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Does Calipari have to accept blame for close losses?


Now that Kentucky has lost its sixth Southeastern Conference road game in seven tries — all games the Cats had chances to win — does coach John Calipari have to accept part of the blame for his team’s late-game miscues and failure to win close road games.

UK has lost to Georgia by seven points and Vanderbilt by six. It lost by two points to Florida, Mississippi and Alabama. Wednesday night it lost by one — in overtime — at Arkansas.

Here’s what vaughtsviews.com reader David White thought:

“Another road game … another road loss.  Part of this one has to go on Cal.  Yes, the team is not deep (just how many bench guys have been given a chance to improve in game situations?).  Yes,  they’re young (though it’s true, I’m tired of hearing that excuse).  Yes, Arkansas played their best game of the year … a recurring theme, but not one that should be surprising us.

“I think Cal has yet to grasp what it means to have UK come to town in the SEC.  Last year’s Junior. NBA team was far too talented to notice.  This year (and most years), the Cats have to play with a different mentality on the road.  Cal has yet to understand this or at least instill it in his guys.

“Were those really the ‘plays’ we had drawn up in the last few possessions?  Give it to Knight no matter where he is or how many guys are on him?

“Cal has yet to improve this team’s road mentality or show a winning play in close games this season.  With this many close losses on the road, some of the blame has to go to the coach.”

Here are comments another reader sent me:

“Cal is a great recruiter, and a great showman.  He knows all the right things to say  (most of the time) to the media to deflect blame. But, the bottom line is this.  He is not a floor coach, nor an X’s and O’s coach.  That’s why he recruits the type of players that he does. Players he can put on the floor, let them play the dribble-drive (street ball), then sit on the bench and chew on his towel hoping their talent makes up for his coaching deficiencies.

“His bench antics (yelling and screaming to no one in particular) is his way to show the fan base, ‘Hey I’m here trying as hard as I can people.’ At this point, I put my faith in the ‘blind squirrel’ syndrome.  That is, based on the presence of talent, maybe the ‘blind coach’ will find a National Championship somewhere  along the way.”

Agree? Disagree?

This was a brutal, brutal loss for UK and UK fans. The Cats controlled their SEC destiny and had a great opportunity to finish the season with some sizzle. Instead, UK again fizzled late and lost another game it could have won and I want to know why you think that keeps happening.

On the final play in overtime when Brandon Knight had to force a contested shot after getting the inbounds pass in the corner, Calipari said: “ “Josh (Harrellson) was wide open right there on the block,” Calipari said. “… We (DeAndre Liggins) threw to the wrong guy.”

Maybe. But UK was also out of timeouts and Liggins had to make sure he got hte ball inbounds. Plus, reviewing the play it was at the very last second that Harrellson got open. Still, if the play didn’t work, does Calipari still have to take blame for that since he’s the one calling the play.

I don’t know and that’s why I want to know what you think.

Permanent link to this article: http://vaughtsviews.com/does-calipari-have-to-accept-blame-for-close-losses/


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  1. bigbluefans4uk.com

    Yes, he does, and I think he has, at least on an intellectual assent level. However, how many opponents have hit these players with hard traps to force critical turnovers just when the Cats appeared in control, with a lead and the ball, with the clock winding down, and under normal circumstances would seal the deal at the line. But, turnover, no shot, no foul, no free throws, but baskets or free throws at the other end: Game Set Match.

  2. Jan in Indiana

    I should have waited and added my comments on Calipari Angry Over Loss for this article. So if you are interested you can read there. LOL

  3. LindaS

    I just have no comment, I am so disappointed. WWRD? GO CATS!

  4. DL in Lex

    Agree with previous comments that while Calipari is one heck of a recruiter, he has a long way to go in the X’s and O’s category. Also think Calipari’s inability to develop Hood, Vargas, Polson and/or Poole enough for one or two of them to play 6-8 minutes per game is going to be this teams downfall. There is no excuse as to why those kids have not devloped enough to give the starters a rest, no excuse. We were exhausted at the end of the game and have been at the ends of games all year. If he thinks his starting PG can play 40 minutes (with the effort Knight plays with) and be effective in the last two minutes of a game, he is crazy.

    I agree with Cal and think calling a timeout at the end of the OT and think it was the right call. While it would be nice to “just let them play it out”, they have proven that they cannot exectue and get it done in late game situations. they need a little more hand holding. Yes, Harrelson was open on the block on the in bounds play but Liggins did not make the pass. We never pass to Harrelson on the block in regulation so why should we expect him to get the ball on the block when the game on the line.

