Share this:

John Calipari: Defense, rebounding keys to special season


It’s still 11 days until Kentucky plays its first exhibition game in the Bahamas and coach John Calipari continues to do nothing to lower expectations for this team.

“Had our first of 10 days of practice yesterday before the Bahamas. I continue to be impressed with this group’s toughness and work capacity,” Calipari posted on Twitter.

Kentucky fans are feeling that and much more about this team that is already considering one of the favorites to win the 2019 national championship.

“Got a lot done in two hours, including defense for the first time this summer. If we are going to be special, defense and rebounding will be the key. Lots of experimenting and lots of fun,” Calipari added on Twitter.

Calipari said the same thing about defense last year but it never quite worked that way.


  1. YEAR Def Adj Eff Calipari Era Rank
    2018 95.4
    2017 91.4
    2016 96.6
    2015 84.4
    2014 95.8
    2013 98.1
    2012 89.6
    2011 92.0
    2010 88.3

    Overall, the Calipari defenses have been trending in the wrong direction. Yes, 2015 is the outlier to this overriding trend, but 2015 was such an exceptional team, that there is really a major issue with its inability to finish the job against Wisconsin, as the two most reliable guards sat on the bench and the Harrison twins frittered the game away in the last 5 minutes (Coaching decision).

    Calipari is right that the upcoming team will not achieve as many expect unless it plays exceptional defense. However, he can make that same statement about every team he has fielded, and he would be equally right in each of those cases.

    The issue is what the meaning of “special defense” is. Consider the following:

    Three Calipari teams have had defenses under 0.90 points per possession, 2010, 2012, and 2015.

    Four Calipari teams had defensive efficiencies above 0.95 ppp, 2013, 2014, 2016, and 2018.

    The other two teams were between 0.91 and 0.92 ppp (2011 and 2017).

    Special defense is a defense less than 0.90 ppp. Good defense would be less than 0.925 ppp, and give me a big yawn for any defense that exceeds 0.95 ppp.

    What will it be this year remains to be seen, obviously. Let’s hope Calipari delivers at the defensive end with a defense that would make the 2010, 2012, and 2015 teams proud.

  2. I think faulting Cal for playing the Harrison’s over the combination of Ulis and Booker is overstated. Yes those players turned out to be great and in the case of Booker, fantastic. But the twins led UK to the final game the year before. They had the experience and Aaron had the incredible streak of late game heroics that put UK in that title game. I can’t fault him for his decision. Sometimes coaching is the greater of two good things (as opposed to the lesser of two evils) and they make their choices and they take their chances. Second guessing is too easy. Monday morning coaching is something almost everyone can do. Making the right choice every time is a whole other story.

    Cal has given UK a fantastic run. Just getting to 38-0 before losing was monumental. I just can’t fault him for not being perfect. Yes he gets paid to win but come on, his team won 38 in a row which had never been done in a single season. Winning the tournament is always a crap shoot. Everyone can lose. Finding fault with anything a coach who produced that record is just too much IMO.

Leave a Reply