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TRANSCRIPT: John Calipari on Sestina, UAB matchup

On Nate Sestina’s injury …

“It’s unfortunate but it’s part of what we do. I mean, he just fell, and you know, it’s his left wrist; it’s not his right. He may be out three weeks, maybe out four. Hoping the shorter, but I’m not going to rush him. They even said, ‘Maybe two,’ and I’m like, ‘Stop.’ It was just he fell like that [shows how he fell.] Not that one [holds out his right hand], the other one [his left hand.] Not his shooting (hand), so.”

On it being a key time for practice …

“Today was better. I tried to think back when I was at UMass. Like, you can draw on other experiences. So when we had Edgar (Padilla) and Carmelo (Travieso) and Danta (Bright) and Dana (Dingle) and Marcus Camby and Tyrone Weeks, I played six guys. Tyrone Weeks probably played 15 minutes a game. The other guys were walk-ons and a couple of scholarship players that were not. And I had one guy coach that team against the team that I coached, and that’s who we scrimmaged every day. And we scrimmaged. and we played. So that’s what I did today. The only problem is that grey unit beat the blue unit some, but let’s get to where, this is who we are, and let’s scrimmage with who we have. Ben (Jordan) and Brennan (Canada), and you know, Dontaie (Allen) played a little bit of half court today. He didn’t move great, but he played some half court. I’m not going to fret. It is what it is. I’ve done it before. It’s not like I haven’t, and it kind of got me going.

Like even that last night, I played a small lineup today. The small lineup being guards and Kahlil (Whitney) and one big. It didn’t look bad. I’m trying different stuff. How would we play with this unit? I’m trying to hold guys accountable. I’ve been a little bit tougher on the guys, which is what I do during this time of the year. It’s not acceptable. Some of the stuff is not their fault. I did stuff today that I hadn’t done that they needed, some fundamental stuff. Every team has issues. I just hope everybody else’s issues are worse than ours, but every team has issues. It’s what it is. As a coach, how do you make this end up being a positive, so when he comes back in three, four weeks that we have a team that can play different ways and we’re adding a veteran that’s been out.”

On playing the wings at the four and if he’s leaning towards Kahlil Whitney there now instead of Keion Brooks Jr. …

“I want to try him (Whitney) and I’ll tell you why: He’s more physical, and if we’re playing another team that has a 6-6 physical guy, I think Kahlil can play him better. And I’m not sure if there’s any fours that can guard him. Here’s what I say: Kahlil last game, he was 1 for 7. OK. But, five of those shots that he took were absolutely straight. The other two were near the basket. The other five he missed, but they were straight. You guys know how I am about that stuff.

My prediction will be, if not this game, the next game he’s going to go like an 8-for-8 because he’ll make the first and he shoots them straight all of the time. There’s no variation. He’s just not making them right now, but like I said to him, this kid wants to be here, wants to be coached by me. Now, when it’s not going perfect whether it be for Tyrese (Maxey) or him or Johnny (Juzang) or Keion – we’re six games in. We had a bunch of guys last year and the year before and the year before early in the year not playing well, and people looking at him like, ‘I don’t think he’s that good.’ And by the end of the year, he’s with the Miami Heat or he’s with the Charlotte Hornets or he’s with the Sacramento Kings or he’s with the, you know. It just takes time for these kids, and they have to be patient. I have to be impatient being patient. I’ve got to push this along a little faster than they’re used to.”

