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Transcript: Coach Cal joins Final Four teleconference

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John Calipari will be all over the place this week with his team set to play in the Final Four. His media obligations started this afternoon on the Final Four Head Coaches Teleconference. Predictably, he touched on a number of topics and you can read his thoughts below. Scroll down for some of Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan's thoughts on Kentucky as well.

Coach Cal

On talk of underachievement motivating his team ...

"It played no part. It's a process, and you can't skip steps. Part of that process is failing fast, sometimes failing often. The final step to all this is you surrender to each other, you lose yourself in the team, and you understand less is more. But that really takes time when you're playing seven freshmen in your top eight and each of them scored 25 points a game in high school. 'You must do less and that would be more for you.' It's a process, but what anybody said or wrote had no bearing on us."
 
On Jon Hood's value as a conduit between coaches and the young players ...
"Let me tell you what he did in the game last night. I just love the kid. He's come so far. He came from a deer-in-headlights, scared to death, to an angry, 'What is this?' to a great teammate to a loving part of our family. Last night in the game, they are shooting free throws and he says to me, 'What are you going to do if Dakari rebounds it? Because they're going to foul him.' He came up to me. Not an assistant. He walked up to me (laughing). And I said, 'Andrew, Aaron, if Dakari rebounds it, call an immediate timeout. Right away.'
 
"That's what he's done. And one game this year he came up to me and said, 'Coach, the lob is open versus the zone. He walked up and told me. We threw the lob and I went down and slapped him on the hand. See, this is not my team; it's their team. And I want them to feel empowered, and he knows that. He just left my office. He had the regional trophy in his room. He said, 'Where you want me to put it?' I said, 'You keep it.' He said, 'Nah, I've had it all night. It was in the bed with me.' That's the enjoyment, even if he's not playing as much. But you know what he says: 'If you need me, I'm ready now,' because of his frame of mind.

"I wish I had all kids for four or five years, to see this. But in the other sentence, I'm not going to convince a young man that should go chase his dreams to come back for me and to win more games. I'm not doing that. But I wish I had them more, because I can't tell you how much enjoyment I get from that."
 
On the last month, what sticks out about the team's composure/mental approach ...
"The bottom line is I screwed this up in a couple different ways. One, we tweaked some things that--I've had all different kind of point guards; I've had guys that have been different kind of players, and I waited probably two months longer than I should've to put a couple things in that changed how we were as a team. When I did the first tweak, I told everybody, 'You will see a change,' and they saw it; couldn't believe it. Then before we went to the (NCAA) tournament, I tweaked another thing and I said, 'You will see a change,' and they've all seen it.
 
"Now, most of the media don't know enough about basketball to really know what I've done. When the season's over, I'll go through point by point, what I did and how I did it, and you'll be able to say, 'Wow, I see it.' The question becomes, when you hear it, you'll say, 'Why didn't you do it earlier?' And I don't really have a good answer. Now, my only hope would be to say to you: Maybe they weren't ready to accept it two months ago. Maybe they had to fail more. Maybe they had to understand that you must surrender to your team, you must lose yourself in your team, and you must understand less is more when you're talking about team play. But if they were ready to accept it two months ago, this -- we wouldn't have been an eight seed playing the gauntlet that we just played."
 
On Kentucky's confidence level right now ...
"They're in a great frame of mind, but we lost Willie. Do you understand that Willie changed most games for us? Now, you may say that I was most happy that we won the game. I was happy we won the game. I was happy for the team and the program, but what made me more excited was Dominique Hawkins walking in that game, defending the way he did and changing the rhythm of the game for Michigan. I also loved what Marcus Lee did. We talked about it for two days, what was going to happen. We made the game really simple for him, said, 'You're only going to do these three things, you don't worry about anything else. Don't give them the ball in these positions, give it to them here, and you go do what you do ,and the world will be talking about you after the game.' And he was trending worldwide.
 
