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Preseason Q&A with Coach Cal (Part 3): Scheduling, scope of the UK job

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Last month, John Calipari spent about an hour with reporters answering questions about Kentucky basketball heading into the 2012-13 season. We will be posting the interview in three parts over the next three days. Here's part three:


Are you happy with the nonconference schedule and how it ended up?

Calipari: Yeah. I wanted to play that Indiana game. I thought those would be great games in Indianapolis, but that's fine, we've got Baylor. North Carolina is being added back and you'll have Louisville and North Carolina, one away and one home every year. You'll have some neutral games every year. We're still in the process of the Duke stuff every year where we're playing at a neutral site. Mike (Krzyzewski) says he wants to do it so now we've just got (get it on paper). You won't believe this but he's been kind of busy and I've been kind of busy so we haven't matched cards yet, but I think that'll be done. And then we'll play two or three other games, maybe another game here or there depending on our team. What if everyone comes back? Yeah, we may add some single-shot games and play more to prepare the team, but I think we're doing what most of the teams are doing now. You're playing a schedule that fits. You would like to play more but that's for fans and me when it's about these kids. When you talk about the SEC adding two more games, you say, "You're not playing as many nonconference." Well yeah, because we're playing two more conference games. We're playing one of those teams twice, Texas A&M.

Question: What do you think those two teams do for the strength of the conference?
Calipari: Missouri is picked above us. A&M, they struggled last year, but I think they're going to be good again. I think they'll be fine. They just slipped a little bit, but I think they're going to be fine.

Question: You win a national championship and you go on the tour around the state and then you coached the Dominican team. Are the batteries recharged enough to be able to do this again? When do you run out of gas?
Calipari: Probably when I'm done. In my last year, I'll run out of gas then. I took some time before the Dominican Republic (job) that I've never taken before. We got back, I took some time. We went to Boston. We went to (see) my daughters and took some time. I took some good time this weekend. I read about 150 pages of a book I started and kind of kicked back. But I kept coming over to the office. My wife is like, "You're out of your mind." We have two workouts that go about 50 minutes, so if I choose to grab a player and work on his shooting, I can do it. So I had Archie over here and did a little shooting and then called Nerlens and I said, "I've been thinking about you, kid. Let's do this and finish this." I'm just enjoying this. Listen, the pace you go here is the pace you go. If you want to coach here you take a lot of crap. If that's what I have to do to be the coach here then I'll take a lot of crap. I'm the coach at Kentucky. It took me 20 years to get this job. I look back and I say this all the time, man, how about if I coach here for 20 years? Daggone.

Question: Could you coach here for 20 years?
Calipari: I would love to do that. If you could last here 20 years, then I'd like saying, "How about some of these other guys coach at some of the places I've been?" The stuff you have to do and the stuff you have to take is just part of this job. But I think I'm ready. I need to lose a little weight. I gained a little weight. I went and saw a friend of mine today to make him feel good and as I'm leaving he says, "Hey, (and points at my stomach)." Oh, that's real nice. I appreciate it. I make you feel good and I walk out and you touch my belly.

Question: You said you take a lot of crap. What's your definition of crap?
Calipari: Everybody knows your job better than you. I don't listen to it and I don't hear it. DeWayne (Peevy) will tell you I can barely turn on a computer. "How do you (know what's going on)?" Because we talk all the time and the guys I talk to. We don't put anything out that I don't first see whether it's Twitter or Facebook or something on the Internet. Being the coach here, a lot of people are not rooting for us and me, would you agree? Would you agree? Am I like being paranoid? It's just what it is. There are people that are not rooting for you. There are people that are not rooting for this school, and you've got to deal with all that. It's OK. Right now we're at that point where it's like, "How do you slow this down?" If you're those people, "How do you slow this down? We can't deal with this. DeWayne may sit me in the upper deck if I want to go. How do I deal with this? What do I do? What do I say? What do I write? I've got to slow this down?" It's just part of what it is. It's not being paranoid. It's what it is. And you know what? To be here you deal with, or go somewhere else and coach.

Question: What did you think of those anonymous polls on CBS by some of your colleagues?
Calipari: I didn't see them all. DeWayne had called me (about them). It's stupid. The thing that you just don't want is for the profession. Let's not hurt the profession. You've got to be smarter than that, please tell me. When you hurt the profession with stuff you do, you almost want to say why are you in this? Why would you hurt the profession? We don't know how the question was asked. Who knows if they even answered. We don't know anything. This guy says this is what they did and this is what they said. Was it said? "Well, out of these six guys, who do you think?" Is that how it was asked? Because I know some names that were not (on there). We don't know anything, but my point was just why hurt the profession? One, we don't talk about the other schools in recruiting. I would damage another coach because it damages our profession. I don't do it. I think there are other coaches like me, but there are others that I guess choose to do it.

