John Calipari gave an update on his team heading into the summer.
May 15, 2013
Opening Statement... "It's not good to see you guys again. We wanted to do this summer press conference to kind of catch up on stuff. People are asking me all the time, `How you feeling about things and last year and this year and players?' You all know we won the national title, we did that tour, I had to do a thing in New York and after that it was over. The rearview mirror was taken out, moving forward. I would tell you the same for this season. You learn from each season. For me, there'll be a time to smell the roses; it's just not right now. So you move on. There were many things that happened that were good last year. There were many things individually for players that got better.
"I had a call last night about Nerlens (Noel): `Nerlens should have come back for one more year. The growth that he made in a year offensively was so unbelievable that one more year of that, he'd have been unreal.' I said, `Yeah, why don't you talk to him, see if you can change his mind?' But you think of Willie (Cauley-Stein), you even think of Archie (Goodwin) and here's the other thing I want to tell you: It's not just `Did they get better?' It's `Did they learn about themselves?' Because sometimes you learn about yourself in a season - Are you ready? Marquis Teague - and you change it in the season. Sometimes you can't. You're just too young. They learn about themselves in a season, know that this isn't going to work, they change and they get better. So part of last season was the beginnings of success for the coming year.
"So when I look at it, you know, there were things that I wish would have been different. I wish Nerlens didn't get hurt and maybe guys got it and changed during the year, but it doesn't happen like that all of the time. And as we move forward now, what we're about to undertake has never been done before. Trying to put teams together like this where you're talking a big number of players, whether it be the (Los Angeles) Lakers, the Miami Heat, it takes time. There's a learning curve, there's a galvanizing process that we have to go through and you know what? We're going to have to be patient. You know, we were somewhat patient our first year. People in this room were patient. What did we start, 9-7, that first year? It was 9-7, 11-6 whatever it was, and we all dealt with it. You remember me saying we weren't an execution team that first year? We just weren't. And we also knew if we had a bad shooting night we could get knocked off in the tournament and that's exactly what happened. You go 0 for 20 from the 3-point line.
"Well, this team is different in the numbers that we're bringing in. So we're starting Monday as a staff. We're going to have a two-day retreat and what we're primarily going to be doing is (figuring out), `What do each of these kids need from us?' Because every one of these kids we're bringing in need to be coached and they need something from us. I'll give you an example. We had Michael (Kidd-) Gilchrist; Michael needed something from us that was different than what Anthony Davis needed from us. Marquis Teague needed us in a different way. Terrence Jones needed something different than Doron Lamb needed or Darius Miller - `Be more aggressive!' I mean, every one of those kids needed us in different ways because it is about them. It is about players first. Well this team we're coaching now with eight new players, four or five returning players, each of these guys are going to need us in different ways.
"So the process, this galvanizing process, the patience we're going to need, we're starting on Monday. We need to say, `OK, where are we going to go with this? What do each of these kids need?' because let me just say this folks: They're a talented crew, we'll have a talented team, (but) they need (to be) coached. Each individual player needs (to be) coached. They need direction. They need to be taught the level of commitment, the intensity. The will to win has to come out. The alpha males that we didn't have a year ago I think we have, but those guys got to do that. They can lead, but they got to lead us in the way we need to be led. Michael Gilchrist, how did he lead us? Breakfast club. What did he do in practice? Was unbelievable in his work ethic. What did that mean? Two years ago, we did not have one bad practice. Not one. Last year we had about five good practices that I would say in my mind over the years would be the kind of practices I felt comfortable with. So those are some things to throw out.
"Let me do this because I love to keep people waiting for their questions they want to ask. I'm going to go through the guys, the five guys right now that are going to be on scholarship coming back.
On Willie Cauley-Stein ... "Willie Cauley. Has a chance at being one of the better players that I've ever coached. Is not delusional at all, understood how far he had come, understood how far he needed to go, understood he could have been a first-round draft pick. He knew, but he came back anyway because he wasn't delusional."
On Kyle Wiltjer ... "You have Kyle Wiltjer. Body's got to change. Sixth man of the year has to get better physically. We all know what his skillset is. He has to take his defense and all those other areas of his game to a new level, which I think he will. My hope is he makes the national team, the Canadian National Team, and it takes his game to another level."
