Coach Cal’s pre-Tennessee media opportunity

Kentucky head coach John Calipari met with the media Monday afternoon to preview the Wildcats’ upcoming game against Tennessee. If the video stream above does not work, please click this link. As always, video is provided by Kentucky Wildcats TV, and a complete transcript of Coach Cal’s comments is posted below.

No. 13/11 Kentucky (20-5, 10-2 Southeastern Conference) hosts Tennessee (14-11, 6-6 SEC) on Tuesday at 7 p.m. on ESPN. The Wildcats lost their first game of the conference schedule on Jan. 24 at Tennessee, 82-80. In that game, Kentucky shot just 41.7 percent from the field and were outscored 42-28 in the paint to the undersized Volunteers. Tennessee senior guard Robert Hubbs III scored 25 points and grabbed seven rebounds in 36 minutes.

Coach Cal

On how the “reboot” is affecting the team …
“They’ve been good. There’s still things that we have to work on, and I’m spending time right now watching tape when we’re up 18, 20, 25, 16 that we get back those points. So I spent yesterday breaking all that down and coming up with ideas because they’re not going to fix stuff on their own. It’s just not what they do. And so we’re going to work on some of that today and continue on the defense and continue on the ball movement, and the, I told you, it took us three weeks to get where we were. It’s not happened overnight. I don’t want them to get away. Let me put it this way: They went from one shot, no shot to probably a little too much grind out against Alabama. We have to be somewhere in the middle, but they proved that they could play that way if they had to, which is good.”

On what he sees big leads getting smaller …
“A bunch of stuff that we’re going to work on. I feel comfortable that, and it’s not just defense, it’s both sides of the ball and we’ll get better.”

On if it’s a mental problem or physical problem with the team …
“No, I think it’s as much technical as it is mental. Like, they’ve got to have a plan. OK, you’re up 18, here’s how we gotta play. They don’t know. Today we met in the morning with some film stuff and I asked the guy, ‘Why didn’t you do this?’ He said, ‘I didn’t know I was supposed to.’ Not his fault. If he doesn’t know then we’ve got to teach him. They’re starting to take more responsibility. At some point someone is going to say, ‘I’m not playing well and this is on me.’ I’m not sure they’re ready for that yet, but they’ll start moving in that direction. The more they take on responsibility, the more it’s what they have to do together to better for all of us.”

How he feels about playing the team again that started the downward slide …
“Well, they’re good. I mean, I watched the Georgia game and they should’ve won that game, too. I mean, they’re running they’re stuff. They’re a matchup problem for everybody. Rick (Barnes) is doing an unbelievable job, which he always does, getting his teams ready to battle and play. Whether you play man or zone, he’s got a good answer.”

On Isaiah Briscoe’s decision making …
“He’s been better. We still – the energy and some of the other things that we need are just – you know, and it’s you can’t try to cure everything. You’re going one thing, let’s get this right. Let’s get this right. What I’m encouraged about is down the line where this team should be, here in a couple more weeks. And that’s, you know – they want to do it. They’re trying. Good group of kids that, you know, do some things that I shake my head at.”

On if he’s identified things they’re doing down the stretch to give up big leads …
“Yeah, I did. I came up with some ideas. I don’t like – I don’t walk into a room and have people tell me, ‘This is what I think it is.’ Why don’t we just watch the six games, or the five games? Watch it and go away. They’ll leave and think, what, ‘OK, now tell me what you think it is.’ You don’t throw things out that were working and you don’t make up the reasons, you just – so I watched those on an airplane and came back with a pretty good idea of how I want to attack it. And we’ll do some of it today and then we’ll go Wednesday and Thursday and Friday before we go to Georgia.”

On if they were pretty consistent …
“Yeah. Yeah.”

On if you’re a Basketball Benny, will you notice the changes …
“If you watched it, you’d probably have a good idea. You’d have to watch it though. You can’t just write about it and give your opinion. Which is sometimes your hope, not your opinion. Did you get that? Some of you just don’t get that.”

On if he gets frustrated again rewatching the game tape of the previous game vs. Tennessee …
“No, because I’m trying to fix things. I’m not – I’m not blaming. I’m not throwing kids under, ‘They should this. What are? You know.’ They are what they are.”