Question: Did you ever take a moment to appreciate the title? You said right after the game that it's about these kids and that maybe down the road I'll think about it and enjoy it for myself. Did you ever take that moment?
I'm telling you, you guys think that it meant that much to me. It meant more to my fans and my family and the people that want to say that I'm this or I'm that or that I'm better than this or that or better than this guy - those people. But the reality of it is, the only time that I (thought about it) - and you'll think this is crazy - there was a video of the last three years and I watched that video because (Peevy) gave it to me, and it kind of touched me, like wow. You think back and you're like, man, and then it's on to what's next. That would be it. But it wasn't that we had won the national title. It was that - you forget that play against Mississippi State (in the 2010 SEC Tournament championship). But when I saw it, it just goosebumped me. Or John Wall's first (game-winning) shot. We could have lost that game. Dudes would have all been happy. That shot, we shouldn't have won that game. And then I can even remember the Stanford stuff (in 2010). We had no business (winning), and if DeMarcus (Cousins) didn't foul out, we wouldn't have won the game. He had to foul out for us to win the game. And then you go back to Brandon Knight when we play at Louisville and that's Josh's (Harrellson) coming-out party. And then the shots we made down the stretch (in the 2011 NCAA Tournament). How in the heck did we beat North Carolina and Ohio State? How did we beat those two? Are you crazy? And we did, and we should have won the national title. It's crazy. And then last year's stuff. So you look back on that in its entirety and you say kind of like, "Daggone it. Whew!" And then you just say, "I don't want to think about that because we've got to move on here and we've got other stuff."

Question: You've had three years with the Big Blue Nation. Has it been what you expected when you started and how they've reacted to you and embraced the craziness?
Calipari: First of all, that fan base, 99 percent of them that's what they're into and they're about Kentucky. There is 1 percent that, I don't what they are. But if you try to lump that together you lose sight of what this is. This is the greatest fan base. Now, did I understand to what level? No, I did not. But when I figured it out it didn't take me long. And when I did figure it out, I'm like, you know what, we need to connect with these people. It really changes who we are and puts us on a page that no one else can touch because of that fan base. Everything we do is to try to separate from the pack. Well, that was the first thing we did. We're working with these people. We're going to have an army of people with us and they're going to know and we're going to be transparent. That was one of the first things. And then I did some stuff early and it was by chance. Do you remember what I did when I first took this job by chance? I did a tour. Do you remember what that tour was? The book tour. That book was written a year and a half, two years earlier. I never knew it was taking that long. It was by chance. That tour showed me like, oh my gosh, it doesn't matter where I go in this state, these people are into this program and it means something to them. And then you do Midnight Madness and you've got the grandmother, the granddaughter, the grandchild, the great grandchild and they're all under one tent. And then you start saying this is a little bigger than I'm thinking. That happened. And they've been great at home games. Have we lost there yet? OK. So I'm anxious to find out when you spill one, how are they then? I tell a story, and DeWayne will tell you, we were in the 40-something range and I said, "DeWayne, this thing, we need to lose one just to get this thing off the deck." And I said, "By the way, what's the record?" And he says, "129." I go, "Straight?! Are you kidding me?" I said, "That had to be nine years." It was 12. How in the world do you win 12 straight years at home games? That means a person was 12 years old and you didn't lose until he was 24. He went from sixth grade to having two children. That's sick, but that's where this thing was. So I can see why - how did Coach (Joe B.) Hall follow this guy (Adolph Rupp)? How in the world does he follow? It's part of it and it's part of what you do here. What I also learned here is, when you're in this seat that I'm in, which means you're the keeper of the tradition as much as anything you do. If you think you're just going to come in and watch tape and coach my team, well, you cheat the position. That means connecting to the past. If you ever try to eliminate the past, that's because you wanted the program to start with you, like it was going to be all about you. The reality of it is this thing started in the '30s. You're the keeper of the tradition, one. And the second part is you have a chance to move people for the good by how you act and things you do, or you can sit in the office and watch tape. If you're not going to cheat the position, understand you better be the keeper of the tradition and keep people around and connect the dots and bring everybody back in and be a gatherer. And the second thing is, you have a chance to do things like the game we're doing on the (Sept.) 15th. The best thing will be in the game, if we have three, four, five families from West Liberty that get grants directly from a player. (For example) John Wall gives this family a grant whose house was wiped out (from the tornado) and they had no insurance. Think about that. Or here's a veteran that has lost his limbs and this dog is going to be his new way to a new life, and it's a $20,000 dog, and you give it to three or four vets from the state of Kentucky. What? Some of the stuff we do, I want to know what other state you could do it in. I want to know. You tell me. The stuff that goes on here, it just doesn't happen. So when you ask me about the fans, this seat that I'm, that stuff is what I feel strongly about.

