For the ninth time this season, John Calipari sat down for his weekly call-in radio show with Tom Leach on Monday evening.
Like Mark Stoops does during football season, Calipari uses this time to break down his team’s recent performances, what to expect against future opponents, and update the fans on potential injuries.
Last night, Calipari joined the show to break down Kentucky’s victory over Arkansas, his ejection, being a “player-driven team,” and the growth of Immanuel Quickley , the team’s upcoming matchup against South Carolina, key growth from Immanuel Quickley, and what’s going on with Johnny Juzang, among other topics.
Here are the ten things we learned during the John Calipari Show on Monday evening:
Something needed to be said against Arkansas
After Kentucky’s win down in Fayetteville, Calipari acknowledged that he drew his first technical foul on purpose.
Why? Some of the things he saw on the floor were “unacceptable.”
“Everybody tries to give me way more credit than I deserve, they always do,” he said. “But I did [get ejected] on purpose! No I didn’t. I have to explain it, and I did a couple different times. Did it to the team after. I wanted the technical. There were three or four or five things that happened in a row that there comes a point where you say “unacceptable.” I didn’t like the way the game was going, I had to put Ashton back in with four fouls with 11 minutes to go.”
He thought he was already ejected when he got the second technical
While some people claimed Calipari got ejected on purpose, the Kentucky head coach wanted to clear the air about how it all unfolded.
While he did try to get the first technical, he didn’t mean to get thrown out of the game.
“When I got the technical, both officials must have been looking at me for some reason,” he said. “But they both called a technical. Their coach thought I was gone. I thought I was gone. So if I’m gone, I’m not going to just walk off the court. You’re going to get a little extra in before you walk off the court. And that’s what I did. When he said “You’re out of here,” I said, “What, are you going to throw me out twice?” And then they come back and say “if they both call if for the same reasons, it’s only one technical.” I’ve never heard of that, to be honest. I’ve been doing this, what, 38 years? I’ve never heard of that. They call a technical, he called a technical, that’s two, I thought I was gone.”
“The crew did us a favor.”
With momentum shifting the opposite direction, Calipari was happy with how the game unfolded, including his set of technicals and ejection.
At the end of the day, he thanks the officiating crew for it.
“Aside from me being ecstatic we won – believe me, I was going nuts – I saw that side of it,” he said. “The crew did us a favor. They did me a favor. Thank God they both called technicals, because I thought I was already thrown out. If I [knew] had just gotten one, I wouldn’t have gotten myself thrown out because the game was too close. I was just trying to get things in line here.”
Ellen Calipari was not happy about the ejection
Once Coach Cal returned home from Fayetteville, he apparently got an earful from his wife about getting thrown out of the game.
“Here’s the other thing I didn’t know,” he said. “I’ve been married 33 years and my wife, I come home and she said, “Ugh, you get thrown out and it’s the worst thing for me.” I said, “What? You never told me that? I’ll get thrown out more!”
One thing she did like, though, was Ashton Hagans’ response to the situation.
“She says, “It’s the absolute worst, but what made me feel good was when Ashton put his arm around you.” And what he did was, he said, “Coach, we got this.” And what I want to tell you, it played out good.”
He was proud of his coaching staff for finishing the game with a win
After getting ejected, Calipari’s coaching staff was tasked with taking over and leading the team to victory.
And despite the pressure, they handled it with ease, pulling off the hard-fought win in a hostile road environment.
“We had talked about zone and different things we were going to use, probably should have gone there earlier,” he said. “The staff did a great job.”
“The staff, unbelievable,” Calipari continued. “Kenny [Payne], Tony [Barbee], Joel [Justus], John [Robic], they kept everybody poised.”
This can now be a “player-driven team”
While the coaching staff impressed him, he also loved how the players themselves responded.
“But the biggest thing is, this team needs to be a player-driven team, not a coach-driven team,” Calipari said. “We became a player-driven team at that point. During timeouts, the players were coaching each other, calming each other down. They talked. This is now a player-driven team. I talked to Ashton and Immanuel, now when we have issues [moving forward], you’re dealing with them. It’s a big sign for us. I don’t know if, moving forward, we’re exactly ready, but it impressed me that they were thrusted into that situation and they stepped up together.”
Johnny Juzang made him proud
After struggling to start the season, freshman wing Johnny Juzang has slowly, but surely, been taking steps forward on the floor.
The opportunities have been limited, but he has made the most of it.
“At the end of that game, in those eight minutes, we played five guys. Five guys played,” he said. “I said Johnny, why did I put you in during the first half? We had foul trouble. That’s why you played. But you know what happened? He took advantage. He made his first jump shot since November 28. Really. He was ready for his moment.”
And so did Keion Brooks Jr.
While Juzang impressed in the first half, Calipari felt Keion Brooks Jr. thrived under pressure to close out the final eight minutes.
“Keion, you played the last eight minutes, and you played well,” he said. “But why did you play? Because EJ fouled out. The choice for the staff was between Nate or Keion. When they went with Keion and we started winning, Nate accepted it and didn’t play much. But he was so happy we won. That means we’re player-driven. They get it.”
The road environment was extremely difficult
Calipari could not stop raving about the team and their ability to overcome adversity in a hostile road environment like the one they saw at Bud Walton Arena.
“It was a good win. A great win,” he said. “They had thousands of students lined up outside when we pulled the bus in. They had over a thousand in the morning when we came in to do a shootaround. This was their moment. And my team comes together and they win that game. Incredible. I had one person tell me it was one of the top-ten games for them personally because of how it unfolded. I thanked Ashton and Immanuel, because they led the charges. What you did for Kenny Payne and Tony Barbee and those guys, you helped them by doing what you did. And that’s how you helped us.”
Nick Richards continues to impress him
Playing the best basketball of his entire career, Calipari couldn’t be happier for Nick Richards and his growth both on and off the floor this season.
“You know, you try to tell all these kids,” he said. “They’re all on different paths. Nick started playing when he was 14 years old. I told Ashton and Immanuel when I talked to them that we could have Nick in there too. This is all new to Nick, he’s never been this good, he’s never been this kind of player. And I want him to keep focusing on his team and his progression.”