On what he believes is the major issue facing his team right now …
“Just learning how to play in situational basketball. You know, you think about it, the fast team that we had in 2012, we were fast. This team could be faster. But, how did we play in the championship game? What was the final score? (It was) 67-59. And it was only because we were shooting fouls at the end. That game was in the low 60s because we had to be in the low 60s to win the game. I mean, I saw where it was going. I didn’t like it. I slowed it – slow down. Let’s just play and grind these dudes a little bit. You gotta be able to do both. But, our speed is a weapon. And you gotta use your weapons. You gotta use open court, driving to get to the rim. You know, we’re a good 3-point shooting team. Use your weapons, yet you’re going to play somebody that makes you play half court. You gotta be able to do it. So a lot of our issues are situational. There’s no in – anything within that’s an issue. I mean, it’s just that they don’t know. I’m trying to put a lot of this on, ‘Alright, let me spread this thing out a little bit between staff. Let me tell these guys my job is in practice, your job is in the game.’ As they went through it, I don’t know – look, you can sit there and go crazy when they give up a lead or you can figure out, ‘Why are they doing this?’  Because we’ve done it five times. Top 25 and all of the sudden you’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, we could lose this.’ If we haven’t talked about it, we haven’t really worked on it and shown them – you can’t blame them. Dudes are in high school six months ago. Trying to play what we’re doing against veteran teams?”

On difference in De’Aaron Fox in the past few games …
“Well, you know, he was sick and that zapped him a little bit and I think he will be fine. The biggest issue if you look is the way he played the ball and bothered the ball and defended. He looked like Tyler Ulis. He backed up a little bit off that. That’s the No. 1 weapon he has. And then the second weapon is his speed. Those are effort things. Those aren’t, you know. You gotta do that first.”

On if that’s a case of trying to save energy …
“No. I think it is easier just trying to do something crazy and if you make that day you can go one out of five plays. I have had guys that way. First he is grinding and pushing, do it and go. I am going to make one really fabulous play and that will keep everybody off my neck for three, four minutes vs. the day to day. I am not shock and awe. That is not how I coach. I am not show time. Our thing is every day we are doing the same drills. Every day we are trying to get better. It’s the grind of this. Those plays happen just in the flow of the game that you do something crazy because you’re that good. You don’t have to play to do something crazy. Just play. But again, I am happy with what these guys are trying to do and I am getting a better mental picture of where this team needs to be. and unless we had gone through some of the stuff we went through, I probably would’ve been fooled. So, I think we are moving in the right direction. ”

On NCAA looking to reset fouls after the 10-minute mark on experimental basis …
“Never heard of it. Don’t, don’t know enough about it to even respond.”

On Fox and Bam Adebayo’s status after yesterday’s car accident …
“I was on an airplane and landed and then before I get back on, ‘Are your guys OK?’ What? They were in a fender bender that some – they were passengers in a car that were in a fender bender. I was meeting with De’Aaron before I left and he came in and I didn’t even ask him because everybody said yeah, they’re fine. Nothing happened. I mean, like, but you’re Kentucky. It’s on the ticker. What is on the ticker? You know what was on the ticker two nights ago? What Ellen and I had for dinner. It’s crazy. I mean, what in the world?”

On if he celebrates Valentine’s Day …
“Do I celebrate Valentine’s Day? You reminded me so I will probably get her flowers. I didn’t know it was Valentine’s Day tomorrow but I usually get her flowers or a card or something – or sometimes I have someone else get it because I forgot. You helped me.”

On how many players he’s comfortable drawing up a play for a shot late in the game like he did with senior forward Derek Willis at Alabama …
“I’m pretty comfortable. We’ve done it with different players on here, on the team. Gotta be able to make foul (shots) in case you get fouled. We’re still a work in progress. I know Malik (Monk), we rank something for him. I put De’Aaron Fox in pick-and-rolls against Mississippi State because I was comfortable with him making those plays. He did it. He’s gotta figure out the rebounding at the defensive end: How are we going to do this to survive? And Wenyen (Gabriel) the same: How are you going to do this to survive? We’re still, again – we’re still experimenting. I don’t know if you watched. Most of you don’t. But we played pick-and-roll defense with Isaac (Humphries) a little different. You have no idea what I’m talking about, which I like. But we played it different, and we’re trying different things so the kids, we can see what they’re able to do. You can’t ask a kid to do something he’s not capable of doing. You just can’t do it. You just gotta keep figuring it out – or you don’t play them. That’s your option. Figure it out with them or don’t play them. Don’t put them in there where they’re not capable of doing what you’re asking. I put Derek Willis in that play to get him that shot because I know he’s capable of making that. There are other guys that I would not put them in that play because they’re capable but I’m not sure they’re very confident that they can make that play. I love what Kenny (Payne) is doing right now. Kenny is watching. If a player is not playing with confidence either on defense or offense, he’s out. Kenny’s just taking him out. So you either play with confidence or you’re coming out. So what do that mean? You play with confidence. You can miss a shot confidently. Miss a shot, confidently play defense. But if you’re out there and you don’t breathe – you don’t breathe for four minutes at a time – well, you shouldn’t be out there. Be confident. Get yourself in practice. Work on it. Walk in that game knowing I want to play and I’m going to play confident. So there are some things we’re working on and doing. We’ll see.”

On if Payne just takes them out or he tells Cal …
“Either. He’ll say something to me or he’ll say, ‘Get them out.’ So we’re trying a little bit of everything.”