Question: Now that you've won the national championship, can you reflect on the loss in the SEC title game and the importance of it?
Calipari: All I know is I got Darius (Miller) in the game, he got his 17 shots, we got him ready for the NCAA Tournament, which probably means if he took 17 we lost, which we did, and then we moved on. I don't even remember. One thing I remember is we were up two at the end and couldn't make a shot. That's the only thing I remember from the game. I don't remember anything else other than we were up, how in the heck did we not make? And we got good looks if remember it right. We had great looks at the basket and we didn't make them.

Question: This is sort of the epicenter of college basketball this year with Louisville, Indiana, Murray State and you guys. Do you like that this is ground zero for college basketball?
Calipari: Ohio State is going to be good. That's fine. We're a national program. I guess if you win around here it's great. This thing for us is the epicenter of college basketball is here. If they're good, that's great. I don't care what those teams do. I really don't. If they play well, I just want them to lose to us. Other than that, I could care less. I don't follow their teams, I don't watch the games. I really don't. I don't root against them. If the game is on and I think I'm rooting against them I'll turn the channel because I don't want that stuff coming back at us. It always does. For the fans around here I guess it's great.

Question: Are you a karma guy then if you say you don't want that stuff coming back at you?
Calipari: I always say that. If you're a nice person, it's usually good stuff. If you're mean and nasty, old and bitter (stuff) comes back at you and hits you in the mouth. It's just how it is.

Question: When you looked at Kentucky from Memphis, did you have that same type of drive to beat Kentucky because it was the epicenter of college basketball?
Calipari: I liked Tubby (Smith). When I was coaching against him we beat them one time. For awhile Kentucky was, when they walked in to recruit, everybody went "(Sigh), Kentucky's walking in." And that changed for awhile. Then it became, OK, maybe we can get these guys. But Kentucky in the families, the kids know three years. When I go in to recruit a player he only knows three years. He could care less after that. He would know nothing about '98. He wouldn't know a player, nothing. As a matter of fact, he would probably know our team a few years ago, but before that he probably couldn't name one player on their team, but that's not just Kentucky, it's any school. But their families understand the history of this place. The 2K game means something. It did. It did then, and we knew. We scheduled (around it), believe me. We knew we needed to get there before Carolina and we knew it. I said, "Can we win these games to get there before they do?" I don't want it to be us playing them. Oh my gosh, that's all we needed. This is a unique place. The expectations are high. You're under a magnifying glass. Stuff that goes on other campuses, it goes on here, it's a big deal. If it goes on over there, ah, he didn't mean it, the guy walked into the kid's fist. If it goes here, I'm telling you, it is huge. It is something that can't (ignore). It's all part of what it is. And again, I'll just leave you with it's a players-first program. It's making every decision based on what's right for these kids. That's not changing. Everything I do is based on them, and if I do right by them and continue to do right by them, they'll drag us where we want to go. Now I'll say this, this team will drag us maybe as far as it can go and that may or may not be what we all want, but I may look back and say, hey, I feel great about that. I think of the team two years ago, the team I first had here. Those two teams, both of them had a chance to win both national titles. To be honest, you all may say we should have won it in 2010, but if we don't go 0 for 20 against West Virginia (from 3-point land to start the game) maybe we do because I think we were better than the other teams. And then that last year when we didn't think we (would win) and then we ended up going farther and we should have won, that's just how it is here. We just want to be up to bat. I think we've got good kids, but it's going to be hard. This is one that it's not going to be as easy for us to figure out how to play, and that'll be the challenge, but that's exciting. People say to me, "Doesn't that drive you crazy to have a new team?" I say, "No, it's exciting." I mean think about it, you wake up every day and your whole plight is how do I make this thing better for these guys? How do I figure this stuff out? Guys staying with you three years, they may learn to hate you after one, maybe two, but they do after three and four."

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