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Reader wonders if Kentucky coach John Calipari ever owns his own performance

Kentucky head coach John Calipari yells to his bench during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Arkansas, Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014, in Fayetteville, Ark. (AP Photo/Gareth Patterson)

Kentucky head coach John Calipari yells to his bench during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Arkansas, Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014, in Fayetteville, Ark. (AP Photo/Gareth Patterson)


I got this email before UK won at Mississippi and thought it might be thought-provoking to share what Keith Peel, a long-time UK fan,  is wondering:

“Does Cal ever talk about ‘owning’ his performance? We continue to see the same coaching mistakes 2 years in a row. Players are soft, not playing hard all the time, concerned about their individual stats not to mention not playing the players that have the most fight and do the little things ( get 50/50 balls, block out, hustle back on defense) to make the team successful.

“He refuses to adjust his offense and defense to the players abilities ( ie play more zone, use more traditional post oriented offense such as high-low or double low post). We are not a guard oriented offensive team because our guards cannot beat anyone off the dribble consistently.

“I just think the coach should be willing to ‘own’ his performance but I haven’t heard him do much of it. What do you think?”

I think Calipari does second guess himself but I do also think he believes in what he does will work and can work year after year?

What do you think?

Permanent link to this article: http://vaughtsviews.com/reader-wonders-if-kentucky-coach-john-calipari-ever-owns-his-own-performance/


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  1. Trish

    I think we have more armchair coaches who think they know best than any team in sports. Cal isn’t perfect, by any means, and some of his redundancies and hyperbole do get annoying at times. Bottom line is this: Cal’s teams (with the exception of the 2013 anomaly) consistently give us a chance to be in the conversation for a Final Four nearly every year. Can we really ask for more than that? How soon we forget some of the struggles under Tubby and BCG. If those kinds of teams is what you’re looking for, by all means, go cheer for Texas Tech.

    It truly concerns me that the lunatic fringe of the Kentucky basketball fanbase will be what causes Cal to leave UK before too many more years. Enjoy it while you can, folks. Cal’s not perfect but neither is any other coach in the NCAA, NBA or any other sport for that matter.

    1. jeff

      I couldn’t agree more, especially the 2nd paragraph. I always thought UL had the most delusional fan base in all of sports, now I think our own fans are. Never happy with anything. I give Cal 2 more seasons at best,then the critics can complain about someone else after we have our first 6 choices turn us down just because the fans are never satisfied or happy with anything. This team STILL has a legitimate chance to go to the F4, and possibly win, yet seems like most think we are an NIT team. Go figure!

  2. Kokamo Joe

    The UK basketball job comes with a lot of pressure and a huge fan base who range from the complainer to the cheerleader. To succeed at UK a basketball coach must have a huge ego and Calipari certainly has that.

    Before last year Calipari had the luxuary of talented and experienced players which he inherited from previous coaches. He has installed his one and done system. Last year it was a failure. This year he has rebounded with super talent. But this has set the standard high for this year. Some of bought the 40 game cool aid and ran out and bought the T shirt. IMO it is those who are now the complainers. They see this and last years as tests of the one and done system. If this team does not meet their hopes and expectations the complainers will grow. And regardless if UK never reaches a final four again the cheerleaders will still cheer.

    But has it not always been that way? Rupp was a god, but when he began to get older there were members of the BBN who wanted him gone. Eddie Sutton was a drunk who allowed the program to be corrupted and there are still fans who say that he was framed.

    Calipari will stay as long as he feels comfortable in Lexington. When his frustration begins to dominate his ego, he will go.

  3. AndyP

    If we don’t make it at least to the Sweet Sixteen and more than 3 of the players leave for the draft I predict that a huge segment of the UK fan base is going to be fed up with Cal.

    1. Trish

      Seriously? So, you’re saying that three Elite Eights, two Final Fours and a NC in four full seasons isn’t good enough? Name me one other coach in the NCAA who has done more in a 4-year span. And also tell me what coach in this land would touch this job with a 10-ft. pole should this delusional fanbase were to run off Cal. Attitudes like this is why our fanbase has such a bad name. Logic, rational thought and common sense would go a long way.

  4. TomR

    Fed up? Hardly. Yes, I get a bit aggravated with his sideline yelling and micro managing, but that’s Cal’s personality and most of his players accept that. BTW, did our HOF Coach Rupp ever own up to his own performance? No way. To continue watching great players at UK, I’m fine with Cal, great recruiter and solid coach.

