Kentucky Wednesday Press Conference Quotes
NCAA Men's First and Second Rounds
Pre-Tournament Press Conference
Des Moines, Iowa
March 16, 2016
THE MODERATOR: We are joined by Coach John Calipari. Welcome to Des Moines. Opening comments?
JOHN CALIPARI: Thank you. We're excited about being here. Me personally I got the three things I need. I have the Catholic church. I have the Dunkin' Donuts, and I have the Italian American Cultural Center of Iowa. What else do I need? So we're happy to be here.
Q. Coach, you kind of took my question about what you thought of this city. But can you shed light on having a first-time host, have Kentucky, have Indiana, have UConn, the blue bloods of college basketball here in town for the first time?
JOHN CALIPARI: It's terrific for the city, and I think this is one of those rare moments where we're all in one place together, and it should be exciting because it should be some great basketball. It should be some of the exciting stuff that, you know, basketball fans want to see, and it should be fun.
Q. Coach, Tyler just had all his teammates describe his leadership and how big of a role he's played for you, and recently you said you believe that he's going to be an NBA player and get drafted. Where have you seen the biggest growth in him from the start of the season up to now?
JOHN CALIPARI: He's way more comfortable with what we're trying to get him to do, but the biggest growth that he's had is off court. Look, you can't lead on the court unless you're leading off court, too.
You can't go hold yourself up and be separated from your team and then think they're going to listen to you. He has become a great leader off the court in what he's doing. He has proven that he can play against the biggest guys and still do what he needs to do. His assist-to-turnover ratio is outrageous. His ability to be disruptive defensively, and, again, if you don't work real hard it's hard to tell somebody "come on, let's go!" Because they're looking at you saying, "what about you?"
This kid, we show his clips to the team and say if you could all play with this kind of energy, think about it. He's a great kid and it's not me saying he's going to be a first-round draft pick it's the scouts in the NBA saying he's going to be a first-round draft pick.
He's done great, and I think he's excited about us and this team and totally different team. We lost 7 guys to the NBA. This is a different team. We lost 95% of our scoring. He started leading a team that he knew nothing about and neither did we, and by the end they've come together. And most of it like, I would like to take credit that, oh, it was the coaching. Well, let me just tell you, it's his leadership, and he's coaching on the floor as much as anything else.
Q. How much of that hard work and energy you said of Tyler's comes from way back, compensating for size and having to work a little harder to be noticed?
JOHN CALIPARI: He's got a chip on his shoulders now. The recruiting process was not real long. He and Devin wanted to be at the best place -- because everybody thought those were four year players and I got a call about Devin Booker today, this kid is unbelievable. I think some teams that passed on Devin are going to regret it because this guy is really good. Those two wanted to play together and Tyler when he came with his father to see me it was real simple.
I heard you're going to get a four-year point guard and a kid that's going to be -- I just said if you think you're going to be here four years, don't you come here. Don't you come here if you think you're going to be here four years, and he said, where do I sign? Let me sign. Because he wanted someone to believe in him like he believed in himself.
Got a big heart. He's coachable. I get on him now, and he'll, you know, he listens, but he gets -- you know. So he's what you need. You've got to have an edge if you're going to be any good. If you're really going to be something you've got to have an edge.
Q. Given that you're facing a team that's in its first NCAA Tournament game, what do you remember about the first NCAA Tournament game that you coached?
JOHN CALIPARI: How much time do I have?
THE MODERATOR: Ten minutes.
JOHN CALIPARI: So our first year we ended up playing Syracuse in Worcester and Jim Boeheim went from zone to man-to-man, which I didn't know he was going to do, and everybody said, you haven't seen him coach? He always does that late in the game. We ran this play and my center banked a 3 and we beat Syracuse on a banked 3. And as he walked off Jim said, nice play. And I said, thank you, Coach.
Then we went to Philadelphia and played in the Spectrum. Played Kentucky. Jimmy McCoy made a three pointer at the half. He was my shooting guard, only three-pointer of his career. We got back in the game, and I am not going to mention a name, the Spectrum had all those colors. He thought I was out of the box. I will not mention his name and give him any credit.
I know who he is. I'm not going to mention his name, and they probably would have beat us anyway. They had Mashburn and they were pretty good. But that game by us losing led to Christian Laettner's catch against Kentucky when Rick shoved the guy on the ball and he took the guy off the ball and they throw it deep and he turns and scores.
What else did you want to know? I can tell you where we ate, where I stayed, I can tell you all that if you want to know.
