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.”