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By LARRY VAUGHT
Question: Do you like being in the ground zero area of college basketball with Indiana and Louisville both highly rated and even Murray State making a name going into this season?
Calipari: “Ohio State is going to be good. That is fine. We are a national program. I guess if you live around here it is great. But this thing for us is the epicenter of college basketball is here. Whether they are good, that’s great. I don’t care what those teams do. I really don’t. I just want them to lose to us. Other than that I could care less. I don’t follow their teams. I don’t watch the games. I don’t root against them. If the game is on and I think I am rooting against them I will turn the channel because I don’t want that stuff coming back to us. It always does. But for the fans around here, I guess it is great.”
Question: What do you think of the Kentucky program before you came here and where it was at?
Calipari: “I liked Tubby (Smith). When I was coaching against him we beat them one time. But for a while Kentucky was when they walked in to recruit everybody knew Kentucky was walking in and that changed for a while and then maybe we can get these guys. The kids know three years. When I go in to recruit them, they know three years. They would know nothing about (19)98, not a player, nothing. But that’s not just Kentucky, it is any time. But their families understand the history of this place. The 2K (2,000 victories) meant something. It did then and we knew it. We needed to get there before (North) Carolina and we knew it. I said, ‘Can we win these games to make sure we get there before they do?’ I didn’t want it to be us playing them. That’s all we needed.
“This is a unique place. The expectations are high. You are under a magnifying glass. Stuff that goes on at other campuses, goes on here it is a big deal. Goes on over there, ‘Hey I didn’t mean it. The guy walked into the kid’s fist.’ That’s life. But if it goes here, I am telling you it is huge. It’s all part of what it is. Again, the whole thing here is a players’ first program. It is not changing. Every decision I make is based on what is right for these kids. That is not changing. Everything I do is based on them and if I do right by them and keep doing right by them then they will drag us where we want to go.
“Now I will say this. This team will maybe drag us as far as it can go and that may not be what we all want but I will look back and feel great about that. I think of the team two years ago and the first time I had here, those two teams both had chance to win national titles. To be honest, you may say we should have won in 2010. If we don’t go 0-for-20 (from 3-point range) against West Virginia, maybe we do. I think we were better than the other teams. Then the last year when you didn’t think we should win it and we ended up going farther, that’s just how it is here.”