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Media members have different thoughts on job John Calipari has done this year

This is the fourth of a five-part series with various media members on Kentucky’s season.

Question: How would  you evaluate the coaching job John Calipari has done this season?

Ryan Lemond: “I would say he has coached harder this season than he has in his previous years on the UK bench, but I think it’s because these players weren’t ready for SEC basketball. These players were missing many valuable fundamentals that should have been taught in middle school. I think Cal has had to spend too much time on the ‘little things’ this season, and it has showed.

“However, I think Cal has done a bad job this year with playing time. He said before the season started that he has a ‘bench’ this year and wasn’t going to be afraid to use it. He hasn’t hardly used it all season. When players are playing well, sit them down. Play somebody else.  Send a message. Instead, he’s content with ‘nudging them along’ and letting the high profile guys ‘play through it.’ It’s hurt this team a lot. It’s cost him some games.”

Larry Glover: “Truthfully, it wasn’t great. I think he misjudged what some players, and this team, were capable of. Also, he and his staff were slow to offer any significant adjustments. This team underachieved and that responsibility falls on him.”

Keith Taylor: “I think Calipari has done a better job with this team than last year. The progress to regression throughout the year has been an issue. I would like to see how Calipari would fare coaching a team that he’s had around for three to four years instead of one or two.”

Tyler Thompson: “ Without knowing how the postseason will turn out, I’d give Calipari a C. Teams have using the zone against the Cats all year, and they still don’t know how to score against it. UK has three scoring threats inside in Julius Randle, Willie Cauley-Stein and Dakari Johnson, who are mostly rendered useless because the guards can’t feed the post properly. Cal keeps wanting his team to be ‘player-driven’ rather than ‘coach-driven, but without a leader on the court, they’ve drifted around rudderless for most of the season. Last week, it seemed like Cal  realized that, stepping in with ‘the tweak’ that will change everything, but it may be too little, too late. This group has been begging for guidance for months.

“Also, what happened to using the bench as a teaching tool? Cal has used the bench, but sparingly, and in retrospect, has admitted that he should have used it more. Cal billed Marcus Lee as this team’s ‘energy guy,’ but he only played 117 minutes in the regular season. Compare that to Willie Cauley-Stein, who’s played 760 minutes, or even Alex Poythress, who’s played 583 minutes. Cal has called Derek Willis the best post passer on the team, but he only got 38 minutes of action all season. I’m not saying those guys should start, but why not give them a chance to make an impact?”

Mary Jo Perino: “I think he has most certainly made mistakes. I think at times he made them more nervous or unsettled by all his sideline theatrics. He may have thought that’s what they needed, and maybe it wasn’t. I also don’t know if he tinkered with the lineup enough or substituted well all the time, but who the heck am I? Cal has forgotten more stuff about coaching basketball than I’ll ever know.”

Mark Buerger: “This is the hardest one to answer for me. Without seeing practice and having no idea what he’s done with the players outside of practice, there’s no way to tell what he has tried to get this team going. But it is his job to figure out how to get the level of the team’s play to match their individual talents and that hasn’t happened.”

Jennifer Palumbo: “ I think Cal has worked harder this season than any other at Kentucky. He’s pulled out all the stops trying to find the right matchups and motivations to help these players realize their potential and their goals.”

Tom Leach: “You can’t give a full evaluation on the job Cal has done until the season is over, because the NCAA Tournament means so much.  A strong run in March can change a lot of opinions.  But you can say that Calipari embraced the challenge of adapting his plans to the issues his team has dealt with–like playing more zone than at maybe any point his career.  And his staff gets praise for its ability to assist in the recruiting effort, those coaches don’t get enough credit for the work they do with these guys in practice day in and day out and you see individual players grow significantly through each season because of that tutelage.”

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  1. Barry

    Ryan’s and Tyler’s assessment of Coach and this KY team are spot on. Everyone has observed the same thing, few have been willing to say anything though. What’s done is done for this year. Even if they were to win it all now, that still does not diminish the mistakes that have been made this season. Win or lose in the NCAA, let’s not forget the mistakes, identify ways to correct and improve for next year, and put the plan into action mode starting this Summer instead of waiting until November, or God forbid, next March. LSU, Arkansas, Florida, and Tennessee will all be better next year. You can probably add Missouri, Vanderbilt, and South Carolina to that list as well. This program doesn’t need a repeat of what we have seen these past two years. Learn, move on and get better.

