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Cooler heads prevail with Cal and the Cats

ATLANTA — Tweak. Physical play. Shredding DVDs of old games. A different mindset.

You name it and the Kentucky Wildcats have done it this week to reverse the course of a second straight disappointing season.

But after Kentucky advanced to the 2014 Southeastern Conference Tournament championship game with a 70-58 victory over Georgia, the Wildcats suggested there may be something else to their recent change in play: A calmer John Calipari.

The foot-stomping, official-berating coach (Calipari may have his demonstrative in-game behavior to blame for his bad hip), who has jumped up and down on the sidelines this season like he’s 30 years old again, has taken a more serene approach over the last two games, and the Wildcats say it’s helped.

“He’s been more positive and just helping us,” Aaron Harrison said. “He’s going to have emotion of course, just like we all do, but I think he’s helped motivate us and bring us together.”

Calipari vowed to take a more positive approach with his team after getting tossed in the South Carolina game and getting criticized by fans for his negative demeanor. He said he would do whatever it took to adapt to his players and do what they need from him, but the peaceful approach only appeared to last one game.

In the 19-point loss at Florida – a game that would have frustrated just about any coach – Calipari was back to his previous ways, coaching his team as hard as ever when things started to crumble.

John Calipari has been noticeably more encouraging with his team on the sidelines during the SEC Tournament this weekend. (photo by Chet White, UK Athletics)

Falling in line with the rest of his fresh-approach ideas this past week, Calipari is going with a more positive tone and guiding stance.

“I think he’s helping,” Aaron Harrison said. “He’s just being positive really. After those tough losses that we had, he was the one telling us that that doesn’t really matter and it’s just us. We just got to stay together and keep fighting.”

When Andrew Harrison drilled a 3-pointer late in the game, Calipari smiled at his point guard and gave him a high-five as he walked to the huddle.

Between the apologies to his team, taking responsibility for the regular-season’s shortcomings and now coaching more like his age, the Cats have obviously responded.

“He’s a very emotional coach,” Andrew Harrison said. “He’s like a warrior — he hates to lose. He’s like us, but at the same time, we’re young and we always have been. He was trying to get us to do that every time we stepped on the court.”

To bring you more expansive coverage, CoachCal.com and Cat Scratches will be joining forces for the postseason. You can read the same great stories you are accustomed to from both sites at CoachCal.com and UKathletics.com/blog, but now you’ll enjoy even more coverage than normal.