Q. First round you're generally playing a team that guys haven't grown up watching or heard of, yet you watch 'em and you say these guys are good. How do you relate that? Do the players have a gad feel for that? Your players?
JOHN CALIPARI: We've watched some tape tonight and watched the clips they need to see. We will do more of that today and tomorrow. I try to stay focused on us. I got to watch the game because we were in Nashville and I had dead time and I was sitting there and I know Steve, watched his career as a player and as a coach and they're down 16 and I go this guy has buzzard luck. He wins the league every year and in the tournament something happens, a buzzer beater. They have had two buzzer beaters in the last two years, and they come from 16 down and end up winning the game. Happy for him and I said, hope we don't play them. Did not know that my room was bugged by the NCAA. When they heard that, they said that's who they're playing, we'll work the field around them. But, anyway, they're good. Our team knows they're good.
Q. I think you've probably 85% answered this question just by what you said because I was curious legacy program, tons of history, NCAA Finals and you're playing a team that's never been here before. How do you convince your players that they need toe take these guys seriously and concentrate and play as well as they can play?
JOHN CALIPARI: The one thing -- you know, they can beat us, they can, they've got great inside presence, they shoot the ball, they play pack line defense, they play man to man sometimes they will top where you can't really come off screens, they do some great stuff. They run great stuff high/low, slip screens and do stuff to post their big guy and they do a great job so we can lose the game. The thing about being in Kentucky is everyone we play is someone's Super Bowl. If we don't play we lose because the other team is going to play out of their minds. When we go on the road they're all sold out, students are intense and when we lose I gotta get my team off court early because they're going to storm court.
It's what being at Kentucky is. So I'm not worried about that. We may get beat anyway, but I think our kids will play. The first game is the hardest. I will throw that out there. All the coaches in this tournament who have been here a number of years know the teams get better as you advance, but the first one is the hard one. Especially if you have guys like we do. We start three freshmen who have never played in an NCAA Tournament game.
Q. Cal, do you show them any film at all of the Vanderbilt game as a common op napped to give them an idea of what to expect?
JOHN CALIPARI: Maybe. We may show clips and that score. They played Notre Dame to a terrific game on the road. As a matter of fact they scored in the post whenever they wanted to and Notre Dame beat them -- they overwhelmed them a little bit but that was early in the year. Vandy was early. Honestly, I'm worried about my team and making sure the -- the axe that they use that we have not seen, that we cover and we have tried the last couple days and my concern in this tournament is more about my team.
If we play our best and get beat, it's been a heck of a run! This team has come together and done so many special things, but you just worry about your team playing well.
Q. The tournament officials always say story line or plot line is not part of the bracket. You look at this situation where you've got Indiana next if you win and where they put you in a late game against Cinderella, what do you think about plot line?
JOHN CALIPARI: I'm usually -- I like to poke the bear the hour after that show and then after that it really doesn't matter. I poke the bear and then the bear chases me. They haven't caught me yet, I've run up the tree a few times. But it doesn't matter at this point. Now it's like you've gotta play games and it's not changing.
Q. Coach, gotta ask you about the Canadian content on your team in Jamal Murray?
JOHN CALIPARI: How about Mychal Mulder?
Q. That's true. How would you describe Jamal from the beginning of the season up until now, if you could talk about his progress and what is exported of him or needed of him in this tournament?
JOHN CALIPARI: One, I'm going to tell you, he has been one of the neatest kids to coach. If I asked him -- when I used to ask my son when he was 11 I would say Brad who has more fun than you and he would say nobody! When you look at Jamal Murray no one has more fun that that kid, always smiling, always happy.
If I walk into a practice and I'm not smiling he will go, come on, Coach! He is the best to coach! What he had to learn to play winning basketball, especially at this level was is shot selection matters, efficiency matters, degree of difficulty doesn't matter! Creating fouls, having an assist-to-turnover ratio where you have more assists than turnovers, being creative for your team and the biggest thing, kid, you gotta guard somebody.
Now, all of the sudden he's taken pride in what he's done defensively, rebounding -- he's big, he's 6-5, Steph Curry stuff. Catch and shoot, the speed he's shown. But the biggest thing is he's a volume scorer, yet he's an efficient player. Again, if you watched how I've done this, it's all been about balance my whole career and he is -- I've had only one player score as many as he's scored and that was Dajuan Wagner when we were trying to get it going, but Dajuan took four more shots per game than Jamal is.
He's finishing games with 23 points and has 12 shots, you kidding' me? And when he's not getting shots he doesn't say one word, he's fine. So he's been a ball to coach. People are now looking at him in a different light, like, oh, my gosh, it's another Steph Curry. Do we want to pass on a Steph Curry? So I'm happy for him!
