Print this Post

Bench has not been friendly for UK coach John Calipari this season


Numerous times Kentucky coach John Calipari has said he doesn’t want, or need, a deep roster to compete with the nation’s best teams. However, this season apparently is one time Calipari wishes he had more productive depth, especially with the season-ending injury to Nerlens Noel.

“The frustrating thing is the bench isn’t my friend. What do I mean by that? You shouldn’t play like four games in a row, now are you ready to do this right? We played without you and we played well. We don’t have that luxury. So right now we’re just trying to get it done and get them to accept how they’re going to have to play,” said Calipari Tuesday.

The wounded Wildcats, who have lost their last two games by a combined 47 points, host Vanderbilt tonight in what seems like a must-win for UK to keep any hope of reaching the NCAA Tournament.

“I think they were embarrassed by what happened (in a 30-point loss at Tennessee Saturday),” Calipari said. “That team came out of the gate chewing nails, we weren’t ready for it, whether Nerlens was behind there I don’t think it would have mattered.  Our thing is how do we play now? What do we do? I think they understand.”

Calipari admitted it was risky not to have nine or 10 quality players to try and keep happy versus having fewer players who all get to play more. This season he’s been frustrated by the effort and production of several players, but has had little option but to keep playing them because of a lack of depth. That was compounded when point guard Ryan Harrow missed four games for personal reasons, center Willie Cauley-Stein missed four games with a knee injury and now Noel is out for the season.

“You lose your whole team (to the NBA after last season’s national title)) and have a great (recruiting) class, but they’re not quiet to the (same level). You know what I’m saying? That’s the risk you take,” Calipari said. “That’s part of the deal here. The other risk you have is I don’t like having 12 guys on scholarship who all deserve to play. If you have three or four injuries or this or that happens … a couple guys just don’t have the mental makeup for this. Even though you’ve talked about it — ‘This isn’t for everybody, Can’t hide you.’ All the things that I’ve said for four years. You get exposed here. Sometimes it happens.

“Now the issue for me as a coach is: Just keep coaching them. I’m not going to change. Just keep coaching them. I’m going to do everything I can, push whatever buttons. I’m reading any book, trying to give them anything, but the reality of it is they’ve got to go on the court and start performing better. What happens to us right now: One team wins a one-point game and a three-point game and we go to Florida, where everybody’s losing, lose a game pretty big and now it’s the psyche of: Are you tough enough to walk through that? Are you tough enough to put that behind you and understand what the feeling is when you have a great game? Great games don’t always lead to wins.

“Two teams battling and executing and playing well, you can walk off the court and feel disappointed but really good about yourself. It’s a peace of mind. It’s not just winning and losing. We’ve got to get to that point, and worry about the process, having enjoyment, all those kinds of things. And it’s late, but this is a new team.”

Calipari again used his theory that what “we’re doing here has never been done with young guys” because of the players UK has sent early to the NBA draft the last three years.

“It’s not what we want to do. It’s just how it’s all played out,” the coach said. “The second thing is, there’s not been a team that’s been one of those teams that’s lost their best player the last six-seven games and have the guy be the kind of player that you have to change a little bit and tweak how you play.

“Well, the only way you can learn what’s working and not working is in the games. Then you have some time to adjust, a day or two, and then you’ve got to throw it in the next game. That’s where we are. There’s no — you can’t just skip steps. But I’m accepting it and saying to these guys, ‘Let’s go,’ and we’re still getting after it.”

Permanent link to this article: http://vaughtsviews.com/bench-has-not-been-friendly-for-calipari-this-season/


Skip to comment form

  1. Karen Sprinkle

    The only part of Cal’s system with which I strongly disagree is that he dislikes having 12 guys on the roster all of whom deserve to play. It’s always been worrisome that we didn’t really have any backups if any player went down to injury or didn’t produce the effort that he should. In the past 3 years, we’ve been very fortunate that there were no significant injuries to key players during the season and that, for the most part, the incoming players have all produced. This year, that came back to bite us.

  2. Kokamo Joe

    For most of his career Calipari has played 6 to 8 players. He may have some walk ons and a couple of decent players other than those 6 to 8, but he seldom plays them. He gets a lion’s share of the best freshmen in the country. These are kids that are being projected as draft bait before the set foot on the campus. Role players who would contribute on most other teams get recruited over and they either sit on the bench or they transfer. Unless he changes his philosophy that will always happen. Calipari often complains that his team is “young” or as in the case this year that he has no bench. That is by design and IMO he should not complain about either. Calipari has been a lucky man. Injury is common and few teams escape injury. When it happens most teams have enough bench that the team is not destroyed. We lost one player, a very important player, but one player, and the team is staggered.

  3. Karen Sprinkle

    I would imagine, then, that the most depth Cal will ever have was his first team at UK, which had some returning players who got some minutes, unless he changes his mind about recruiting. I hope he does, as I think it really helps to have a Patrick Patterson, Darius Miller, or even Ramon Harris and Perry Stevenson-type players to help ease the freshmen into playing at UK.

  4. Anonymous

    Calipari admitted it was risky not to have nine or 10 quality players to try and keep happy versus having fewer players who all get to play more. This season he’s been frustrated by the effort and production of several players, but has had little option but to keep playing them because of a lack of depth. That is what I was saying on these sites and people claim I’m saying the coach can’t coach.

Comments have been disabled.