UK Basketball: Calipari says his team has a 'bunch of good guys'
Kentucky coach John Calipari says he has a ¿bunch of good guys¿ on his team that have to learn how to play without Nerlens Noel, something UK couldn¿t do in its 30-point loss at Tennessee Saturday. (Victoria Graff / February 19, 2013)
“First of all, let’s go to the context. During a game, on the bench, there are a lot of things I say that, if a guy is not listening, is not playing rough enough, isn’t coming up with 50-50 balls. There’s a lot of things I say,” said Calipari on the Southeastern Conference coaches’ teleconference. “But this team is a team of a bunch of good guys. They want to do well.
“Some of this is overwhelming. We just lost our best player (Nerlens Noel). And why a guy wouldn’t listen or why he is going out and not doing what we ask him to do, we’re just trying to say, ‘Hey man, listen to what we’re saying. You can’t play the way you’re playing.’ But like I said, I’ve got a group of good kids. We are very young. We are treading new water.
“It wasn’t like a postgame tirade. That’s not what this was. This was during the game that we’re talking about. Guys got to listen better.”
He’s continuing to tell his players that the important thing now is how they bounce back from the debacle. He noted that Ohio State, a top 25 team, got bashed by Wisconsin and could have mentioned the beatdown former No. 1 Michigan recently took at¿Michigan State.
“I’ve done this 20-something years. It’s about your response. Do you take responsibility for how you’re playing, and let’s begin to understand how we have to play? But see, there is something added here. We just lost our best player with six, seven games to go. Now we have to go on the road, play an inspired Tennessee team who played great, as good as any team we’ve played this year,” Calipari said. “They played great.
“We’re trying to figure out who we are, and it becomes what it becomes there. Now, we’re coming back saying let’s figure out how we have to play with this new group. We had to go through a game to figure it out. Some of the stuff we were running with the old team we are going to have to run a little different.
“It doesn’t take away from what we’ve done before this, but now there is maybe things we have to do defensively that are different. We have been a good defensive team all year until this last game. And so now, OK, maybe we are going to have to do this a little different. But it’s like hey guys, we’re still where we want to be. You got bashed, now take responsibility and let’s move on.”
Florida coach Billy Donovan said he did not “see one second” of UK’s loss because Florida had its own game to worry about. However, he remembers the way Arkansas jumped on his team two weeks ago to give the Gators their first SEC loss.
“They played a great basketball game and had us down by a lot of points,” Donovan said. “The biggest thing is how you’re motivating your team. Obviously John knows what he’s doing, knows his team better than anybody. He’s a heck of a coach and he understands the direction he needs to take the team. He understands roles, personnel and how guys need to play.
“I think more than anything else, to me the bottom line in all this stuff from game to game is: Are you getting better? You want to get better and you want to improve however you do that. Whether it’s through a difficult loss, if it’s through guys being overconfident after a great win, trying to get them focused on where they need to improve and get better. If John feels like coming through that situation at Tennessee could be used as a motivating factor, I’m sure that he’s got great reason to believe that and I think he’ll get that point across to his team however he chooses to do that.”