John Calipari doesn’t mind lifting his voice to make a point. He’s just not used to doing it all the time.
The Kentucky coach is used to starting over each season, and has proven that he can win a national title with a roster of one-and-done talent. This time is different, though very different.
Northwood at Rupp¿Arena Thursday night in the first of two exhibition games. “This is scratch¿scratch.”
Calipari did more “screaming” than sitting as he watched his team display the good, the bad and the ugly against Rollie Massimino’s squad that’s favored to win the NAIA national title this season. Although the outcome was never in doubt, Calipari continually used his vocal cords to get his point across to his squad individually and collectively.
“I was screaming the whole time,” he said. “I’m exhausted right now. I can’t coach that way. But I was on Alex (Poythress) every bounce of the ball to play, and Ryan (Harrow), just to make them play through possessions.”
His main emphasis is getting his team to understand the importance of competing beyond the many mistakes he observed against the Seahawks, and the ones that will magnify once he reviews the game film with his coaching staff.
“If you want to stay on the court, it’s not about missed shots or turnovers, it has nothing to do with that,” he said. “You can never say he takes me out every time I make a mistake, I can’t play, because I don’t do that. If you don’t sprint back, you’re coming out. If you’re not rough and the guy throws you out of the way, sit down, you’re not ready. If you don’t dive for a loose ball, if you don’t help a helper, if you’re standing there watching the play, you’re out. It has nothing to do with a missed shot or turnover. If a kid’s ego about starting is the biggest thing, maybe he shouldn’t have come to school here.”
Calipari’s fourth Kentucky team not only has required the Kentucky coach to yell more, but also has him analyzing potential lineups in order to find the right fit to fuel the team’s run for a second consecutive national championship. He used more than a dozen combinations in the exhibition opener and figures to do more tinkering before the season officially begins a week from today against Maryland.
“I’m tired because I’m thinking all the time,” he said. “My whole day is, ‘how do I do this?’ I’ve had more individual meetings to this point than I’ve had in the last three years because I’m having to build guys and feel guys (out) and challenge guys and some guys hug, some guys kick.”
One guy has even earned a spot in Calipari’s “book club.”
“He’s getting a book every two weeks that he’s got to read and tell me what’s on it because he’s messing around academically,” Calipari said. “So I said, well, good, you’re going to learn to love reading because you are going to read. You and I are reading the same books and we’re going to talk about what we’re reading. So all this stuff I do is not just on the court. On the court it’s the tough stuff, the challenge stuff. But I’ve got to do the other so they understand I care about them and I love them, I’m looking after them.”
Whether it’s yelling, screaming or reading a book, Calipari wants his players to succeed on and off the court.
UK Basketball: Calipari gets vocal in exhibition victory
Kentucky's Nerlens Noel listens to coach John Calipari during the second half of an exhibition game against Northwood in Lexington Thursday. Kentucky won 93-61