NEW ORLEANS — When he was coaching at Memphis, John Calipari had one of the nation’s premier players in current NBA star Derrick Rose. Now the Kentucky coach says there is one big similarity with UK freshman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
“He's like Derrick Rose in that he is harder on himself than anybody could be on him. I'll give you an example. After yesterday's game, he was like despondent, down. What? When I came to talk to you all, all you could talk about was the five points he got on his own to break open the game,” said Calipari Sunday. “I told him, ‘Everybody loves you except you. You got to love yourself. You got to be your biggest cheerleader.’
“He's one of those guys that defers. He takes the fifth most shots on our team, him and Anthony Davis. Doesn't say a word. Tell me what you have to do. Guards their best player. When the game is on the line, he attacks that basket like nothing I've ever seen. Has a will to win that's beyond the norm. Has a motor that moves. He wants it to be perfect. No one is perfect. You miss shots, you turn it over, miss a free throw, trip sometimes. Just how it is. That's the challenge of coaching him. Just get him to understand, ‘You be your own cheerleader.’”
Volunteer server: Calipari joked Sunday about joining the Kansas basketball staff first under Ted Owens and then Larry Brown.¿He related how he was told he would be a volunteer and the pay would be he got to live with an assistant coach and work at the training table to earn his meals. He also got to work the summer camp to earn some money.
“I would be in the (serving) line. Would you like peas or corn? Peas. Great. I served the baseball team, basketball team, football team. They had steak. I never had steak growing up,” Calipari said. “It was a great experience (at Kansas). I mean, I had no worries. Again, I met my wife there. I had great memories of Lawrence, Kansas.”
No title talk: Calipari all but stopped his players from sharing their thoughts on the NCAA interview podium Sunday about what winning a national title would mean to them.
“I'm going to tell you, we're not thinking about that. We're playing a basketball game. When the game's over, we're going to all look at each other and say, ‘What just happened? What does this mean?’ Right now, we're not,” Calipari said. “If you guys want to answer, go ahead. We're fine to answer it.”
Senior Darius Miller took the lead from his coach.
“Like coach said, we're just trying to play basketball right now. We're just trying to have fun with it all,” Miller said. “That's what we've been taking all tournament. We're looking at it as the next game. We're not trying to hype it up too much or anything like that. We're trying to play basketball. We're having fun with everything right now.”