Q. Cal, when Rick Pitino was on ESPN yesterday he made some, what sounded like criticisms of Kentucky in the way that you recruit and I'm wondering if you have a response to that?
JOHN CALIPARI: I would really rather not respond. I don't know exactly what you're talking about. They run a terrific program. He's a terrific coach. He is a Hall of Famer. We're in the same state. Sometimes you've got to rub elbows, sometimes you've got to throw elbows, but I respect him.
Q. You've said all season long it only matters in March, and you've had success bringing freshmen to this tournament. What do you say to them to get them ready for this type of competition?
JOHN CALIPARI: This season and the league tournament, obviously the league tournament had nothing to do with seed, and that's why we play it just to help us prepare for this tournament.
We had two tough games. I mean, both Texas A&M and Georgia were wars. Alabama even played pretty good against us that first night. So we got prepared that way. From this point, this team is empowered and they have to play confident, and that means they've got to help each other play confident. Then I want my teams to have more fun than any team in this tournament. When you watch 'em, if we are doing our job as a staff you're going to say, boy, they have fun playing basketball. If I do that and we don't win, we got a pretty good group comin' next year.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach. Good luck.
THE MODERATOR: We are joined on the podium by our Kentucky student-athletes. We are all set. We would like to welcome, Tyler Ulis, Jamal Murray, Alex Poythress and Isaiah Briscoe. Questions for our student-athletes?
Q. This is a question for Tyler: At one point when you were being recruited before you chose Kentucky you were being recruited by Iowa and Fran MacCaffrey, how close were you going to Iowa before you went to Kentucky, and what's it been like for you to be back in the state again?
TYLER ULIS: I was choosing between Iowa, Kentucky and Michigan State and one Kentucky came in I knew that is where I wanted to me. I was close with Coach McCaffrey and Coach Izzo, I wanted to go to both of those schools because they were what I had in my top three, but at the end of the day I felt like Kentucky was the best for me.
Q. When you decided to go to Chicago, what intrigued you? Was it the players that were there? The overall high profile reputation of Chicago high school basketball and what were you hoping to get out of the whole experience?
TYLER ULIS: With Chicago being such a big city, it's more exposure, better players and more competition and coming from Lima, Ohio, it's a small town and I wasn't getting as much recognition as I wanted, and moving there helped me a lot.
Q. Isaiah, tell us about why you chose Kentucky; but more importantly, what can you tell us about Jameel Warney who you grew up with in the same town?
ISAIAH BRISCOE: Growing up I always watched Kentucky basketball along with Duke and North Carolina, but my senior year coming around and Coach Cal came down to PCM and when I went and took a visit to Lexington I had Tyler and Booker as my hosts and when I went there it felt like family and it was something I wanted to be part of.
ISAIAH BRISCOE: Jameel is a great player. We went to the same high school and that's it.
Q. Have you played against him?
ISAIAH BRISCOE: Everybody, in the summertime we play pick-up games and things like that.
Q. What can you say about his game?
ISAIAH BRISCOE: He's good!
Q. Jamal, can you talk about yourself? What kind of a player were you at the beginning of the season and how would you describe yourself now? What were some of the biggest adjustments you've made?
JAMAL MURRAY: Overall just trying to fit into the system, early in the season and the time Coach Cal was starting to figure out how to play our three aurides and where we would play so new I'm just comfortable with where I am and not just playing after these two great guards over here, so now we've got a great chemistry going.
Q. Obviously, playing for Kentucky every night people are gunning for you the reputation of the program. What do you think the unique challenge is going to be of playing a team that's never been in the tournament and literally has nothing to lose?
TYLER ULIS: Well, this being their first time they're going to come excited, they're going to be ready to play, a lot of them are seniors so they're going to come out ready and give us their best shot so we can't try to look past 'em, we have to focus on this game and come out ready to play.
ALEX POYTHRESS: Like Tyler said, they're going to come out real loose, try to compete real hard. It's going to be a battle from the start of the game and we can't take 'em lightly. So we've got to compete and play hard tomorrow.
ISAIAH BRISCOE: This is my first time in the tournament also, so I'm just excited for the experience.
JAMAL MURRAY: Same, just excited to be out there.
Q. Jamal, I know you started doing the bow and arrow thing and now all across high schools and college basketball people are doing it. I don't know if you know, a player got a technical in a regional championship game doing it. What's it like to do something like that and watch it explode in a state like that?
