Kicking off his tour for his new book, “Players First: Coaching from the Inside Out,” John Calipari appeared on CBS This Morning on Monday to talk about the book and reveal one of the “tweaks” that helped turn around UK’s season late in the year.
Though the first tweak is what many of you suspected it was — simplifying Andrew Harrison’s game and getting him to pass more — it’s still interesting to hear Coach Cal talk about it and confirm it with hosts Charlie Rose, Gayle King and Norah O’Donnell.
And for what it’s worth, the tweak certainly worked. Before the tweak, Andrew Harrison averaged 3.5 assists per game. In the nine games after the tweak, he averaged 5.4 assists per game.
Check out the transcript below:
Charlie Rose: Take us to the last game. What happened?
John Calipari: Connecticut’s guard play was so good and they were so active, it affected us. But I had all freshmen. And, you know, I tried to minimize the game for them. It’s not that big a game. Well, it was.
Rose: How did you use tweaks?
Calipari: The tweaks I—
Gayle King: That you’ve been keeping a secret.
Calipari: Well, the reason I didn’t say, I didn’t want everybody to say, ‘Well, we’ve got to stop that.’ But what we did is I was trying to make the game easier for Andrew Harrison, my point guard. I got tapes of Deron Williams, who averaged nine assists throughout his career in the NBA. We had a game where he had 11 assists and I showed Andrew and I said, ‘Look at this. Let’s watch. Would you have passed or shot?’ He said, ‘I would have shot.’ ‘Would you have passed or shot?’ Well, Deron was throwing balls to everybody. And so I said, ‘Monday, you will not shoot one basketball. You will pass. We’re going to run less plays. You will create shots. We will chart. We’re not telling our team.’ He comes in and has 26 assist attempts. Twenty-six assists that Monday. I’m mad the whole practice because it’s changed my team. Why didn’t I do it earlier? And then I apologized to him, I apologized to the team and I said, ‘I messed this up, make me look good now.’ And it changed. He had nine assists in our first game. This was late in the season now, right before the SEC Tournament.”
King: So John, those tweaks worked. It was interesting to hear one of your players saying, “I hated Coach Cal for the first three years.” And then in the book you tell your guys, “Playing for me is going to be one of the hardest things you’ve ever done.” And then you ask them if it’s harder than they thought and everybody raises their hand. You want it to be difficult for these guys.
Calipari: Well, here’s what they say: “Coach, keep it real.” But then when you keep it real with them they’re like, “Well, keep it real with the other guy, not me.” Because you have to be honest. And we’re moving at a pace that is so fast that you don’t have time to just—look, they know I love them. They know I hug them. My wife is their mother away from home. But, this stuff is hard.
Rose: I want to know how you recruit them. What is it about you that gets them. You had four of the best players coming out of high school last year?
Calipari: The biggest thing is I say it’s not for everybody. I’m not going to sit here and paint a picture that’s not true. I’m not going to promise you that you’re getting all the shots or minutes or starting positions. And if you want to score 30 a game, you’re not coming with us because everyone on the team can play. And everybody has goals and aspirations. And when you figure out it’s about team, sacrificing, less is more, be your brother’s keeper, you will be better.
Rose: Who would you rather have as a coach: a great recruiter or a great coach?
Calipari: You better have both because the only way that you can be a great recruiter is that they are results. Players are getting better.
King: You say that you don’t promise playing time; you promise opportunity.
Calipari: Right. But here’s the thing: If a young man is getting developed and you all see it, then you’ll say, ‘I want my son to go there because he develops players. He doesn’t hold them back.’ Here’s the issue we have right now: Young people in college basketball, our players, think that if they stay more than one year they failed. Where did that come from? This one-and-done, the connotation is so bad we came up with “Succeed and Proceed.” When you succeed – may be one year, two years, three years, four – I’ve had guys stay one year, two years. We’ve had guys graduate and be in the NBA, both.
O’Donnell: John, I want to you on, you compare the NCAA bureaucracy to the old former Soviet Union.
Calipari: Probably not the best way of putting it.
O’Donnell: But specifically, what reform needs to be made?
Calipari: Well, there’s a couple things. I think if we all look back and say, “What are we doing for these young people? How are we making this better?” A cost of attendance, there’s no question some of these kids (need it). You had (Shabazz) Napier we’re starving at night. We have food issues we need to deal with. There’s a lot of things. It’s all based on the kids.
Next up for Coach Cal is the Dan Patrick Show.
Here’s Calipari’s media schedule for the next few days. It only includes live TV and radio appearances. There will be several other taped media appearances over the next few weeks, including SI Now with Maggie Gray, the O’Reilly Factor with Bill O’Reilly and the Charlie Rose Show PBS-TV.
All times below are subject to change.
8-9 a.m. – CBS This Morning (CBS)
9:30-9:45 a.m. – Dan Patrick Show (Fox Sports Net)
2:22-2:32 p.m. – Rome with Jim Rome (CBS Sports Network)
4:15-4:45 p.m. – Mike Francesa Show (WFAN-AM)
(all of Tuesday’s appearances are on ESPN’s family of networks)
9 a.m. — Mike and Mike in the Morning
10:20 a.m. – The Mike Lupica Show
10:40 a.m. – First Take
11:20 a.m. – SportsCenter
1:30 p.m. – ESPN.com chat
2:30 p.m. – SVP and Russillo
3:10 p.m. – Paul Finebaum Show
3:45 p.m. – Sedano and Stink
4 p.m. – Freddie Coleman
4:15 p.m. The Michael Kay Show
6:30-6:35 a.m. – Morning Joe (MSNBC)
7:40-7:50 a.m. – Squawk Box (CNBC)
Coach Cal to unveil tweaks on ‘CBS This Morning’