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Cal's offseason plans: 'Getting away'

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MBSK 09_10 Uk_Morehead Web 81.jpgThink back 13 months ago to where the state of the Kentucky basketball program was and who the coach was. A lot has changed since then.

Now, after a whirlwind of a season, head coach John Calipari is inching closer and closer to his real first offseason, as last year he was immersed throughout the summer with getting acclimated to the job and the Commonwealth.

"I love coaching here but this is a hard job," Calipari said Monday at a news conference. "I haven't had a day off in a long time."

Sounds like someone needs a vacation.

"I am looking forward at some point, because we still have to finish this recruiting class, to just getting away," Calipari said. "I think that football coaches are the smartest guys because they have a one month period where they just shut the doors and lock down. They have a period of recruiting where the head coach cannot go out; just assistants. These guys are the smart ones; so much smarter than us."

Calipari still has to wrap up another heralded recruiting class by the May 19 signing period deadline, but the first relatively quiet period he has had since arriving at Kentucky 13 months ago looms ahead.

"I can never remember having two weeks off, but we are going to try to take some time," Calipari said. "It is hard. I have a daughter at Wake Forest and another daughter in honors at Massachusetts and my son. You say, 'Let's go tomorrow.' But my son is in school so is it not as easy as it seems. Then I say, 'OK, well I am going to go.' My wife is really happy about that. I am looking forward to getting away but this is one of those jobs that it is on you. It is a coat and it doesn't leave."

Where might someone who took a National Invitation Tournament team in just a short amount of time and transformed it into a 35-3 Elite Eight team go or do?

"Where someone doesn't know who you are and you can just lay on a beach and relax, exercise, eat and hang out with family and friends," Calipari said.

It is hard to imagine it's only been about a year since Calipari took the reins of the program. So much has happened in the past year that one year seems as if it's been a decade.

We've watched as Calipari has embraced the Bluegrass. We've seen him sign the nation's No. 1 recruiting class - quite possibly twice - including the likes of John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins. We've sat by and watched as thousands crammed the lawn for tickets to a Big Blue Madness like any other. We've witnessed 2,000 wins and the John Wall Dance. We've experienced the program's revival and a No. 1 ranking. We've watched as the program garnered a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament and marched to the Elite Eight. And as last year's superstars exit stage right, we're seeing Calipari reload and rebuild what looks to be another star-studded team.

That's quite a bit of accomplishments, especially considering that's just a miniscule snapshot of what this state has experienced in one year's time.

Before he heads to the sandy beaches in the Caribbean or the mountains out West - I know you're just dying to know where he goes - Calipari was asked what he's learned about the expectations of the Kentucky fan base. He offered a recent trip to a coffee store as his answer.

"I'm sitting having a cup of coffee and a guy comes up to me and says, 'Tough year, coach,' Calipari said. "I look up at him and I said, 'You know what makes it tough?' 'What's that?' 'You win 35 games, get to the Elite Eight and a guy comes up to you in a coffee shop and says, 'Tough season, coach.' That's what makes it tough.' "

Even from a guy who said he understood a year ago that this was a fan base unlike any other, it only seems now that he fully understands the uniqueness and passion the UK fan base possesses.

"They want to be relevant," Calipari said. "They want to be relevant in recruiting, they want to be relevant on that court, they want to have a team that people are talking about, that's on national television, that plays a style that they have fun watching. They want us to win as many as we can win - by 20, and then by 30.

Maybe he didn't know what he was getting himself into 13 months ago, but that doesn't mean he regrets it - even for a second.

"There is going to be people that are this, that and the other, but the reality of it is, we have the greatest fans," Calipari said. "They are crazy, they love it, they're passionate. People are still crying about West Virginia. It's nuts. But it's why this is the best college basketball in the country."

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