  5. Larry Pup

    I think there is a growing number of people who have grown sower on Cal of late. I’m certainly not in that number. The mind set in society today is “what have you done for me lately?” It is remarkable to see a few who think they have all the answers opposed to a man who has brought UK so much success, both in games won and talent level in a mere 5 years on the job. For example, look at his record at Rupp alone. I think Cal will be fine, if not at UK then somewhere else where he would be welcomed with open arms. All you people doing the complaining right now, and second guessing our Coach, be careful what you wish for, it could be much worse. To those who think he has lost his way, can’t coach, and that his system is losing ground, I find that reasoning very premature at this point in our Coach’s tenure. He may just prove them wrong.

    There is a period of time however where Cal must produce at least another final four or maybe even a national championship to keep people satisfied in this basketball crazed State. I say at least a minimum 10 years. My personal opinion is that he will do just that; we must be patient. There is no one I would rather see at the helm of Kentucky Basketball right now than John Calipari. I hope there are many others who agree with me. GO CATS!!!

  6. Jason Turner

    This does not even need to be discussed, I only reply out of anger at our own fan base. Let’s run him out of town, then maybe we can get Gillespie back. This is just utter madness. As a UK fan I refuse to let the inmates run the asylum. I remember from my youth hearing people call in to the coaches show with Pitino, and you can call him every name in the book or even refuse to say his name, but fans would call in saying how they breakdown game footage I guess to help with coaching at practice. Fans please let Coach Cal coach and let’s appreciate what we do have.

    1. Anonymous

      “As a UK fan I refuse to let the inmates run the asylum.” I like that. True!!!!

    2. Kokamo Joe

      The fan base will not run Calipari out of town. Coaching his type of system must be frustrating and tiring. Year round recruiting. Not knowing who will go and who will stay and how that affect recruiting. Getting number one recruiting classes and trying to mold these egotistical young men into a team each and ever year. That grind would wear down the Rocky Mountains.

      Highly successful men have huge egos and their egos are what pushes them to success. Ego is, by the way not a bad thing. Would George Patton care what privates thought? Calipari is not going to be swayed by complaints. He has goals in mind and meeting them is what is going to be in his mind.

      Meanwhile, when UK loses, here will come the complainers. When UK wins, here will come the cheerleaders. As I have posted before, the truth of this season will come in post season play. Get to the great 8 and I will be happy. If this talent can’t make it that far, I will mark this season down as a failure.

      If your kid makes an F on his Algebra test does that mean the end of the world. No, it just means that he did not meet expectations on this time. That’s all. There are more tests to come. If UK does not win it all this year, there will be other years. It is all that simple.

  7. Ron H

    For those of you who are too young to remember Ole Adolph, he never “owned” his performance either but they still named that barn after him. Every week on his Sunday afternoon television shows, he would either take credit if they won or shed blame if they lost. I can still remember his same old tired reply, “Well the boys just didnt have it in them this week, they looked tired,” if they lost. Now if they won, it was an entirely different response, ” Well Larry it was my decision to go to the 1-3-1 in the second half that allowed us to pull the game out.” I remember that like it was yesterday, BBN needs to leave Coach Cal alone and let him do what he does best, and that is recruit and win championships!!!!

    1. larryvaught

      Ron H., I remember those kind of Rupp comments well. YOu are exactly right

  8. Judi Cole

    Jason Turner, you are correct. I refuse to listen to or read what the naysayers say. I may be positive to a fault, but it’s much more fun that way! Besides, I think Coach Cal is a very colorful person and he commands the attention of the press. As Coach Cal says, I like this team. They don’t have to win it all to make me happy. I appreciate effort, good kids and incredible talent.

  9. Karen Sprinkle

    Oh, where to start? First off, Cal consistently and constantly adjusts the offense to suit what he perceives to be the strengths of the team. For example, the 2011 Final Four team really turned around when he recognized that the pick and roll (which he was on record as detesting due to bringing an additional defender against the ballhandler) would be the best offense for that particular team. While being somewhat famous for the “dribble-drive” offense, he has rarely, if ever while he has been at Kentucky, used it for the vast majority of plays. He had added a zone to this year’s defenses when it became apparent that our guards had difficulty keeping smaller, quicker guards from successfully driving to the hoop. As this year’s players learned the zone better (even though he is on record as preferring NOT to play zone), he has used the zone more in games. For all those who have harped on the zone most of this season, should he have played zone even if the players were not running it (i.e. rotating) correctly just for the sake of playing zone?