On Alex Poythress ... Alex Poythress learned a lot about himself and where he's going to have to take everything to be the player that he wants to be. That being said, he would have been in the first round if he put his name in the draft. He knew he wasn't ready. And again, he was being pushed by some corners to put his name in the draft but he knew. Again, he wasn't delusional. He knew, `I have to change, I've got to take this to another level.' If he does, the competition brings out the best in him; it is scary how good he's going to be. He's not close to where he needs to be."
On Jon Hood ... Jon Hood by the end of the year for the first time had a breakthrough. I was excited for him. He was one of those guys that played, he had fun playing, he didn't feel the weight of the world on him, he didn't have anything to prove. He went out and played."
"So (of) those five, only Kyle in a small way has tasted the success that we want and have expected. The others have not."
On Aaron Harrison ... "When you talk about the guys coming in, Aaron Harrison. Big guard, can score the ball, should be and will be and is expected to be and will be demanded to be a lockdown defender. With his size, with his athleticism, one, we can play a big zone. Two, we should be able to press because we're going to be so big with our guard play, whoever we put up there. But it'll start with Aaron. We know what he can do scoring the ball, but we want him to do other things and, again, help define his game."
On Andrew Harrison ... "Andrew Harrison. My hope is, by the end of the year, he's just like some of the other point guards we've had. You look at him and say, `Hey, he can do things that other point guards can't do with his size, his scoring ability.' And both of them are terrific drivers, which kind of tells you that we're going to go back to a lot more dribble-drive. I've talked to a couple of my friends and we're talking about dribble-drive into pick-and-roll, pick-and-roll into dribble-drive because of the team."
On Dominique Hawkins ... "Dominique Hawkins. A young man from in state that just kind of blew me away with his will to win, his temperament on the court, his demeanor in helping his team win a championship. You always want to coach guys who understand. By winning a state championship and being down 16 (in) two games, it shows what a tough mentality (Hawkins has). What I just went through, I wanted a tough point guard. I wanted one more tough, physical...How about this? Not just fighting, physically tough. How about mentally tough? How about not break down? How about `I'm bringing it and I'm not afraid to be 16 down, it has no effect on me?' That's what I saw in Dominique and why we recruited him."
On Dakari Johnson ... "Dakari Johnson. I watched him two summers ago folks and I'm going to tell you, he had a knee issue and I looked at him and said, `I'm not so sure.' And then I watched a little bit later and said, `Wait a minute.' And then I watched him later in the season and could not believe it. The line of improvement for Dakari is like that (points in an upward diagonal direction). He's a kid that will get up at six in the morning and work out. He's a great student. He does all the things and he wants to be better. He was on a team that there were times he wasn't getting the ball and he never said one thing. Ran that court, posted up, when he did get it he did good things. He's got great skills and he's 7-foot tall."
On Marcus Lee ... "Marcus Lee averaged a triple-double for the season (pauses). Like 11 blocks, like 15 rebounds and 18 points. Pogo stick, active, high-energy, 6-10, 6-11, long-armed. I mean, another player who, again, wanted to be here. These kids all wanted to be here. They wanted the challenge of this and they wanted to do it together. So when you look at Marcus Lee, you say, `He could have gone somewhere (else).' He didn't to go somewhere (else). He wanted to come here and take on this challenge."
On Julius Randle ... "Julius Randle. Truly a hard worker who can play multiple positions, who can play inside and out. He's a beast. He's an alpha beast who will drive the team. Has a little bit of Michael (Kidd-Gilchrist) in him in a different way. In my mind, there are good players out there; he's as good as any of them."
On Derek Willis ... "6-9, 6-10, long, skilled big man from the state. Again, where his game goes - he wanted the challenge of this. `I want to go every day against players this good to see how good I can be.' Isn't that the greatest part of this? It's not, `Well, I want to go here so I can be the guy and the only man. I want to go here so I can be challenged. How good can I be? And the only way I can find that out is by going against the best. And I'm going to go against the best every day.' Well, he's really got a chance of being good and being special."
On James Young ... "James Young gives you that 6-7 wing who flat can shoot the ball. We shot a high percentage (last year). When you look at our numbers from last year - our defensive numbers, our shot-blocking numbers, our offensive percentages - you would say we should have won more games, but we weren't as skilled as we needed to be, especially at crunch time. We weren't as skilled. We weren't as physically dominating as my teams in the past. This team should be."