    Like everyone I am really excited about the amazing job he has done recruiting and the great excitement he has brought back to the Big Blue Nation. However, when a team suffers this many close losses it comes down to one thing…COACHING!

  5. Ben

    It is hard to blame Cal for the lack of heart this team has! I can blame Cal for not having enough quality players on the team. No one on this team has the desire to win like Walls and Cousins did last year. It is virtually impossible for a coach to know the intangibles of his team before the first season.

    Knight is our go to guy at the end of games, and he missed this time. Liggins should have seen Jorts open underneath, but he did not! This is one of those year that defy explanation. A painful season to live through, but next year looks promising!

    Jones should go pro, because by this time next year he will be spending most of his time on the bench! Knight and Lamb would be welcome additions next year. The practices will be much more competitive. The lack of competition in practices this year is most likely a huge part of the problem.

    Time is running out and this problem may not be solved this year!

  6. Martyman

    For what it is worth,in and around 2 cents, so here is my 2 cents worth on the game and Cal:
    Angry with the team, He needs to take a step back in time and remember how these players that he is angry with got here to begin with, meaning most of them came here to play for him. This being said, and the lack thereof, players to come off the bench are there but not used…WHY? The players he is consistently using are now physically spent because Cal does not and will not for some odd reason use his bench. Ohhh, I can fully understand why if all the players coming off the bench were like Vargas….GEEEZ! But, Poole, Hood, Polson can give some valued breathing time to the starters.
    Another reason why we lose the close road games besides the team being physically spent is Cal gets way to Emotionally BENT. He is losing it time and time again in his tirades on the sidelines and he does not evaluate real game situations and thus call out the correct plays the team should run. He is getting out-coached and did get out-coached by Pelphrey in the final minutes. IF Coach Cal should be angry with anyone, he should be angry with himself and take a good step back and take a deep breathe and re-evaluate this team and how he has or has not coached it……


    Expectations are always “big” at Kentucky, and when we lose, “reasonability” for some of our fans goes out the window. Every coach shares some responsibility in a lose, however, my prospective is it’s jointly shared…inexperience, lack of execution, timing, and fate all come into play. The sun came out again today and we will continue to get better.

  8. bigbluefans4uk.com

    P. Barker,

    I am not sure where you are but in central Kentucky, I have not seen the sun yet this morning.

    Just Kidding of course but the day is very gloomy here just the same.

  9. gmoyers

    Sun is not out, but we know it will be — won’t it?????

  10. oldkentucky

    I believe the attempt to blame a basketball game loss on anyone thing or one person is just plain stupid. There are always a lot of reasons a game is won or lost.

    I like to feel good and be happy. When I get angry or even blame someone for something, I get emotionally upset. That isn’t good for me. My choice is to forego blame and focus on the next opportunity for us to win. I will bet anyone that we win another game sometime.

    I also believe we have a wonderful coach and wonderful players who are all winners no matter what the scores are.

  11. Suziecat2

    Oh, that can’t be good….even Larry has become a doubter!

    I’m with Linda, I am so disappointed, I don’t know what to say. Although, I don’t think trying to place blame will accomplish anything.

  12. ruppsrunt

    Many fine responses and astute observations pertinent to the present situation. Raising questions after so many close losses seems appropriate.

    I am awestruck that NO such second guessing and finger pointing at the ultimate UK “10 loss coach” was ever provided by media types during that elongated decline from 1997.

    seems a double standard exists, and “special considerations” were utilized to cover, deflect and blame players, fans and–“Just BAD Luck”!!

    Remember those days of protection and excuses?

    My, how things have changed.


  13. Taking responsibility and accepting blame may be two different things. Be that as it may, let’s look at the bright side: NCAA tournament games are played on neutral courts.

  14. Andy P.

    I question having Liggins be the throw-in man on out-of-bounds plays. Cal is putting him in a position where he has to make a split-second decision and decision-making with the ball in his hands is not his strong-suit.

    Like other, I question not playing the bench at certain points in the game to give the starters a chance to catch their breath and chill for a couple of minutes. I think Cal lets his stubborness overrule his stratigic thinking in those situations.

    I question Cal’s refusal, for the most part, to play a zone in stratigic situations. Another example of stubborness trumping common sense.