    As for “owning his performance,” I can’t tell you how many times he has said after the game “well, that (mistake) was on me” even if, by looking at the game, the mistake was clearly the failure of a player to make the play (such as failing to switch on a screen, or some other thing). IMO, he takes the blame a lot more than other similarly situated coaches.

    Do I think Cal is perfect? Nope. Do I think he’s still the best coach for the UK job? Heck yes. If you look at his recruiting, I do think he has somewhat changed his philosophy and that he will have more multi-year players on his team so as to have more experienced leadership. Time will tell. From his first few years at Kentucky, there are players who were “one and dones” that I believe he and his staff believed would be here more than one year (Orton and Bledsoe to name two). As I recall, most of the “experts” thought going into the season that both of those guys would be at Kentucky at least two years.

    Patience, grasshoppers, the season is not over by a long shot.

  10. Keith Peel

    Looks like Cal owning his performance is a ” hot button” for a lot of fans. In all the comments I only saw one reader offer facts about Cal in rebuttal. I will give Karen credit for stating that Cal adjusted his offense away from the dribble drive in 2011. I also have to say that in watching his games he is consistently out coached by several coaches in the SEC annually(Donovan,stallings,barbee, stansbury) I will also give him credit as the best recruiter in the college game, maybe the best since john Wooden. Unfortunately he is not equally as good at developing strategy and adjusting that strategy as the game unfolds. He is too willing to stick with man to man defense and a very basic motion offense. I think Jeff Goodman, CBS Sports said it best recently in his article about the Ole Miss game. He said KY will be dangerous in the tournament not because of how they execute ( because they don’t execute well) but because they can physically overwhelm most teams. Keep the comments coming, it’s good to see so many fans willing to give Cal a pass.

    1. Larry Pup

      “Calipari is consistently out coached annually by several coaches in the SEC,” really? Let’s take the dean of the SEC, Donovan’s record against Calipari. I think he is something like 3-8 versus Cal. For as I know Barbee has never beaten him, and Cal has more than held his own against Stansbury (retired) and Stallings. To me coaching strategy is all about producing a win anyway you can get it, including great recruiting. Help me out here.

    2. Gene

      “He is constantly out coached by several coaches in the SEC”


      1. Gene

        In four full and one partial SEC season his record stands at 143 wins and 32 losses. Now I fully unerstand that you could do a better job than a 0.774 win percentage but to make a public statement such as this requires a special kind of stupid.

        1. gyro

          His team plays Cinn. Sat.

  11. Little Baron

    Calipari renewed the CATS position among the top current programs in year 1.
    He raised the bar to a Final Four in year 2.
    He then re-established the highest standard with the perfect mix of players & coaches when he led UK to Title #8 with an outstanding 38-2 record.

    Cal recalibrated the measuring stick at UK, just as Rupp set it, Hall regained it & Pitino recovered it with 3 consecutive Finals and one Derek Anderson in OT away from the rare 3-peat.

    Thanks, Cal for setting the mark back where it belongs for UK, with 3 consecutive E8 trips including back to back FF’s producing #8. Now, many fans just want you to continue to hold the bar high, and get to the FF about 67% of the time so we have a shot at a Title once every few years. Many will not be happy with Sweet 16’s or even Elite 8 trips unless we get that 2 out of 3 trips to the FF… or at least 2 out of 4. There are many fans who will not settle for less.

    Some fans are happy as a lark if we get an invitation to the Big Dance, some if we get to the Sweet 16 before packing bags to go home. But some, who invest in flight tickets, hotel rooms, vacation requests with their employer … well, they just want a FF when we are ranked high going into the season. That’s why Rupp sets records and why UK basketball gear brings so much money to UK… it is not because of that demeaning nit trip to Robert Morris or the early flame-outs we experienced in the years of Tubby when he had ten loss seasons including two in a row.

    The beauty of UK basketball, at least to many, is that EVERY BIG BLUE FAN, whether an alumni or a fan since his eyes could see and his ears hear GO BIG BLUE. If some are happy with teams that seemingly fall way short of expectations, they are still a Big Blue Fan in my book. If some complain and point out every miscue by players and questionable coaching decision… they are still a Big Blue Fan in my book. Who is anyone to call a fellow-UK fan anything other than a BIG BLUE FAN. Folks, this program is much bigger than any individual who attacks posters he may not like and much bigger than any poster who is not happy with the status quo. Let each fan enjoy his own method being entertained. Opinions, analysis, arm-chair coaching, better ideas… let it all be presented without attacking other Big Blue Fans.