"Actually, as a coach it's not just what your stars are doing. You're here to coach everybody. And so to have those two -- and our team was ecstatic for them. It's been a great experience mentally to see these kids mature and change, and me be able to empower them. Aaron Harrison said something with me on the stage. 'Coach has always had to coach emotion, intensity, effort, and that means you've got to get a little nasty. You can't accept it, you can't let them just do what they want to do.' I've also had to coach body language, I've also had to coach unselfish play. I'm not coaching any of that now. Now, I'm coaching basketball. So people are saying, 'Boy, he looks more relaxed. I am more relaxed because I know I don't have to look out there and see a guy not going hard or a guy pouting or a guy passing up a teammate or taking five bad shots. I'm not dealing with any of that. This team has been empowered now, and now I get to coach basketball."
 
On if Kentucky needs to refresh itself before going forward after the gauntlet of the past two weeks ...
"We're just marching how we've been marching. Nothing changes. You're not going to get away from any of that stuff.
 
On his secret in recruiting, being able to land elite players ...
"Wait a minute, wait a minute. Now, when I was at UMass, we had one McDonald's All-American, Donta Bright. When I was at Memphis, we may have had three over my years there. So when you say -- we weren't getting top-50 players at UMass. Now, we were winning. We were a terrific team, and I had to coach guys four years, and I was ecstatic. And then at Memphis, I was coaching them three and four years, and we were becoming a good team. Now I'm at Kentucky. There's a combination of the parents understanding Kentucky, what it is. And the young people only know three years. The kids we recruit, all of us, they don't know five years ago. They were 12 and 11, 10. They know the last three years.
 
"When John Wall and (Eric) Bledsoe and (DeMarcus) Cousins and (Patrick) Patterson went in that draft with (Daniel) Orton -- five first rounders -- it changed the whole direction. The paradigm changed. Wasn't like we planned it. I never thought Eric Bledsoe was one-and-done. No one ever thought that. He didn't play in the McDonald's game and all that. 'Well you only take one-and-done players.' What about Josh Harrellson? What about DeAndre Liggins making it. That's all crazy talk.
 
"But what's happened is these kids understand you've got to come together, and we're honest with them. This is the hardest place to come and play basketball. If you think this is going to be easy, don't come here. The second piece of it is, 'If you want to be the only guy that can play, don't come here. If you want to take all the shots, go somewhere else. If you want to be on a team where the coach only highlights one or two guys, you better be one of those two guys, and if you want to go there, go.' That's not how it is here. Every game is a Super Bowl. You're scrutinized because people are attacking me, so you're going to get scrutinized because they want to come after me. And what we're doing has never been done, so you can't do this. So you're getting that hit. 'If you can't deal with all that, don't come here.' That's a heck of a sell, isn't it?"
 
On if its seems strange to him to coach a team that was both supposed to make the Final Four in preseason and was not supposed to make the Final Four when the tournament started ...

"Again, I wished we could have skipped steps in the process and probably was trying to do that, which is why I did such a poor job early with this team. Really, I was probably trying to skip steps, but in the end we got the plane down, barely. We almost ran out of runway. This team was built up to be torn down. Sometimes I always wonder if it's the opinion or the hope of how people feel about this team, and we withstood it. They were under immense fire. They never wavered. They kept believing. They were their brothers' keeper. They believed in the leadership. They believed in the staff. They believed in the system and the process. It never went away, and we never -- I never -- stopped believing in this team or the players on it -- and I mean each individual player. That in itself is a great story of 'How in the world did you guys overcome that?' Well it made us stronger, it made us tougher, it made us harder."
 
On what areas the twins have shown the greatest amount of growth and what it says about Dominique Hawkins and Marcus Lee to step up after not playing much recently ...
"Well I'm going to answer the second one first. Those two -- we coach every player like they're a starter. There's no one coached different. You're held accountable just like a starter would be held accountable. You're pushed and challenged and coached just like a starter would be. We try throughout the season to make sure we're getting those kids minutes so by the end of the year if something happens they're ready to go. So, I'm not surprised. There are times in practice those are our best two players. But, it's really hard to get yourself ready to play every game when you don't play in six straight games. That's really hard. that means you're a good person. That means you're mature, because you know the clutter in their ears is telling them they should be playing more, what are they doing, you're better. They're hearing it because it's natural, yet they withstand all that.
 