    1. Larry Pup

      Barry, if this UK team were to win No. 9 the mistakes would be forgotten pretty quick. If they all come back for next year, I do believe the rest of the SEC can standby. Wouldn’t that be something to see.

      1. Barry

        Larry, these mistakes should not be forgotten because they can be repeated. Do you really want another year of what we have seen the past two? As for your second comment…next year’s team will be better if Randle, Stein, the Twins, and Young move on. Some things just don’t change and all are more worried about the NBA than they are about getting better or this program getting better.

        1. Anonymous

          That is your opinion Barry, but you are not inside the heads of these players, nor can you speak for them on anything regarding their future either at UK or in the NBA, or their attitudes about it all. I personally think another year at UK would help them all including JR. Your quote “next years team will be better if Randle, Stein, the Twins, and Young move on.” You’re kidding right? Is there anyone else out there that agrees with Barry on just that one statement alone? Help me out here. Barry forgive me but you are crazy. To answer your question, no I don’t particularly want another year of struggle, but I also know and have seen many players improve dramatically in their 2nd and 3rd years in college ball. Barry have you ever heard of the word “patience”? All of Cal’s critics want a blend of senior or somewhat experienced leadership on this UK team. You can’t have it and agree with Barry’s suggestion concerning four of our five starters this year.

          1. Barry

            No, I’m not kidding. It’s one thing for skill levels and an understanding of the game to develop over time, but selfish play, lack of effort, a sense of entitlement…those things are deep seeded character flaws that seldom change in a lifetime, much less another year or two. Randle, Stein, and Young will go to the NBA. The Twins really need to transfer and go to different schools because they are both shooting guards…Andrew just isn’t point guard material at this level. There is plenty of talent still left over from this team and when you combine them with the crop coming in next year, you have something to build on with kids who won’t have to be coached to play hard. Those 5 simply lack the chemistry to be a team and Randle can’t afford to sacrifice any more of his game to appease this team’s ball hoggers. Sometimes the only way to accomplish addition is through subtraction. Oil and water don’t mix no matter how badly you want them to. You have to get rid of the water and replace it with more oil.

          2. Bluejay51

            Barry, you finally made a statement I can agree with. Oil and water don’t mix. Seems to me you yourself brings a sense of entitlement to the BBN. SO, just exactly how do we go about seperating you from the rest of us? Fans like you have watered down an otherwise dedicated fanbase for far too long.

  2. Floridacat

    Cal was good as always on defensive adjustments. However the offense was stagnant at times. However he never gave up on these kids and kept working. I personally would have liked to have seen more of the bench but I am not at practice to see how individual players earn his trust

  3. The Wiz

    Stupid question. Cal is a very good coach. Results always vary.

  4. Judi Cole

    Many other excellent major college coaches have had down years, or failed to adjust as quickly as they could, because they have their own style of coaching that doesn’t work right away with all players. Simply put, we are a very young team and we can’t expect perfection right away. I hope they all come back, but know we will lose Randle for sure and more than likely, WCS and Young. I think they are all great kids who want to succeed at this level and the next. Bring back the twins – they are on fire right now and can do some major damage to our opponents next year!

    1. Larry Pup

      Amen Judi about the Twins.

    2. Anonymous

      Here is the problem for the twins. They are NBA material. Two McDonald All Americans are coming and they are thought to be NBA material. Four guards, all thinking that they have to play in order to move on to the NBA. All of them can’t be the big dog. Will the new kids on the block put the Harrisons on the bench? Will their NBA stock go up or down with another year? If the Harrisons are the big dogs how will next year’s top talent deal with that?

      Possible implications for Calipari? Chemistry?

      And if they come back, what about Hawkins? Will he be a lost ball in the weeds?

  5. John

    Cal at UK has won 80% of his games, a NC, two final 4’s and elite 8.
    National media casting doubts on him, some of our own are trying to cannibalize him.

    Now look across the river and see how that dude from The Office has turned around the candy stripers. No national media has questioned his suckess. 2 sweet 16 trips and more than once he has been snubbed by the NIT. Cuts down nets after home losses. He’s a frickin genius.
    His career is barely over 500.

    1. Anonymous

      That’s right John, your statement is TRUE!!!! Especially your remarks about some of UK’s own.

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