On this time being a good opportunity for a guy like EJ Montgomery …

“Yes. We did stuff today. I’m saying, there was stuff today to go at different guys. Here we go. Then you’ve got to own your performance. The old thing of, ‘If you just played me more or had me shooting.’ ‘OK, you’re playing more and shooting more. What? What is it now? Is it the moon? The sun? The stars? What is it? The barber? The butcher? Who is it? Coach? Who is it?’ It is, you know, own your performance. We’ve got great kids. I’m just telling you. I walk in every day—like, I was excited about being here. We’re practicing again after. They’re going to go to my house and eat and sleep. They all sleep at my house now. Then after we’re coming back and we’re going again. Tonight we’re going to have a nice meal. Tomorrow we’ll be at the Salvation Army serving meals with the Lundergan family again. Does unbelievable (job). (They have) been doing this for 20-something years. I want them (the players) to feel that they’re blessed. That people are struggling. That you have an impact on people. That if you make this about other people life becomes more joyful. If you’re so focused on you and your own, it’s a small world. I reminded them today that I’m like their people. I watch Brad (Calipari), and if they don’t pass Brad the ball I’m mad. There may be three guys on the team that I don’t even know their names. And how about this: When Brad subs out, what do you think I do? I go in the other room and watch TV until my wife says he’s back in. I mean, I’m like everybody else’s father, and you’ve gotta accept that kind of stuff. And the mothers. Ellen’s like—I’m having to tell her, ‘Stop it. He’s not going to take 25 shots. He’s doing fine.’ So, they’ve gotta deal with that as an 18-year old too, and it’s not just mom and dad. It’s their sister, brother, their coaches, AAU coach, anyone who’s trying to ingratiate themselves. This is what we do here is get them to grow up fast and get them to own their performance. But, you’ve gotta have great kids, and we do. If you don’t have great kids that come from good homes, you can’t do this, especially when you get down in numbers. Then it’s even harder.”

On Nate Sestina thinking he needs to try to live up to expectations …

“Well, it doesn’t matter now. He’s got some time to think about it. I think the way that he was trying to prove himself that I belong here vs., alright, now they’re expecting me to do X, Y, Z, and it’s a different mindset. You’re hungry and humble the whole time. Hungry to get better; hungry to show that you belong. But I’m humble when things go well because we know that this thing can flip on you real fast. This team, we just need time. We need time and practice. Like next week – I cannot wait until next week. I’m trying to get the president to shut down the university for a week so I can do some two-a-days. They’ve got class. Those classes get in the way of things [media laughs].”

On enduring a rash of injuries the last two years and whether that changes his thinking on filling out the roster more …

“It does. I just, when I had 11 and 12, Derek (Willis) and Dom (Hawkins) understood. Now they’re both playing professionally. Both of them are playing professionally. But they understood they were 11 and 12. It doesn’t mean they weren’t coached. It means the opportunity to get into the game, they weren’t getting in until 10 other guys got in, and they knew that. It’s hard. Who’s that guy? When you come to Kentucky, one of the things that is a positive is that kids learn, hey take on this culture, they get there faster, they move faster and they perform at a higher level. The other part of this is, everybody expects it to be on the same pace as every kid and it’s just not. PJ’s (Washington) path was two years. Willie’s (Cauley-Stein) path was three years. Darius’ (Miller) path was four years. I mean, they’re different. The curse is, if you go to Kentucky, leave after a year. That’s just not how it is. You might. You may play yourself into it. You may be working so hard in that gym – Tyler Herro, Shai (Gilgeous-)Alexander at 7 o’clock in the morning – that you will yourself to this stuff. Brandon Knight. You may be that guy. But if you think it’s just, if I just play games and it’s going to happen, it won’t. It takes you more time then. If you’re not going to get into the best shape of your life, it’s going to take you more time. So you get to be around me for two years. What’s the problem?”

