- Mississippi State Bulldogs - January 17, 2017 - 7:00 PM EST - Humphrey Coliseum, Starkville, Miss. - ESPN
John Calipari was Tom Leach’s first guest on his new slot at 9 a.m. on Monday. It was also the first time people in Lexington could hear “The Leach Report” on WLAP AM-630.
I caught the second half of the interview and decided to provide a few notes from it. If I happen to get my hands on a podcast later, I’ll update the post with the first portion.
- Leach asked Calipari what he’s hoping to get out of the first exhibition game Wednesday night against Transylvania. Calipari said he’s trying to figure out where they are right now. “I know we’re behind defensively and I accept that because that’s what I’ve done and normally do,” Coach Cal said. “I want the offense, early on, to be ahead of the defense. I think the defense can catch up. The reason I want the offense ahead of the defense is I want them to feel good playing. I want them to feel good playing against each other. I want them excited about coming to practice. And then I start really zeroing in (on defense) and we’ve begun that process, but it takes time. We’re a long team. We should eventually be a good defensive team, rebounding team, but right now we’re not.”
- Calipari acknowledged after the Blue-White Scrimmage that getting Marquis Teague to understand the pace, of when to push it and when to pull it back, is a work in progress. Coach Cal expanded on those thoughts a little bit on Monday: “He’s recognizing defenses better than any of my other point guards at this stage,” Calipari said. “He picks up the weak-side defender better than any of them at this stage. The pace of the game is what he’s got to learn. In other words, (if) they’ve got five people back there, there’s no reason to rush now. (If) that court is open, there is a reason to rush. If they’re spread out back there, there’s a reason to rush. Pace of game is so important. Brandon (Knight), when he figured that pace of game out last year, he took his game to another level and took our team to another level.”
- Coach Cal still isn’t sure how this team is going to play. He said they’re trying to figure out the best way to get into the Dribble Drive Motion Offense, how to get into the offense if the opposition denies their initial look and how to post the ball. Until he sees his team against another team, Calipari said he really won’t know. He said they might like something now, but they may realize it’s not going to work when they play a team like Kansas. “We change,” Calipari said. “I’m not sold on any one system. I do know I want my team to play harder than the opponent. I want them to play unselfish, play off one another, be a great defensive team, and fly up and down the court from offense to defense and defense to offense. Short of that, the Dribble Drive, we’ll attack and do all those things, but how we get into it, how much we use it depends on the personnel.”
- You’ve heard this before, but Calipari reiterated that Terrence Jones’ transformation is due to his work ethic. “I think he watched the draft and he knew, ‘I didn’t work last year.’ He knew what he did,” Calipari said. Calipari said Jones is in the best shape of anyone on the team.
- Sunday we provided you with an inside look at the dominating scrimmage performances Jones and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist put together at practice. Here is what Calipari had to say about their efforts: “Yesterday, what I did was I put (Jones) and Mike Gilchrist away from the other guys, so they were by themselves on (the second team). They beat the first group. Those two beat the first group. … I’ve switched other guys over there and the first group killed the second group. Today I’m going to switch two other guys over there. The challenge now has been thrown down. We’re going to go over there and we’re going to beat you. The competitive spirit of Michael and Terrence was unbelievable. They were winning. They were going to win. That’s what you have to build here.”
On a completely unrelated note, below is a … well, interesting picture from Sunday’s night’s Kentucky-Transylvania tip-off dinner at the Keeneland Entertainment Center.
Calipari has already had his likeness cut into a corn maze, but this one might be more bizarre. The tip-off dinner, which was hosted by Transy, featured Calipari and Transylvania head coach Brian Lane as flower pots. Yes, you read that right. See for yourself below.
Sunday night notes: Cal on the radio; conference rankings