    We are what we are as a team. It’s time to forget about seeding and play whatever team shows up for the tip. Once the tournament starts, we haven’t played well enough to deserve anything other than just an opportunity to play who we are told to play until we lose.

  15. Suziecat2

    ruppsrunt, The Internet HAS changed everything. Say ‘whatever’ without having to accept responsibility.
    Have you heard of ‘reverse discrimination’? Oh, that couldn’t be right…this is KY (Sarcasm, for those who don’t know me)

  16. Mike Flannery

    Yes, Cal does accept the blame, he also points out the mistakes made and that is Okay. What is bad is when you have a coach like Cooper ( Ohio State Football )that threw the kids under the bus when they lost, but took all the credit when they won. Cal is quick to point out mistakes after a win and continue to work…It has been a frustrating year with the close road losses. I still think this team will please us all in the SEC and NCAA tournement.

  17. For all the “coaches” in BBN, what would you have done differently last night? We did what a team is supposed to do to win a road game, at least statistically: Out rebound opponent, limit turnovers, stay out of foul trouble, make free throws, be careful with shot selection, control temp, etc., etc., etc.. When you lose by two points in OT it’s always easy to pinpoint a play or two and proceed to second guess the coach or players. Perhaps, however, this loss (and several others this year) boils down to some intangibles. Our kids play hard and they want to win, but they have yet to will themselves to victory in these situations. We can’t forget, however, that an intractable will-to-win is quite rare – that’s why it’s so celebrated and coveted. So, I’m hesitant to blame either coach or players.

  18. P BARKER

    The lack of harshness in the comments from most of the people on this site is really unique and insightful…so much better than the hateful comments found on some of the other boards. It was raining this morning in Plano, Texas, but the sun is shining now…can hardly wait for the game Saturday.

  19. Coach P

    There are two different, but related, issues: Cal’s coaching in this game and his coaching in general. Personally, I love the DDMO. With the right players, it creates tremendous problems for the defense. It requires good coaching, discipline, and a lot of practice – it’s far from street ball. Cal has said time and again how he has to rid players of the bad habits they get from the AAU circuit. I’m one of those coaches who believes in always playing zone when the other team is taking the ball out of bounds under our basket. I never see Cal do this and have seen them get burned time and again because of it. That’s how the Cats lost at South Carolina last year, and last night … there’s absolutely NO WAY you let the smallest guy on the other team make an uncontested layup with only one second on the shot clock before the ball is even thrown in. I also feel Coach Cal doesn’t emphasize defending the three point shot as well as he should – especially in certain situations. With a 2 or 3 point lead and less than a minute on the clock, you cannot let the other team get off an open 3 pointer even if it means giving them a pretty good look at a 2. It happened last night and proved to be the game winner. Also, he has to give Harrelson the green light to shoot if he’s wide open from 16 to 21 feet which he was all night. He can make enough to help the team by both scoring and drawing his defender away from the basket. Probably my biggest criticism of Cal is his attitude about free throw shooting. It didn’t hurt them last night, but it has many times, and it’s one of the easiest things to improve. On the positive side, Cal is a tremendous defensive coach, especially inside the 3 point line, and his players play hard for him. He creates a family atmosphere among the players, emphasizes team chemistry and the importance of being unselfish and playing for each other. When was the last time you heard about any dissension among his players? That’s vital – especially when you’re recruiting high school superstars who have been treated like rockstars and rapstars. And, oh yeah, he’s a pretty good recruiter.

  20. Jan in Indiana

    It seems to me that if this was Cal’s fault or even the thin bench would we not be losing at Rupp too?

  21. Coach P

    In close games, being the home team can be the difference between winning and losing. My guess is that if the venues against the west division teams had been reversed, UK would be 5-1 or 6-0 instead of 3-3 in those games.

  22. Ben

    If I was coach of this team, I would not allow a three point shot by my team in the first half on the road. The inability of this team to establish an inside game and their softness of inside play has costed them several games!

  23. bluedavid

    There,s 4 million reasons we shoud of Won, FACT.