    I never like to see a personal attack on a player or coach, but pointing out their lack of effort or high turnover number is not the same as commenting about how they wear their hair or how well they speak in public. Likewise with fans… a fan is a fan is a fan. No one has the right to call another anything but a fan.

    Peace be with the Big Blue Nation as we are on the crest of an early exit in the Big Dance or an unbelievable run for the roses. All is well either way.

  12. Larry Pup

    I believe every UK basketball fan wants to see UK win it all every year. I don’t think there is a single fan that is thrilled to see UK make it to the big dance and exit after a sweet 16 loss, or even an elite 8 loss. There is a sadness that pounds them deep inside. I don’t start the season saying, “wow I hope UK makes it to the elite 8.” No, I want them to win a NC. But the chances in that happening are average at best. So some fans just accept it and move on, and hope for the best next year, and will not lead the charge to start a revolt against our Coach. Then there are others who go way overboard with their constant complaining and second guessing the coach and players after every loss in the middle of a tough season until it gets to be problematic for many of us. But they have the right to do just that. Yes, all types of fans co exist. I just wonder if the players and coach feel these types are good fans? It sure can’t make them happy. It might even hurt their play. The fans do pay the bills and produce the revenue. So in essence, they can say what they like. Not all of us will agree with their complaints or conclusions.

  13. Tom

    Anyone fed up with Cal is an idiot. If ant count how many times he says that he needs to coach better. Do you people not remember 10 years of Tubby failing to get to a single final four or Billy the train wreck.

  14. John

    1 Trish is pretty smart.
    2 Our program is over-analyzed.
    3 Everyone needs to just watch and enjoy. If that’s not for you then don’t.

  15. Theresa

    Boy, Larry, you really stirred up a hornet’s nest by printing this one! I learned a long time ago that some folks just cannot be pleased no matter how hard you try. We all realize that Coach Cal is not perfect and has flaws just like all of us, and maybe the “shine” has worn off for a few in the BBN, but for the most BBN members, I think we pick Coach Cal over EVERY other coach in the basketball world EVERY time. Because we grew up loving, watching, and sweating through the good times and the droughts of Kentucky basketball, we think we are endowed with the inalienable right to analyze our coach and each play of each game. (Notice I said analyze–not criticize.) Maybe some of us carry that a bit too far. Coach Cal probably knows that…hence, the “You people are crazy” mantra. But let’s not chase him off or write him off just yet. Thank you Trish and Karen for your logic and accurate memories; apparently, there are some whose logic and memories are not nearly as good as yours. I may not agree with everything Coach Cal does while coaching our guys, but he has brought pride back to the BBN, for which I will be eternally grateful. He is doing everything that he can to keep that pride rampant among BBN. Not for one minute do I think that Cal could walk in my world and do what I do and as well as I do it, why on earth would I think that I could come in with a better plan than his and do what he does? I much prefer sitting in front of my television, shouting at it, often pacing in front of it and sometimes scaring the dog and cats into other rooms. I get to do that twice weekly during basketball season…I have no need to do it seven days a week. We can all see how much that will age a person by just looking at pictures of Coach Cal on day 1 at UK and today…

    1. Trish

      Excellent, excellent post!

      1. Larry Pup

        Theresa nailed it! That was good, and from the heart.

  16. JT

    The issues Cal talks about every year are a function of the one-year rule which he opposes. Most of these kids have always been able to dominate just based on physical superiority so college is always going to be an adjustment for freshmen, no matter how talented they are.

    The play of this year’s team and even last year’s team, while frustrating is the price for being able to put together a team like the ’11-’12 team every few years. If Poythress, the Harrisons, Cauley-Stein, and Johnson come back next year, the team will be as good as the ’12 team. If that happens, there will be a year or two of rebuilding afterwards but the end result could be having an excellent shot at the title every 3 or 4 years (as long as players from mediocre teams don’t leave early). There’s only a handful of other schools that legitimately compete for a title that often. Louisville is not one of them so UK fans should just enjoy that.

  17. Fred

    I have been a Wildcat fan for forty years and Cal’s first 3 years were great! But last year was a disgrace to the uniform and so far, this year has been embarrassing. I’m tired the freshmen excuse and Cal acting confused so much. I think he is over the hill! If this is not a Final Four year, we need to find a new coach. YES, I’m one of those IDIOTS!

    1. Larry Pup

      And who would you recommend Fred, and can he recruit?

      1. Love SEC

        Maybe some of those that post on this site could do the job.
        They seem to have all of the answers.

