By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky’s 77-75 loss at Alabama to open Southeastern Conference play — UK’s first loss in its SEC opener since 2011 — created a lot of questions and worry in the Bluegrass but coach John Calipari said “I didn’t see any” when asked about the clutter from the Alabama loss.
Now his players, they might have seen it.
“The issue for them: The clutter is what’s near them, not social media and all that. The clutter is – that (social media) could be part of it. If they’re looking at social media they’re out of their minds anyway,” Calipari said. “But it’s all near to them, and they just have to shut down all that stuff and focus on what they have to do for this team.
“And what you’re asking them to do as the head coach is what’s best for them and what’s best for this team. And you have to sacrifice. Everybody is giving up something. It’s what makes this program what it is. There’s not just one guy doing everything. It’s everybody gives up something.
“Now, what I hope is different games different guys stand up. We have different stars different games so you can’t really play one guy. But these guys – the clutter has changed over the years based on what’s at stake. Like, as this thing becomes bigger and bigger, what the pot of gold is for these guys, the clutter becomes even more. Every basket matters, and that’s why I say you’ve got to stay away from it. You can’t listen to that. You stay in the moment, try to get better every day, do something away from the court, read a book.”
Calipari said he has given his players books to read to encourage them to do that. He recently gave them “Life Word” by Jon Gordon that is about having a life word instead of New Years’s resolutions that seldom get kept for long.
“What this becomes is you pick a word that best describes what you’re trying to accomplish, what your strengths and passions are, and something you need to work on. And so each of them picked a word for this year. And they thought them through because they were all pretty good words for themselves to keep them focused, and I know each word,” Calipari said.
“So ‘fight,’ you’re the one that put that. Fight! Come on, man. ‘Determination.’ Where’s the determination? You’re the one that picked the (word). But the book talks a little bit more in depth, so I gave them all a book.”
He also plans to give them “Ego is the Enemy” by Ryan Holiday.
“I’m trying to get them to think. And I say this: We’re here obviously, they’re at a great university. These kids have done well academically. They know they have lifetime scholarships, all that good stuff. Then it becomes, OK, what are you teaching in basketball? Just plays? You’re teaching them how to defend the pick-and-roll? What? Well, if you guys know, part of it is how you create joy, reaching out to others, and being involved in others and picking up others,” Calipari said.
“The other side of it becomes creating opportunity for other people creates more for yourself so there’s more than just – you’re trying to get a bigger picture for them, and if I can get them to think bigger than just play to play, I think it’s beneficial. I know it is to them and I think it is to your team.”
Calipari doesn’t want his players to get caught up in what those around them might be telling them about personal goals or statistics.
“If anybody around you is talking to you in those terms –- ‘You must do this, you must do this, you have to hit the lottery, go play that ticket, you must hit the lottery’ –- well, you ain’t hitting the lottery,” Calipari said. “And that’s why I say –- that’s the kind of clutter –- just stay away from it.
“Social media, is there something I should have (known)? I didn’t see anything. I didn’t. If anybody is mad, I feel bad that you’re mad, but I don’t read it and I don’t see it so. I got one thing: It’s coach these kids.”