On the team as a whole ... "Now, that all being said about all those players, them individually, us coaching each individual player - now you're talking 13; it's not coaching seven or eight - it's going to be a challenge. To bring that many together, really going to be a challenge. The galvanizing part of this will start this summer. We have some other things that we're going to do as a team that I have not done in the past that I think will help this team come together. Some of it is we will watch some movies together of some teams coming together, of what they had to do to sacrifice for each other. More than any team I've had, shared sacrifice is going to matter in this group. And they knew that coming here. I told every one of them, `If you want to shoot 30 balls a game, you don't come here. If you want to be the only guy that's playing - the one guy that everybody's talking about - you wouldn't come here.' So, I think again, it's been laid out for them. Now the question is will we all have the patience? Will I have the patience? There's no choice. It may be ugly early - and we're playing good teams early. Through January, we may not be a very good team. The point is, by the end of the year, we have the talent, the size, the toughness, the skill set. How do we get each individual being at their best? How do we bring this team together? That's the challenge of this."
On how he meshes so many alpha males ... "We don't have as many as you think. This team will have maybe two. That's OK. And what happens is, when you have multiple (alpha males), which we had on my team two years ago, different guys can lead at different points in the year. There are times where a guy's not playing well or he's not into it; there's something happening, he's sick. Well, he steps back and someone else steps forward. When you don't have that alpha male at all, you have to do things to try to lead yourself as a coach, and your team can never have the type of success you want. You try to figure out who that could be or who could step up. A lot of times they are who they are in that regard - those guys who will step up and hold and push the group and not be afraid. That's what you're looking for when you have a good team."
On what he learned from last season ... "First of all, you have to have more than eight scholarship players. You may ask why I did that. Because I was trying to protect players in the program. What you learn is you can't protect the players. You can't protect them from competition. You bring in your group, and the guys that understand competition, that brings out the best. They strive and they get better. They don't have to play 30 minutes a game to reach their dreams. And so why I did it, if I had to do it over again, we probably would have had a couple more players. By not having a couple more players, guys were put in positions that you have to play, and it's hard to change guys when they're in that mode. My wife and I talked about it. I don't have any regrets where I gave guys more than one chance to make it and it hurt our team. Like, `Why didn't you leave this guy there and why didn't you just tell him beat it? You're not good enough. We're going to put you in.' Because it's about each individual player, and I can tell you that guys got the full season to prove themselves and do what they were going to do. I told my staff, if I'm going err, it's going to be on the side of the player. `Well, the program's got to go (first) and this kid's got to go.' That's all good, but if it were your son, what would you want me to do? So if I err, it'll be on the side of the player, which sometimes hurts the program. Now, it's not how we've all been brought up to do this; it's how I do it. And so, there were some things that went on that I should have changed this and this, but I was giving guys that opportunity. And Ellen and I said it: You can live without regrets. It may have hurt you for a season, but what's it doing to you? Nothing. But that young man had every chance to do what he was supposed to do to change it and do it. If he wasn't willing or wasn't able, now we know and we move on, but he got that full shot. I will tell you again, can you imagine if all four guys put their names in the draft. We would have had four first-rounders. Do you know what that means? This is about the players. This is about them getting better. Can you imagine that? Now you might say however you want to say why, but that's a fact. The guys coming back should have come back. The guys that put their name in the draft, I'm going to do everything in my power to help them. We're not changing how we do that."