  24. LindaS

    Although I am disappointed I still would not want to go back 4-5 years ago or any of those years in between. Give me this team, this coach and the expectations of a sunny future over anything we had before these past two years. We were spoiled last year, we have never experienced anything like that before and to be quite honest, this has been a let down. But I’m not wishing for another coach or players right now. I have been telling people they are a bunch of mama’s boys who can’t break the apron strings and play away from home. Makes about as much sense as anything else. We had 4 very exceptional players last year, Patrick, John, Demarcus and Eric. Do you see anyone with that caliber of talent on the floor today? I don’t, I don’t care where these young men were ranked before they came, they don’t measure up to last year. The are talented young men, I love watching them play and I wouldn’t trade them for anything right now. They belong to us and we should embrace them for who they are right now. However, one of the main elements missing is the desire to win, the desire to listen, the desire to not let anyone else stomp all over them. We saw the desire to win last year when John would not settle for a loss. If there was anything he could do to win, he did. Yes, there were several games enough effort was not put out, but this team doesn’t even try to put the effort into winning anyway they can. Are they a team? I don’t know. Do they like each other as much as last years team did? I don’t know. Does that make a difference in the way they play? Is Cal doing everything he can? Only Cal knows for sure. I don’t think anyone can point a finger at any person or thing that may be effecting this team in the way they play. You aren’t in practice, you aren’t the coach, you aren’t the player, you aren’t even a dust bunny in the corner of the gym. I am glad I’m a member of the BBN. I am glad that everyone here is also and also appreciate that there is no hate shown like on the other websites. WWRD? Go Cats!

  25. Don V

    I have read a lot of chatter today and I would ask everyone who would you want as your coach at UK? Hands down I would choose Coach Cal. The biggest problem all year with this team is a lack of bench players. Go back to last spring and we were coming off a 35-3 season. We have a great recruiting class coming in. All of a sudden Orton and Bledsoe decide to turn pro. Dotson is kicked off the team. Now you have to scramble to find players. Too late to get in on the few players that are left. You can see what was left in Vargus. Then we lose Kanter. We had no choice but to play the season with 6 players. Don’t think for a minute that Cal does not know what the problem is but have you heard him make excuses. Three years ago I had no hope now I know brighter days are ahead.

  26. gmoyers

    Great responses and insights here — and done in the right fashion. Okay to second guess and question without being mean and awful. The Cats just need a win to show them they can win on the road

  27. UKFMLY

    You bet he does. He held the time outs(with a young team that losses on the road) and he is the one leading a 10 man fire team into a 15 alarm fire. I believe those late game turn overs and mistakes is a product of mental and physical FATIGUE.

    When you have 3 or 4 unsed scholarships and only 6 guys who contributes who’s fault is that?

    The sky is not falling and the sun will come out tomorrow LOL.


  28. rodney

    Cal is the coach. Of course he has to take some resposiblity. I find myself questioning some of his coaching moves or the lack there of in some games. But anyone who listens to his radio show can tell he knows the game. If it was all coaching, we would be losing at home. He can’t make players knock down open shots, make the right pass, not turn it over, or get the big defensive rebounds at crunch time. They just have a mental block on the road. The bottom line is this team just doesn’t have a winner’s mentality. We play hoping not to lose instead of refusing to lose. We won these type games last year. Our kids are tired. There legs are heavy and there confidence is down on the road. They just ain’t having fun right now. Everyone is frustrated. I think Cal has a vision as to what he wants to build this team to be. Give him time to build it. I think he took a chance on this season, to be prepared for next year’s recruiting class. And I will say again, if Kanter had been allowed to play (as he should’ve) then we are in the top 10 right now and EVERYONE is Cal’s biggest fan.

  29. Gene

    Reading but a few of the “contributions” here on this forum and those in that wonderful sports page in Lexington there is but one solution to the problem(s) so many have brought up the morning after a tough loss on the Road.

    Fire the da**** coach and either hire that Billy something or other or ask some of these “haters” to submit their resumes as soon as possible.

    Seriously—-I have never lived in an area (and as a construction engineer I lived in a few) where there were so many obviously over qualified basketball and football coaches,

  30. George Noel

    I completely agree with Rodney. We have too few players to win a lot of away games. There is no one to give them a break and from what we’ve heard, Poole think’s he;s too good to take any direction from Coach, Polson isn’t ready etc. I’ve been a UK fan for 50 years and have seen teams and coaches come and go. We’ll be just fine next year. We’ll have good freshmen coming in and the kids who are playing now. That’s a far bigger team and there will be competition for various positions, which will make each one better. These kids are playing until they’re worn out. We have to realize that. For all of the “all star coaches posting on this board”, just calm down because you can’t do one thing about any of it.

