Kentucky head coach John Calipari joined the Southeastern Conference Coaches’ Teleconference on Monday morning to discuss his team’s draw in the NCAA Tournament, the SEC getting five teams in the Big Dance and working on building consistency with his young team.
Opening statement …
“They’re coming together. They’re buying into the defensive end. They’re riding a hot player and guys aren’t fighting it. Bam (Adebayo’s) getting better. De’Aaron (Fox) is getting better. Dom (Hawkins) and our bench, Wenyen (Gabriel) and Mychal (Mulder) and Isaac (Humphries, we’re coming together. We’re still not where we want to be, but we’re coming together and I’m pleased with all of them.”
On the SEC getting five teams in the NCAA Tournament …
“We all got to make sure we’re looking at the big picture of this. First of all, out of 32 leagues we’re the youngest in the country. Think about that. The youngest in the country. We are also, we had 11 teams in the top 100. We had, I thought it was seven, it may have been six teams in the top 50. We stay on that path we’re going to end up having seven, eight, maybe even nine teams in the NCAA Tournament. Advancing, let’s see. I remember there having, ‘Oh, this league is all this and this and this,’ and then of then of the seven teams six lost in the first or second round, one made it to the sweet 16 and got knocked off and then you say, ‘Well, how strong were they really?’ Because all these are numbers. This league, when you go on the road and play, it’s hard. If you win road games in this league, you’re a good team.
“I’m so disappointed for Mark Fox, who I just thought did the best job of coaching in our league, that they didn’t get in. The problem is they had to play us – we’re a pretty good team – to win and get in. That wasn’t fair. Their body of work was such that they could have been in. I thought Andy (Kennedy) did a great job with his team. Look, they had a lead on Arkansas.
“I just think we have to look in terms of hey, man, this is a young league that is as good as we’ve been in years. As good as we’ve been since I’ve been here. I mean, this is it, and we’re young. Our youngins are leaving, but that’s OK because I got the cavalry coming in behind. We’ll be alright, but we’ll be young again next year, probably the youngest we’ve been since 2014.”
On where the gap is when he says his team is coming together and “coalescing,” but still not where he wants it to be …
“More consistency. I don’t know what – what did you say? What was that word you used?”
“Yeah, I don’t know what that means.”
Reporter: “I don’t either, I just said it.”
“OK, OK. Sounded good though. But I would tell you that we’re just not doing it for 40 (minutes). We’re doing it for 30. There are things that we’re doing in games that are letting people hang around. And if you’re going to do something in this thing we’re walking into and you give a team hope, and it’s life or death, they’re coming out clawing. They’re coming out like a cornered animal. You can’t give them hope. We do that a lot. That’s where I say, we’re getting better, but what we’re doing we gotta try to do it for 40 minutes. Thirty-eight minutes. I would take 35 minutes, but right now we’re at like 30, sometimes less.”
On how much of that is a product of inexperience …
“Some of it is that. Some of it is habit. You can say experience, but not all experience is good now. I don’t want bad experience. That doesn’t help you at all. The experience is doing it on the court, creating new habits, whether you’re young or old, that are going to put you in a position to be more consistent in your effort, in your focus – are you locked in? – all those things that, when we are, we’re really good. When we’re not, we’re really bad. So, that’s what it is. But I’m pleased with where all these guys are at this point. Now, we just got to collectively be totally locked in for a game and when the game ends we talk about it.”
Replay: Bracket Preview Special show