How do you handle the overwhelming expectations ... "I'm not hearing that at all, but I can imagine that's out there. It's probably because people are really rooting for us to do well (sarcasm). So that's probably part of the reason is they want us to do so well that they're putting that out there to help us build this team right. I don't buy into any of that. If anybody thinks this is easy, we've got a lot of coaches that have taken players that are elite players and it hadn't worked out because it's hard. What we do here is hard. It's not the normal thing that goes on. Do I like it? No. Do I wish kids would stay two or three years? Absolutely. I'm still trying to do things to get that rule changed so that we at least encourage them to stay two years by doing things that make it possible for them to stay two years or three. If they stay two with the summer, they're close to being graduated. They'll be a little more than a year (away). Jodie Meeks is coming back now to finish up now. I don't know if you saw that we had a 3.4 team GPA. That's ridiculous. 3.4! Twelve guys over a B average; twelve out of 13; ten out of 10 guys that have gone through the program (that have graduated). How about this: 25 out of 25 who have gone through the program either going pro or finishing the term, 25 out of 25 (have graduated or gone to the pros). We call it the success rate here. It's a different situation. We're not working on the 25-year-old model here. It's different. It makes people mad when you talk about it because `you're not about academics; you're a basketball factory.' We had a 3.4 GPA. We've had 10 players graduate. We've had two players come back (and graduate). We have two more players coming back to finish up. Twenty-five out of 25 players have either gotten their degrees or gone on to play pro basketball. That's the success rate. It drives you crazy. `Can't be. It's a conspiracy. It starts right up with the governor.' But that's the numbers. It's a fact. And so here we are trying to do everything. I talked to you guys about that. When you're at Kentucky, you're held to a different standard. Things that go on at other campuses can't go on here. It just can't."
On challenging his team to go 40-0 and pressure ... "No, I won't. There will be things out there that will be we're chasing perfection, we're chasing greatness, we're chasing things that have never been done in the history of our game. Well, what I like about that, people say, `Pressure!' Pressure brings out the best. `You're going to be fired if you don't get this done. You're not going to make it if you don't get this.' It wakes you up earlier in the morning. I don't mind a little pressure. I've had it my whole career. I've had a gun to my head for 20-something years, and you know what? I'm at my best when the gun is to my head versus where I can kick back and I'm not as good. And you know what? Players are the same. Now, I'm not saying if we lose a game it's not a successful season. No, but you're chasing greatness. What's wrong with that? `Well, we want to talk moment to moment and we're not putting that on the kids.' Well, we are. Any pressure on these kids when they come here? It's on us. Now, it won't be something where it's the forefront thing we talk about, but there will be things out there that they'll see. It's like we were at UMass, and one of the kids said, `Let's go undefeated.' He said it, not me. You know who our first game was that year? Kentucky in Detroit. Then we played Maryland and Florida. Our fourth game of the year was Wake Forest. Who was on that team? Oh, that (Tim) Duncan kid. Then we played (Boston College) in Boston. And then we played Syracuse, North Carolina State, Southern (California). Then we played Louisville. But guess what guys? They said it. I didn't say it. That's the first time that ever... I looked at the guy, `What are you? You need drug tested? What are you talking about? We play Kentucky our first game. They're the No. 1 team in the country.' Well, you want them in a mentality that they can win every game. It's hard to. It's never been done in the modern era."
On what makes what they do at Kentucky "hard" ... "Having 55 media show up for a summer... you know... I don't even know what this is. It's being here. Everyone is someone's Super Bowl. I say it and you all know it's true. They're storming the court and they're going nuts. You know, I've had... (Notre Dame coach) Mike Brey and I are friends; he apologized for them storming the court. I said, `Mike, its part of the college experience. You beat Kentucky, you storm the court. They'll remember that the rest of their lives.' Well, think about that. Think about that. The game at Indiana, how many people will have seen that in person? Oscar (Combs), how many? Four hundred thousand? `I was there.' `Really? There are four hundred thousand people that saw that in person and chased the court?' You're beating Kentucky. I come back to it's not for everybody. It's just not."
On how deep his team will be next year ... "Well, not deep at every position, but we've got a lot of good players and just figuring out who's who. What I like is there's going to be competition. Some guys are going to play and some guys are not going to play. Who? No one's been promised anything. It's just how it is. They're going to have to compete with each other and you're not going to play 13 guys. We all know that. We'll probably play eight or nine guys. Well what does that mean? Well, let's do the math. If you play eight or nine, that means four or five aren't playing much. `Well, who are those four or five?' That will be decided when we're playing basketball. Will we play different? Absolutely. We'll press more. We'll foul more because that's the way the game's going. Now they're saying all this stuff about the charge/block and we're not going to let the fouling go. Do you really believe that? You watch the games. The more you foul, the more you shoot free throws. I don't understand how that works. So, we're going to press and play more physical and bump and grind and we'll put our arms in the air and hip-check guys. That's how we're going to play. Now we have numbers. Again, my philosophy has always been six fouls is all you want to have in a half because you shoot one-and-ones. We're not playing to foul. But now, we have numbers, we'll play more to our team and how this team needs to play."
