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By LARRY VAUGHT

Credit WKYT-TV for being in Hazard Thursday when John Calipari, Mark Stoops and Matthew Mitchell were there as  part of 1st Trust Bank’s “Meet the Coaches” event.

WKYT-TV had this insightful comment from Calipari about team toughness.

“Tough guys win. It puts us on our toes for this coming year which is there’s no given. Just because you have really good players doesn’t mean you’re going to win. It gives you a leg up but it doesn’t do it,” Calipari said. “For anyone to tell you they can win with bad players, the players were good or you wouldn’t win. But if you want to win championships, it’s the best players who play well together and become the best team.”

6 Responses to John Calipari: “Tough guys win”

  • LindaS says:

    I think we all know that, have had some experience with it recently.

  • ” Experience ” can be very Educational …

  • TheProfessor says:

    When I was very young (a time that seems imaginary these days) I thought basketball was a non-contact game of finesse. I cut my teeth watching Coach Rupp’s teams run their plays, and out smart, out finesse the majority of their opponents, and I saw the rare losses occur when opponents refused to play fair (turn the games into a contact sport). Then, Coach Rupp retired and Coach Hall came in. One of his recurring themes in his tenure was the role that toughness plays in the game of basketball. The willingness to lace up the sneakers and do battle on the floor, literally on the floor. Loose balls, positioning for rebounds, playing through the contact to make the shots, having the ultra tough player off the bench to neutralize another team’s “star” (Charles Barkley comes to mind).

    And much to my surprise (a naive kid after all) Coach Hall cited his playing time under Coach Rupp as where he learned about the critical role that toughness plays if a team of players want to be champions.

    Since then, I have seen that lessons played out year after year, champion after champion, and now we hear the lesson expressed again by Coach Calipari. I doubt that he just learned this lesson about the importance of toughness because of last season, otherwise, he would not have produced a final 4 team at UMass, and would not have fallen one freak 3 point shot shy of a championship at Memphis. AND he would not have produced the Elite 8, Final 4, and Championship run at Kentucky.

    He knows this lesson about basketball, and he knew it before he put a team on the floor last year that failed to understand this most fundamental truth about college basketball. That lesson (or lack thereof) is on those players, not the coach. I have no doubt that Coach Calipari delivered the “toughness” message to that group repeatedly last year. They either did not believe it, or they simply did not care to do the things that toughness demands. It does not matter which.

    This is why I believe the in-coming group has already received the same toughness message. How they respond to that message remains to be seen. Calipari’s track record indicates most of his teams respond in a manner he expects and wants. This is why I am optimistic about the Cats again this summer.

  • Kokamo Joe says:

    Professor:

    It would seem that the desire to achieve and advance would be all the motivation that these kids would need…past and present.

    It is a mystery why last year’s freshmen just did not get it. They were the same high profile recruits that this year’s bunch. Just as this year’s edition they had been on the fast track for years. If millions could not motivation them, I cannot imagine what would.

    Teams before last year had hold overs from the Gillispie era…players who could offer experience and leadership. Perhaps that was what was missing last year.

    We will need leadership this year from the upper classmen. Will our upperclass players blossom into leaders or must that come from the freshmen?

  • TheProfessor says:

    How does one define toughness in basketball?

    http://www.langhamcreekbasketball.com/Paperwork/DEFININGTOUGHNESS.pdf

    “Toughness isn’t just about being physical. It is far more than that. It is mental and physical discipline under pressure, to do the right thing every time.”

    A nice read.

  • TheProfessor says:

    “Toughness” – Jay Bilas – ESPN .com

    http://www.mdbball.com/Documents/ToughnessbyJayBilas.pdf

    This version has much more substance than the first link.

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