  31. gmoyers

    Good advice for all George, but just hard for the passionate UK fans to do that

  32. Martyman

    George and LV,
    We can do something about it and we all have by venting our frustrations here. All in all, I would rather have Cal here than BCG any day! That being said, y’all have a good one!

  33. Mark Liptak


    Not to be trite but the answer to the question is pretty clear, this is an immature, basketball-IQ challenged team. Period.

    Losing this many close games has now gotten into their heads. Hiring a shrink for them may not be a bad idea and no I’m not being sarcastic.

    This team does not react well to pressure and it shows.

    Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting anything to turn out differently. Cal certainly takes some of the “blame” but regardless of what you think of him as a coach, he can’t make shots, he can’t rebound and he can’t pass the ball.

    That falls on the players in this case again an immature group that thinks the riches of the NBA are more important right now. (They are going to find out the hard way that unless they get their act together those “riches” may not be as lucrative as they think…)

    Mark Liptak

  34. s cockrell

    all coach cal really needs to do is borrow Rick Oliver from Joker and then ask him to sit on the bench–every time out tell him to get in their face and motivate!!!!

  35. s cockrell

    Excuse me thats “ROCK OLIVER” the man

  36. Elliott Hutchcraft

    Here’s my thoughts on Cal:
    1. Absolutely fantastic recruiter
    2. Very Good to Fantastic getting ready for the game coach
    3. Average Bench Coach
    4. Fantastic Motivator

    Did anybody think this wasn’t what we were getting?

    Our kids lack mental toughness, which is why I’d like to see Darius have the ball late. I don’t know whether or not he has it or not. Yes, he should have shot the ball at Ole Miss, but he also did DRIVE the ball albeit into a worse situation. He wasn’t really playing scared there. He seems to make better passes than anybody on the team. For some reason, Knight has turned the ball over 3 or 4 times in late game situations, Liggins has made really silly plays (Vandy) and turned the ball over, and TJ seems to have trouble dribbling when it’s on the line. This is because they are young, not strong enough, or just careless. I actually think Knight was probably fouled on the afflicted bounce pass in Ark. But officials aren’t going to call that on the road and while he seems strong enough, we seem to have lost these kinds of balls from lack of strength (maybe tired) at the end of games too many times. I think Darius is the strongest, most reliable passer/dribbler combo.

    We didn’t choke at Louisville because we DOMINATED the whole game. The UGA and AL game we just didn’t come out and play right at all. FL and Vandy we actually played well, but we lost to VERY GOOD teams on their home floor and ARK was a complete mental breakdown, I believe. I also should point out that I never thought this team would go 3-19 from 3, but they did. I’ll be that will be the only time. And it was not ARK’s defense, because we missed a bunch of good 3s.

    Anyways, I’ve never thought Cal’s teams were overall mentally tough. Look at the free throw shooting at Memphis. His (lack of a) timeout against Kansas in the title game was the reason they lost that game, IMO.

    Now, I’m not bringing Gillispie up to bring back bad memories, but his first year, when we still had some leadership from Crawford and Bradley, and Patterson, we had developed into a pretty mentally tough team at the end of the season. I actually think Gillispie was good at that, and I frankly think he was a lot better of a bench coach. He just had other issues and I’ll leave at that.

    Pitino and Cal are of the same ilk, I believe really. I do not believe Pitino makes great in-game adjustments either. And Roy Williams is HORRIBLE. But all of that is clouded when you have talented players, which we do. Coach K is great at all of this, and obviously comes from the Bobby Knight mold that Gillispie also follows. Haha, funny to think we could probably have run Coach K out of town. You know, he doesn’t even DO the halftime interviews. :)

    Let’s just let it play out. Remember the Vandy game in Nashville in out 2003 season, the light just “switched”. It may not happen with this team, but it’s possible that it could be next week, or at the SEC Tourney. Remember, there is no way there will be a real road game in the NCAA Tourney.

  37. Elliott Hutchcraft

    Oh, and I want to say one more thing. We are losing on the road because of home cooking/officiating. There, I said it. I’m NOT making an excuse. This team hasn’t learned to overcome bad officiating on the road. Last year’s team was talented enough to take uncalled fouls in the paint and still score. This year’s team can’t. We are only talking about 2 baskets or so and all of them become wins.

  38. gmoyers

    Mark, Shiny, Elliott, Martyman — all great posts. Thanks for sharing and maybe, just maybe, the light will go on

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