By LARRY VAUGHT
Ask John Calipari a question and sometimes you get a long — really long — answer. That happened Thursday at his weekly press conference before UK plays Seton Hall Saturday at Madison Square Garden.
But it wasn’t a Seton Hall question. Instead, the UK coach was asked about the crowd noise in Rupp Arena last week when his team dominated the final 10 minutes to turn back UNC Greensboro.
“These fans here – as we know here, we have four million basketball coaches in our state, and all they really want to see is us play really hard and compete. Now, they really want us to win, but they know the best chance of winning is playing that way,” Calipari said.
“And then they want to see unselfish, good basketball. They know what good basketball looks like and they know what bad basketball looks like. Lack of effort, they know what it looks like. How about this? You have three or four guys going crazy and that one guy decides I’m just not going to. He stands out. He just stands out.
“And then my job is to make sure he doesn’t stand out for very long. You’re out. ‘Well, every time I don’t play hard he takes me out.’ And then everybody, the four million coaches in the state say, ‘He should have got you out earlier.’ And so, we’re getting there though. They’re starting to accept it. ”
Calipari said he told his players that he can’t want them to do more than they want to do.
“I can’t want it for the team more than they want it for themselves. It just doesn’t work and it’s too hard and it’s not fun, and then you’ve got to get tough and nasty and all the other stuff. Come on now, we’ve got a bunch of guys with something at stake individually. Go play. ‘More shots.’ No, no, no. Dive on the floor. Take a charge. Go rebound in traffic. Don’t have them jerked out of your hand and lay it in. No,” Calipari said.
“Be that guy. Sprint that court. Make that easy pass. ‘Whew, that’s hard. Can I just get more shots?’ I mean, that’s where we’re just all over it. Let’s go. And this team is capable. You know, it was funny, yesterday we had coaches in here watching us, and the one coach came up to me and said. ‘Reid never takes his eye off you. When you talk, he’s watching the whole time.’ Like, it’s incredible that this kid is so focused. He’s on a mission. How about if we had everyone on that same mission?
“I mean, now all a sudden this thing gets a little crazy. I just want people to respect that we have really good players who are not playing to the level they’re capable of playing. But we’ve got really good players. Don’t think we don’t. But if you don’t compete and if you don’t fight to win – if you don’t fight for your space – you look like you’re just OK. ‘I thought it was supposed to be better.’ Well, compete, go do it. We have those kind of guys who can do it. Every day is that process we’re working on.”