  18. John

    If Coach Calipari had to choose one or the other outcome: maximize the number of NCAA tournament games won; or maximize the number of players he puts in the NBA — which would he choose?

    If you even have to think about it, then maybe you will start to get a clue why I, for one, am disgruntled.

    (Now comes the defensive responses about how the two goals are the same, must have players to win, etc. etc. I disagree. A coach will not do the same things for both goals.)

  19. John

    In response to Trish’s comment about a hypothetical situation (not making it to the Sweet 16 at the end of this season), you challenged the “delusional” fans to “name me one other coach in the NCAA who has done more” (than 3 Elite 8’s, 2 Final Fours, and 1 championship) in a 4-year span.

    First off, at the end of this season, Calipari’s stats will be based on 5 years, not four.

    So, in 5 seasons:
    * Hypothetical Coach Cal went to 3 elite eights, 2 Final Fours and won 1 championship.

    Within 5-season stretches:

    * Roy Williams went to 4 elite eights, 3 final fours, won 2 championships.
    * Mike Krzyzewski went to 4 elite eights, 4 final fours, won 2 championships.
    * Tom Izzo went to 4 elite eights, 2 final fours, won 1 championship.
    * Rick Pitino (UK) went to 4 elite eights, 3 final fours, won 1 championship.
    * Rick Pitino (UL) went to 3 elite eights, 2 final fours, won 1 championship.
    * Bobby Knight went to 3 elite eights, 2 final fours, won 1 championship.
    * Denny Crum went to 3 elite eights, 2 final fours, won 1 championship.
    * Dean Smith went to 4 elite eights, 2 final fours, won 1 championship.

    There may be more. I just looked up a few. In fact, it took a while before I found a coach who DID NOT perform at this level. John Thompson took 6 seasons to rack up such numbers in the early 1980s. Jim Calhoun came one win from doing what hypothetical-Cal did in 5 years.

    So hypothetical-Cal’s performance not only is not “god-like” (as some seem to think), but is not even exceptional IN THIS STATE.

    Dean Smith missed the Sweet 16 only 2 times in his last 17 years coaching (and both times were in his last 4 seasons)
    Coach K missed the Sweet 16 only 3 times in the last 16 years.
    Roy Williams has missed the Sweet 16 only 3 times in the last 13 years.
    Tom Izzo has missed the Sweet 16 only 5 times in the last 16 years.

    Tubby Smith did not miss the Sweet 16 two years in a row until 2007. That was the end.

    If you are okay with the Cats going 2 years in a row not making the second weekend of the tourney — and one of those losing in the 1st round of the NIT (on the road!), that is your right, I guess.

    But elite level programs don’t settle for that kind of performance for very long.

    I do not mean this to be personal, but I care about the UK basketball program, and your question deserved a response.

    Coach Cal has been very successful. His record is impressive. Even if we don’t do well this season, he deserves to be our coach and our respect. But clearly, as of today, things are not going as they should be.

    Thinking that Coach Cal’s overall tournament record at UK is out of this world, should he fail to make the 2nd weekend of the tourney next month — that is what is delusional.

  20. Trish

    I, for one, do not believe this team has a Sweet Sixteen ceiling. So, at this point, you are comparing apples to oranges.

    The coaches you name are the best of the best. Some not even active. Most nearing career’s end. Hall-of-Fame coaches. So, if you were looking for a replacement for Cal, please do tell me who you would recommend for the job and tell me if truly believe they could exceed what’s he done in FOUR seasons (we can revisit after this season, because until then, your point is moot.)

    Cal is not perfect. I’m logical enough to look at things from a non-blue tinted perspective. But everything I see tells me that we have become an impossible-to-please group. We think we are entitled and that fact is, that’s just not true. Our fans (and I mean the lunatic fringe, not the sensible fans that comprise most of the fanbase) really should be careful what they wish for – they just might get it. And we weren’t exactly world-beaters prior to Cal’s arrival.

    I will not dispute your statistics because, frankly, I don’t have the time or desire to put any energy into that kind of research. Props on taking the time to look it all up.

  21. jerry

    I was self employed and served the public for35 years. No one person is going to please everyone. Regardless of how hard you try people are going to dislike you. I feel sad for the players and the bench{2 different units} do not understand not resting the starters so they are able to finish the last 10 minutes of game. With part of one season with a good strength coach these guys are not conditioned like seniors. Our bench could start in most division 1 schools. More will disagree with me than will. More will dislike me than like me. That makes me about average. GO BIG BLUE!

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