"The first question about Andrew and Aaron, there are two parts of it. One, the biggest thing we had to help them with was some body language. As that changed, they became different players. The second thing was we had to define the roles better, and I did a poor job of that until late in the year. By the end of the year -- again, I can't believe -- and I was angry when I realized -- what I had done. Because I've coached all kind of different point guards. We had to get Derrick Rose to shoot more. We had to get Tyreke (Evans) and Brandon Knight to shoot less. We had fast point guards. We had point guards that weren't as fast. John Wall. Eric Bledsoe played the combo. It just bothered me as a coach that that's my job. Their job is to play. My job is to help define their roles and bring them together, to get them to understand. And I'm happy it was done. I just wish I had done it earlier."
 
On if he and/or his team will watch the McDonald's All-American game this week ...
"Oh, we'll watch it. And if I can't watch it, it'll be taped. It'll be taped, because we have four players in it. And we got four great -- when I tell you great kids -- they're terrific basketball players, but spend some time with them. You're talking about four great, great kids. I imagine our team will watch it. They'll watch it live, because they all played in it and they'll want to see it."
 
On what he saw in practice that let him sense his team was changing ...
"Yeah. We tweaked one thing, and it changed the whole direction, and the team knew it and the staff knew it and I knew it. And then I was angry for an hour of practice because I hadn't done it earlier. And it changed everything. Overnight. And that's what happened. And it was something that, 'Why didn't I do this earlier?' It changed. And then in the NCAA Tournament I tweaked another thing, and it changed another way of how we were playing. And now everyone saw it. But again, you have to surrender. You have to accept. You have to do less, which is more, for you and our team becomes better, which means you become better. But that's hard. Every one of these kids averaged 25 and was a McDonald's All-American in some way or form or fashion. And all of the sudden now, you're asked to do way less. That's really hard. And as you're doing less, you start saying, 'Wow, they're talking better about me. They think I'm better by doing less? How's that work?' Because you're team's doing better, you're being more patient, you're being a better basketball player because you're trying to do less. But you're doing more of the things you need to do: Defend, rebound, block shots, fly up and down the court. Things that take pressure off you and make the game easier for you."
 
On the prognosis for Willie Cauley-Stein playing ...

"I doubt he plays, and he will be on our bench cheering like crazy. They told me in the locker room of the Louisville game where he got hurt right away, the doctor told me -- I asked him about the injury and all that -- and he said, 'I got to stop you before. You cannot believe how much he was cheering for his team in there. He wasn't worried about himself. He was going bonkers.' I said, 'Really?' 'Oh, we had to hold him down. He was trying to run around.' I'm so happy for him. It's kind of like Nerlens (Noel). When Nerlens got hurt, they see their life flash before them, their careers. And I said to Nerlens, 'Nerlens. You are fine. Now, our team is not, but you are fine.' And I just said to Willie, I said, 'Willie, we're going to try to cover for you. It's gonna be really hard. But let me say this: You personally, you've proven yourself. People know what you are. They know the impact you have on games. They know that you're a 7-foot guard. They know that now. So this is hurting our team? Yes. But we're gonna try to cover. You're fine.' And I want them to understand, we are about them, and when you're injured, doesn't change things."

Ryan

On the Harrison twins
...
"Well, needless to say they're pretty talented or Kentucky wouldn't be playing in the semifinals. They're not young anymore; they're pretty well-established. Very talented. Physically, they were more mature than most freshmen to begin with and they're primed right now. I still have a lot more film to look at along with my assistant coach that has them, but we know we're going to have our hands full with the twins, that's for sure."

On Kentucky ...

"Yeah, well obviously we haven't been to the Final Four very often so most people wouldn't know nationally that I never do scouting reports on other teams. There's still a lot I have to look at and Kentucky's--for me to say they're good, that wouldn't be--I'd be slighting them. They are very good and they're playing in the semifinals for a reason. Well-coached. John's done a great job of getting those guys, as young as they are, to play together and do the things they're doing. And they're playing their best at the right time, obviously, or you don't get to this point."

On Billy Donovan saying UK-Wisconsin represents a contrast in styles ...
"Well, I think Billy was having some fun with you. Kentucky's trying to put the ball in the hole; we're trying to put the ball in the hole. We're trying keep them from doing it; they're trying to keep us from doing it. If that's styles, I didn't know there were that many. I don't see it totally as that. If other people do, they could explain to you why. But we are who we are right now. We're not changing. They're who they are right now. So it's--whatever people want to say about styles and all that, I leave it up to them. I've never gotten caught up in that kind of a conversation."

 

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