On how much was he “holding Brad (Calipari) back [asked tongue-in-check] …

“[Media laughs.] You know what was amazing? I’m watching the game and the team basically played him no catch. So wherever he was, it was like it was a box-and-one. And here I am watching him, my wife’s mad. I said, ‘You don’t understand what they’re doing (to him).’ So he has two shots. He makes one. One he missed. They almost blocked it. And the TV crew’s saying, ‘Why is Calipari not shooting?’ They’re saying ‘Cal-uh-PAR-ee.’ They don’t know the name (cal-uh-PEAR-ee). ‘Why is Calipari not shooting? Like, he only has two shots. He’s been on fire. Get him shots.’ Well, guess what? The other team knew and took him away, which, what a compliment it is. And I’ll say this: He had his plan. ‘I’m going to redshirt so I have two years to play.’ Really? Tell me why.’ ‘Because, dad, I may want to go somewhere else just depending on—I want to play.’ ‘OK.’ So now it comes time to choose schools. He doesn’t want to look at any DIIs. And I’m like, ‘Why don’t you throw a Division II in there?’ ‘No. I’m either going to this school, this school or that school.’ ‘Alright.’ So basically – and I told him this – (he) has more courage than I had at his age. I wasn’t close to him. He had more faith and worked so hard and was so diligent in his work and getting his body right, which is as (important) as his shooting, getting his body (right). He’s on a vegan diet. I could do vegan [pause] for a morning. I probably couldn’t do it in the morning; I would do it in the afternoon. But he had more courage, more faith in himself, more belief in himself. And I told him that. We’re proud parents. But I told him, ‘Hungry and humble. Last game—now they’re going to take you away, so what are you going to do. You have to move to areas to where they have to see you. You can’t stand there. How about this one: You’ve probably gotta add a little ball fake and a two-dribble to see what’s there because they’re not giving you that 3.’ I said, ‘But don’t do the ball fake when you have a 3. You’ve gotta take the 3s you have.’ So I’m coaching both teams. I’m coaching them and I’m coaching my team [media laughs].”

On two No. 1 teams losing to mid-majors in one season when it hadn’t happened since 1993

“What happened last night?

[Sports information director Eric Lindsey: Duke lost.]

Who’d they lose to?

[Lindsey: Stephen F. Austin.] Oh, Stephen F.

Didn’t we play them one year? [Lindsey: A couple years ago (2016-17 season)]. They probably almost beat us. (Stephen F. Austin head coach) Kyle Keller is a good friend. They beat them down there, huh? [Lindsey: Yeah.] Oh wow. I imagine it was close. I imagine it was a buzzer game. When you have young kids, a veteran team can do that to you. And especially if it’s not going right, then those young kids have never been in that situation, especially early. So I would imagine the veteran teams have a big advantage on all that stuff. But at the end of the day, I like my team. Get this team right and let’s see where we are. We’re 7-foot, we’re 6-11, we’re 6-9. We’ve got this. We’ve got good guards. We shoot it. We should be an unbelievable defensive team. Toughness and offensive rebounding. I’m getting them to pass the ball to each other. I’m demanding it. You’re seeing it. Twenty assists, 19. That’s stuff I can take care of. The toughness you have to play with, the offensive rebounding you must get, that separates your team. If another team is getting 17, 15 offensive rebounds, you better do the same. You don’t have to make 10 3s. You just can’t make one. Make six. Make five. Make nine. Make seven. You just can’t make one. And this team is a good enough team that we should. So, like I said, I’m thankful for what goes on, and this is all—him (Sestina) being injured, how do we make this work for everybody? How do we take advantage of him being out? How do we make sure that we’re looking at this to get better? They looked at me this morning and I’m like, ‘Look, I’m jacked up now.’ There’s no one feeling sorry for us. No one. A lot of happy people. And I’m looking at it like, alright, let’s go. Let’s do this. Thanks.

Happy Thanksgiving to everybody. Let me say one thing I said on the radio show (Monday night): We’re doing the Salvation Army (tomorrow). I would just—all of the fans out there, all of the people that are involved in this—we have the greatest fans. I would tell you, Thanksgiving, if there is anyone in your neighborhood that you know is going to be alone, have them come to your house. Whether they’re older, whether they’re single, whether they just moved in, have them come to your place. Or, maybe go somewhere where you can help others have a great Thanksgiving. This is a day for all of us tomorrow that we should be giving thanks for the blessings that we’ve all been given and pay it forward.”

Article written by Maggie Davis

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

2 Comments for TRANSCRIPT: John Calipari on Sestina, UAB matchup



  1. Bluebloodtoo
    8:53 am November 28, 2019 Permalink

    I think it would be hilarious if Cal did that “what happened last night?” Schtick about a game he coached. Everyone has to know he’s full of it.



  2. Bluehender
    8:53 am November 28, 2019 Permalink

    Happy Thanksgiving to Coach Cal and the players, and Coach Stoops and the football team, KSR and BBN. Nate, I hope you heal quickly, we love you and are glad you came to UK. Happy Thanksgiving to all of my fellow commenters on KSR. Looking forward to the game tomorrow night and especially Saturday. Beat those dirty birds!!Go Cats!!!