On how important the summer is to getting a team together ... "June 1st (is) when they get here, it's the whole process of earning their way. Earning their way into single rooms, earning their way into the locker room. Trying to make this an earned process. No one is giving anything here. You're going to earn your way. We're doing some things a little different with this group. Probably, our season ended probably earlier than I can ever remember one of our seasons ending. We did more at the end of this year... I'll be honest with you. We've never done postseason stuff because we were always to the last week of the season and then they had finals and then they went home. Well, this year, they had four weeks. I would hope that what they went through they don't ever want to go through again so we better extend the season just so we don't have to face that."
On how Willie Cauley-Stein changed his mindset ... "You know what I love the most? He hated school. He'd have told you, `I hate school.' And I appreciate an honest guy. You know what he said by the end of the year? `I'm kind of loving this. I'm good now. The school part of it I'm liking.' Well, part of what we have to do is not only the love of basketball, you've got to find out who loves playing the sport. They're just big so they were supposed to play, so they play. When you find those guys, you run from them. But believe me, they're at every level of basketball. The second thing is you're trying to create a love of learning. Reading books, the things that Willie, because he did not like school, he and I had books that we read together. I'd get him a book. He'd read it and I'd read it and I'd ask him questions about it. It's more than just... These kids are young kids. They're 18. It's your own child learning to crawl, learning to walk, learning to talk right, learning to be mannered, socially learning their way. What makes these kids different? `Well, they're bigger.' `Really? So now a kid is 6-10 so he's different than your own child?' That's why I say the patience of this, the galvanizing that we have to do, keeping people away from them because the people in their ear truly only care about that person, not our team or the other guys. They like the other guys, but they don't like them as much as they like you. So, that stuff is going to be part of this too."
On how the college game needs fixing ... "I like the start; the charge/block. You know what I've said. It's the most ridiculous thing. The guy goes to shoot a ball and guy slides under and they say, `Well, he was still, his little toe was still on the ground when he was going shoot it, and that guy was now set.' That's crazy. So the first step is that. And the other step is calling the fouls. Just call them all. If the team wants to foul on every possession, call a foul on every possession. Then they go through the team, they'll play a game with three players, and you start changing. It happened in the NBA. The hand checking, I was there. You either change or... now, freedom of motion, it's important. You're dribbling the ball up the court and a guy hits you, now they're saying that's going to be called a foul. Boom, boom, I make a move and you boom me, that's a foul because of my freedom of motion. If I pass it and cut through the lane and you hit me, it's an automatic foul. If they make those calls, you'll see the game. We could go to a 15 second shot clock; you won't get a shot off because you get fouled on every possession. You could have a 45 second shot clock. It really doesn't matter. It is us, as coaches teaching, and the officials making the calls and being held to that standard.
On losing out on Andrew Wiggins ... "I'm as confident before and after his decision, and I wish him well. He's a great kid, and he's going to be a terrific basketball player. It didn't change me any. I was confident in this team and the group that we had before and after."
On how Alex Poythress would have been perceived differently at a different school ... "Because the standards here are higher and that's why kids come here. He has nothing to do with anything other than, now you have a competitive spirit going because it's you and a guy every day in practice. And it's going to bring out the best in him. Believe me, he wants to do well. I don't believe I can tell individuals if they got a 4.0 (GPA), I can't say those things but he did well academically. I mean, so, I mean he is a conscientious kid, this overwhelmed him, it overwhelmed him. You think of yourself, if I put you in there, it wouldn't overwhelm you? There are kids that come here that take longer. I mean, I always say, it doesn't matter to me if you take one, two, three or four years. Does it really matter? I just want you to get it so you're ready to go on and have success. Some kids, Terrence Jones it took two years. Darius (Miller) took four years. Now you look at Darius, do you know what they say? Anthony Davis told me, `coach you won't believe this, we play Darius Miller as a stopper on defense.' Think about that. So, you know, he's tougher now, he's more aggressive. I watched him in the gym in there, he makes every shot now. Well, he was now ready to go on to have success. One year, two year, three year, Alex it has taken a little more time and if it takes another year, what's the problem? What if it takes him three or four years? What's the problem? Well, we're not on the 25-year-old model here and if you don't make it in two or three years, what's wrong with you? What? The only kids held to that standard are here. We've probably done it to ourselves but..."
