked to me about that and Facebook and this and how we’re going to do this, I said, ‘You gotta talk to me now.’ And he knew I’m never gonna do anything to embarrass you, but this is a way, and we went with it. And all of a sudden I’m like, ‘You know what, this guy’s pretty sharp.’ And the other stuff that we went back and forth with, I can’t–maybe sometime he and I should put in a book how many stupid things that we came up with that we never ran with that are so stupid that you on this call would say, ‘You didn’t talk about trying to—what! That’s so stupid, who would even say that?’ So, there are things, and there are other things that we tried that we kind of buried because they didn’t work. But that’s all part of having ideas and trusting each other. I knew I could trust him and he knew he could trust me. I tell them all the time, you know, I would trust him with my kids. And so, he is an idea guy. Not all of them are good, but so what, you only need two of them. The other 30 throw away. Here are the two that are going to work that are moving us in the right direction.”

On who takes over the role of teaching Kentucky big men now that Kenny Payne is gone …

“Well, Tony (Barbee) would and Tony’s always been that guy too. Again, I don’t want you to pigeonhole Kenny as a big-man coach. Kenny is a coach. You know, when I talk to the Knicks, you can’t–he’s not a workout guy. Yeah he can work out players but we all can do that; that’s why we coach. He is a basketball coach who creates great relationships and gets kids to do things or thought they couldn’t do it or literally didn’t want to do. Now some ran from it. They would walk in to see if he was in the gym and they put their head back and wait for practice to start. Those kids never broke through. Now they may break through after because they realized, ‘I gotta work. There’s no given to this.’ That’s who he was. But Tony will take on some of it. You know, we’ve done some things and last year that I had Tony really put defensive schemes together and then come to me and then I if I liked it, if there were things I wanted to change, if there were different ways that wanted to play something that would be fine. And then Kenny really zeroed in on the offense, getting us to make extra passes, getting our spacing right, getting guys to cut hard. And then I had each guy doing that. Wow what I’ll do with the offense this year, right now, we had Joel (Justus) and I were the only two on the floor for the last month and a half. Just he and I together. And I’m just telling you, I love it. It’s back to my UMass days where I got one assistant and I’m on the court coaching. So, all that I’m doing right now is putting in the dribble-drive slowly because I have time, and I’m really getting them to understand spacing. And then I’m getting them to watch an NBA game who are running dribble-drive, who are running it from middle pick-and-rolls to where it’s called a short roll where the big guy doesn’t roll all the way to the rim; he just short rolls and they throw that little pocket pass and the starting playmaker now becomes that big man. You’re seeing Bam (Adebayo) do it. And again, the spacing is what I’m teaching right now. So, how I’ll do the offense and will it be Bruiser? You know, he and I’ll sit down and, you know, to catch up on all this. We didn’t run dribble-drive when I was at UMass so, you know, he hasn’t gone through all the teaching of how we do this.”

On the progress of the team over the last month …

“Yesterday’s practice reminded me of a practice about four or five years ago where you would drive and two players would block your shot. Like, bam, bam. I laughed and we were out there and I just said ‘That’s what I’m talking about.’ That kind of team makes somebody shoot jump shots. That kind of team has your shooting percentage defensively so low that most of the game you’re out running and then you’re flowing into dribble-drive. We’ve got a long way to go. Again, it’s August. But it was funny yesterday. It was the first day we’ve done anything against each other. Everything has been separated in groups. I want to keep going through the testing. I want to make sure if we have any issues–I’m challenging the players. If they can’t live like this, they can’t be here. You gotta–we’re in the lodge, in the practice facility, cooks in the building, the weight room. Look, if you go out and do something outside, you don’t need to be here because you’re going to infect everybody, and we got this pretty well in order So, you know the guys have been great. Hard. This thing is hard. I’m more concerned with mental health than anything else because they know to wear the mask and gloves and stay away and social distance and they know they hear what parties are doing and all this. But when you’re locked in a room for 18 hours a day, my concern is, all right what do we do with these guys every other day? Something to get them off, out away to get them (out). I’ve taken them to some meals where it’s been great separation in a private room just to get them off the campus and out of their room. How do we do that? I’m dealing with that. You know, we talked about opening up our locker room. Not sure I’m ready to do that yet to where they can all congregate together because, again, you know, one guy doing something dumb can lock you down. Even if we’re going live, I’ll go five, seven minutes and then we’ll do something scripted. In other words, five on oh, three on oh where they’re spaced, and then we’ll come together again for five to seven minutes and then we’ll separate. I’m trying to be respectful because we’re learning new every day, and I just want to make sure with my guys I’m doing this in a safe way.”