JAMAL MURRAY: I really don't know where it came from, didn't know who started it and I get to be one of the first people who started it. But I'm not focused on that. I'm just kinda focused on my team, and this is how we play. I ain't gonna say nothing anymore (Laughter.)
Q. Where did the bow and arrow come from?
JAMAL MURRAY: First started in the Ohio State game. EJ Floreal started doing it on the court, and from there on Mychal started doing it and Jonny after a while the team started to do it after, and now I started doing it back to them.
Q. Tyler, the game -- South Carolina game where your coach was ejected and you took over the play calling, did that kind of show you the trust your teammates have in you? And for any of the guys up there, talk about your trust factor in him and just how much maybe he's improved or where you've seen him grow in that type of leadership.
TYLER ULIS: Me? Yeah, it's great that they have the trust in me to, like, run their offense, and I just came out there and tried to do what I saw the defense was doing and try and put everybody in the right position and they all put their trust in me and I just did what I had to do.
Q. Can you talk about the trust you have in him and maybe even that game or beyond the season, his leadership style on the court?
ALEX POYTHRESS: He's just so poised out there when we play, never gets rattled, always knows the right position to put you in and where to be at, he takes the game, slows it down to a great pace and helps everybody else get better.
ISAIAH BRISCOE: He's a great leader on the court. I think he sees everything from a point guard position and, you know, they made it to the Final Four last year and he was a key part of that team, so why wouldn't you trust him when Coach is not there to run the team.
I don't think he would steer any of us in the wrong direction because he wants to win just as bad as everybody else do on the team.
JAMAL MURRAY: He's a great point guard. He not only does that game, but every game he's leading the team. And he brings energy to the team and keeps us organized and like they were saying he's a great leader and keeps everybody together.
Q. Jamal, how would you describe yourself as a player and if you could talk about that, plus the attention that you do get basically from a nation as you are from Canada. Do you thrive under that? Do you enjoy the attention that you get?
JAMAL MURRAY: Yeah, I have a lot of fun being here and playing the game that I love and playing in the best university in America. So coming from Canada, I make some noise and have my friends and family back home watch me and see what I'm doing, and it's just a lot of fun and I'm proud to be where I am.
Q. For the rest of the players, I understand that it was a bit of an adjustment for Jamal. How would you describe him at the beginning of the season and then now after Coach Cal and you guys as well have worked with him?
TYLER ULIS: Well, you know, he's a completely different player from the beginning of the year. He's starting to buy into everything that Coach wants him to do. It probably was difficult for him having three guards. We all are used to having the ball in our hands, and he's just a great scorer. So he scores from anywhere on the court, and he's start to go try to play defense and we're getting the best out of him as a player and he's helping our team out a lot.
ISAIAH BRISCOE: I think it was hard for all three of us coming into this year knowing that we all was used to having the ball in our hands, but it takes a lot of pressure off each other and I think once Jamal bought into what Coach was trying to tell him, just to play winning basketball, once he figured out that when he started playing winning basketball he just took off.
THE MODERATOR: Alex?
ALEX POYTHRESS: You can just see the improvement he's made each and every day. He's getting better and just paying more attention to skill work, playing better defense, paying attention to scouting reports, doing the little things to help us get better.
Q. To the older guys, how beneficial is it to have an open practice to get the nerves out moving forward into March Madness?
ALEX POYTHRESS: It's real beneficial, get on the court, get shots up, get used to the rims, the arena, and everything, so you get used to it better.
TYLER ULIS: Well, yeah, you know this is big for us to get in the gym and used to the arena, seeing everything for the thirst time, having a little fun with the fans out there.
Q. Tyler, you were asked before about the prestige of playing for Kentucky. What is that like? What's the pressure like knowing that there is such great expectation on you and also about your leadership? Are you going to be a coach someday?
TYLER ULIS: I don't know about the coach someday. I love playing right now, but there is in pressure. I really don't feel pressure. I feel like it's something I have to do for this team and leading and something I've done all my life. As a team we're not trying to live up to anyone else's expectations. We have our own frills and which is probably the same as everyone else and we just try to lead and reach our goals.
Q. Tyler, you've had Isaiah Thomas of the Celtics bring you up a bunch. He's tweeted you. How does that feel to have a guy like that watching you and rooting you on from the NBA?
TYLER ULIS: That's great for me because I'm looking up to him at what he's doing at my size and height in the NBA, so knowing he's talking about me and saying good things about me is always a good feeling.
Q. Thanks, gentlemen. Good luck tomorrow.