On former players coming back this summer and how much it will help the new guys ... "Well they're probably going to get on these guys; they don't want to go through what last year meant to them. You have to understand, in the NBA or in the workplaces, everyone knows they went to Kentucky or played at Kentucky. Everyone knows. Everyone in the building is hoping Kentucky loses so they can go up to that guy and say, `how your boys doing? What you think is going to happen next?' Those guys want none of that so they're going to come back and probably challenge these guys. You have an obligation, the history and tradition of this place, understand what it means. And that will be great for our guys coming back. When we do the Fantasy Experience, we're going to probably have a bunch of those guys back and do something that we'll announce later. You know, the camps are as crazy as ever. Doing satellite camps around the state, I think the overnight camp is just about sold out. I think the satellite camps... the father-son is crazy, the ProCamps are... you know, it's all... but that's where we bring those guys. The Fantasy Experience, we'll do something, we have some funs things, not ready to announce them yet but there are some things we're going to do with former players that I think our fans will go nuts over. That stuff is in September. I think it's great for them to come back, it's more or less, do you understand what it means to be here and what you're going to have to do. When Anthony and Michael (Kidd-Gilchrist) can take the fifth and fourth most shots, does it really matter how many times you shoot the ball? They're the 1 and 2 pick in the (NBA) Draft. What's your deal? Do you want to get 20 shots in a game or are you worried more about your growth as a player to put you in a position to do special things? Those are great lessons when those guys come back."
On the newcomers saying they thought they were so competitive they could see themselves fighting each other ... "Yep, I've had that in teams and it's, the thing is, when they walk off the court, it's got to end right there. And I've had teams that laugh about it. When, you know, practice is over, hard screen somebody, the guy comes up pushing and shoving and it has to be broken up, yeah, there is a competitive spirit. And I think what it does is, it will drag us to where we're trying to go. I'm going to tell you; two years ago we did not have a bad practice. Not one. So that led us to building a swagger and a confident level that we knew we could win every game we play, we just, let's be at our best and if we weren't and someone got us, fine, next game."
On what Andrew Harrison brings to the point guard position ... "Great size, great ability to get to the rim, great skill level with the ball. He has a mentality of a point guard where he'll get everybody involved. But again, we've got to learn more, I've got to get him here and say, `OK, what is exactly the best way for him to play?' Because your point guard has got to score also, which he does. I think the dribble-drive and pick-and-roll for him, he plays with great pace already, is really going to be good for him."
On honoring Bill Keightley with a non-conference tournament named after him ... "Well again, Bill, you know what kind of legacy he left here. Selflessness, he was about everybody else, could make anybody in the room feel like he was his best friend. I think we just, keeping that legacy going. But the history of this program for our fans, you know I love the fact that Coach (Joe B.) Hall has a statue out front. That Coach (Adolph) Rupp is revered the way he is here, it should be. This is one of those kinds of programs."
On advice he gave Archie Goodwin ... "We gave him the information. What was out there, what we were told. We sat down and talked to him and he came back and said, `I want to put my name in the draft.' We said, `great, let's go for it.' I'm not going to sit here give you everything that I said or my opinion because I don't think it's fair but, you know, they get everything they need and whatever decision they make, you want to come back? Great. You want to go? Great, let's make this work. I've been on the phone right now with probably five or six NBA teams about Archie. You think about it, basically if you draft him, he's 18-years old; you're getting a high school player. The old days, when a high school player could come out, that's what you're getting. So you may have players in that draft that are four years older than him. Think about what I'm saying, three years older than him. The whole point with him is where do you project him? Now would it have been better for him and maybe us if I had played him at point from the start of the year? Maybe, maybe but at his age they're going to have the chance to mold him as a wing guard, a point guard, whatever they want him to be. Workouts will be important for him but I think he'll do fine because he's just - if you have a good attitude and you truly have a huge work capacity, like a Brandon Knight or like Archie, you're going to be fine. Now there may be bumps in the road and all that, you will be fine. So he'll be fine, someone is going to take him in a good position and he'll be fine."