On how he would respond to players wanting to protest or demonstrate on the court next season …

“Well, you know, Myron (Medcalf), you know me well enough, you know, first of all I had to sit back and listen. I’m white privileged. Even though I grew up the way I grew up, I was still white, which meant I had an advantage. Even though we didn’t—it was Friday to Friday (for paychecks) and I had one pair of tennis shoes, it didn’t matter. So, when this all happened, that’s why I shut down the Coffee with Cal (show). I gotta listen and really–am I missing? What else am I missing? And so we came up with the thing we were going to do on our campus only, (the) Minority Leadership Initiative, and then I had friends come and say, ‘Why don’t you do this to scale and get other coaches to do what you’re doing?’ We’ve got 75 coaches committed. We already have, I don’t know, 18 jobs posted. I’m hoping this year, we end up with double that, like 36 to 50 jobs posted, And it’s for young minorities to get involved in college administration, which may lead to whatever. Jobs in business, whatever. That being said, I sat down with my team and I said, ‘I know your opinion. You can speak. You can show how you feel, But to me, it’s always about action. What do you want to do?’ So, the first thing was, the way you move your feet, the first way is you vote. I’m not telling you how to vote. Vote for who you want. But that’s an action. Vote. We sign them all up. They’ve all registered. And now the last piece of that will be getting some mail-in ballots. But they’re all excited about. But I ended the meeting with, I want to know,

opinions, talk, speaking, showing, what action can you take as a group to make a difference and maybe one person’s life? What can we do that you can do together or individually that we can make a difference with people? I told them, I’m going to want them to be involved with the six minority leaders that are going to be on our campus, that are going to be learning and growing. I want them to be involved. I don’t know how yet, but we’ve talked about that action. Move your feet. Voting. And now, we haven’t gotten to the point. Maybe they mentor at the Boys and Girls Club, they become mentors and once a week, I create a time where they can be where they’re changing one life. And so all the other stuff out there, I think again, I will listen. It’s what I do, you know. Talk to me. Tell me why. Tell me what, what can we do.”

On new assistant coach Bruiser Flint’s role with the program …

“We got to get together and figure out, you know, what’s the best thing for these kids with this staff that we’re piecing together. Let me say this: You’re right, he would work with big guys. Well, he’s not a big guy. Doesn’t you can’t show them and teach them. There were times Kenny was with Tyler Herro or Devin (Booker). He was in it with Devin Booker in the gym at 11 o’clock at night. I mean, it didn’t matter. We’re coaches here. We’ll get pigeonholed at times, but I want my guys to coach basketball. Let me say this: We all recruit together. We’re not having you’re going to recruit this guy, you’re going to recruit this guy. And here’s what I come back to: You have Kentucky to sell, the results of what this is, and me and the results. I mean, that’s you. You go in and that’s where it is and it’s bang, let’s go. And now, if someone else has to jump in on the recruiting, they do.”

On his social media post about getting his players registered to vote and the controversy surrounding it …

“Well, I didn’t (see it). I knew it would bring both, but I’m not–first of all, I don’t see it. I may ask Eric and Eric would protect me if I’m really getting bashed, but the whole point of it is to teach someone to vote. And you’re talking now 12 votes. It’s more of their action than they’re going to make some sort of big difference. We said, ‘You vote with someone who believes in what you believe. That’s how you vote. You listen to the facts and listen to what they’re saying and you vote for them.’ So, if someone was disappointed or someone thinks I’m the worst human being, if they asked me that I would say, ‘I agree, can we move on?’ And if someone came back and said, ‘Aw man, Cal, that’s the greatest thing,’ I’d say, ‘Great, let’s move on.’ But it’s me teaching my team and, you know, there are times I’ll do things that I know aren’t the most popular, but what’s right isn’t always popular and what’s popular isn’t always right. I’m just trying to do what I think is right.”

On his opinion of the request for the Rupp Arena name to be changed and if any of his players or recruits have mentioned to him as a concern …

“No, I haven’t heard anything on that side. But again, this for all of us is, that was a from what I understand, they were talking about a lot of different things. This is another chance for us to listen and learn. Some people agree and some people are not going to agree. I would tell you, again, for me personally knowing the family, knowing Herky (Rupp) like I did, all right, what’s out there that tells me it’s something different? And I’m all ears. I’m going to listen. But here’s what I do know: The university is doing stuff going forward. Diversity issues on our campus, they’re dealing with. Very important for us. What we’re doing in the Minority Leadership Initiative, we are taking the front position in this, the lead position. As this thing goes and grows, it’s going to be Kentucky is going to be the lead in what we’re doing and be the that the program that’s going to say, here are the best-case scenarios in this and how we do it. But again, you know, I’m all ears to all this stuff because again, you know, you have a thing in Wisconsin. What in the world? How can this again after this, all that we’ve been through again? So, am I missing something? Is everybody missing something? We just gotta keep talking about it and then you got to look at this in a bigger picture of what we’re doing. And I’m telling you what we’re trying to do here on this campus and what I’m trying to do within my basketball program, the influence that I would have within athletics — that isn’t all encompassing but I do have an influence – we’re trying to take advantage.”

On if he ever believed that Peevy, originally his sports information director, would ever take control of an athletics department …

“Yeah, because when you’re around him, you looked at a person that was Steady Eddy as far as the highs, the lows. You’re talking about a servant leader who was trying to help everyone around him. You know, I never looked at it white or black. It’s just how good is this guy. And Eric will tell you, you know, I’ve been here and I’ve done this a long time, and as deserving as anybody that I’ve been around whether it was UMass or Memphis or here. DeWayne Peevy deserved to be at the head of a program and athletic director. He deserved it. The more you’re around him. Listen, for any coach to give an assistant AD their scheduling, the No. 1 thing, because some of you complain, ‘Ugh, the scheduling, they play nobody.’ Normally that’s the head coach scheduling and he ain’t playing anybody. Well, we’re at Kentucky and it kind of got to where I felt more comfortable with him and I working together than anybody else. Like DeWayne, you take this on. Everything goes through you and then you come to me and let’s talk about. We’ll see what’s the best for these kids. We can’t overdo it. We can’t underdo it because everybody would kill us. But we can’t overdo it because we always have young teams. How do we challenge them but not bury them? And then having to deal with the RPI and all the other stuff, he was tremendous. But it showed me, you know, at the time and the trust I had and the trust he had in what I was doing that we could work together and build something, and that tells me – and Eric will laugh – if you can work with me, you can work with anybody. I’m kidding, folks, and you better laugh at that. But he’s going to do a great job.”

On if he’s getting concerned about the eligibility of Olivier Sarr and if he’s doing anything outside the box to ensure there’s a college basketball season …

“I feel good about Olivier’s (Sarr) situation. It’s just going through channels. So, you know, we should hear. Let me put it (this way): We’ll here when we hear. But I feel comfortable with it. The other one is, yes I’m on all kinds of things. I’m on an ad hoc. I’m on the NABC board. When we start, how we start, how do we do this safely. You know, if you want my opinion on league only, if you ask my players they’d say, ‘Coach, we don’t want to just play in the league. We want to play some other people.’ How do you do that safely? I have a big concern. My big concern because I’ve coached there is that schools that need the guarantee money. So now all of a sudden, you know, there are teams that–my son goes to the University of Detroit. They play seven or eight buy games, which means those games they’re paid to play those games that help their program. If you take a half a million dollars or more away from Detroit, I can tell you, 80-90 schools, you take that money away from those programs, they’re gonna be on their back. So how do we include them in this and not forget? Like, OK, ‘We’re only worried about the power five.’ I coached at these other places. I know what they’re doing. And we’ve talked about it. Do we guarantee contracts going forward? Do we do something in a bubble and try to give them a percent? We don’t have those solutions yet. But again, the league, our league, you know, I trust our league that they’ll come up with stuff. How many games we’re going to play, don’t know yet. Do we play on long weekends coming together someplace? Do we, you know, do you play on different on-campus sites where if there are two on-campus sites, one’s at Kentucky, one’s at let’s say Tennessee, we go to Tennessee, Tennessee comes to our court so there’s no home-court advantage. There’s not any way. You’re seeing it in the NBA right now. You understand there’s no home-court advantage there. They’re all in this bubble. There’s no fans. There was somebody that was up 20, Houston or somebody or the Clips. They were up 23. If that was in a home, they were not going to lose that game. That game can be lost now. Well, that’s going to be the case with playing multiple teams together, which the NBA and the WNBA have given us a path that we can do it safely. Not going to be exactly the same. It’s not going to be for two or three months. But how do we do this and make sure everybody’s safe and include all the programs? Like, if 70 programs say we’re out of business, no more basketball, do you know how many scholarships that is for young people in our country like my son to be able to go to a lower school? What does it do to some of the leagues? What does it do to HBCUs? Tell me how this is going to play and how we’re trying to do it. That’s why I said there’s a lot of people involved trying to do right, keep people safe, yet all of us–but I just saw school today cut five sports. I want you all to hear this: We have to have this tournament if we can do it safely because none of us want any cuts on our campus for sports. We don’t want to see any sport at the University of Kentucky, ‘We’re not having the sport anymore because we can’t do this and we can’t do that.’ So, playing that tournament, doing anything we can to save all the programs. It isn’t about Kentucky basketball. Listen to me, after this year is over, there’s going to be Kentucky basketball. Just is. But if we don’t do this right, there may not be this sport, that sport, this sport. Not fair to those students. If you want to read a sad story, read the one of the, I think it was Iowa, that had to cut programs today. It’s the last (thing we want to do). No one wants to do it, so we gotta try to figure out a way and do it safely even if it’s a smaller or however we decide.”

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.