By LARRY VAUGHT
During his time as a college basketball coach, John Calipari has seen two looks from players. One indicates players want coaching and instruction.
“Then there’s a smirk,” said Calipari. “What I said: ‘The smirking ain’t working.’ You need to understand why we tell you to do certain things. I talked about (senior) Jon Hood. It’s amazing how much he’s grown. I mean, amazing. It’s like we have another coach in him.
“I told the team about Jon. I said, ‘Hey, if you want to know how good you are compared to who he’s played against, there is no player in the country that has played with more pros than Jon Hood (has at Kentucky).’ There isn’t one. There’s not one. Maybe never will be one.
“He’s gone from ‘What about me and da, da da to how do I help this team in what I do?’ And all the sudden he’s having a ball making it about everybody else, and if he gets his opportunity Jon Hood will be ready.”
Calipari used the growth of Alex Poythress as player to demonstrate the value of listening and learning.
“Alex now in my mind, when he’s 35 years old and something hits him, he’s not going to blame anybody, he’s not going to listen to the alibis,” Calipari said. “He’ll work on changing, and his, quote, failure won’t be for long. That’s what you hope you get from all this stuff: that you’re teaching life lessons, that they use this.
“But it’s like a diet. You do right for five days, doesn’t mean you’re going to lose 72 pounds. Maybe even gain weight. But you’re doing the right stuff, so you stay with it and you know it’s gonna work and you keep marching. That’s what I’m trying to tell all these kids.”
Freshman Derek Willis is another player Calipari thinks has benefited from listening.
“Derek, when he gets his opportunity, is going to do fine. He’s our best post passer. They play zone, I’m gonna start putting him in. We may be able to start playing zone (defense) with him, so now you’re really big, because he would be your three. You’re talking 6-10, 6-10 … I mean, it would be a huge zone if we want to play that way. So we’re talking about things that go beyond just the basketball,” Calipari said.
“But, again, the clutter they hear … A hundred-man marching band, and that band is (marching in places) step by step; Ninety-nine turn right, this guy turns left, and his people, that clutter, says to him, ‘What’s wrong with those other 99?’ That’s the clutter, and you’ve gotta get beyond that. ‘I’m owning what’s happening. I’m taking responsibility.’”
Kentucky plays at LSU Tuesday night and that could provide more opportunities for clutter. The Cats have lost only one Southeastern Conference game. But for several weeks Calipari has mentioned the “clutter” his team has dealt with this season.
“It’s everywhere. It’s not just here. I know it’s happening across the country. Everywhere. You can become delusional, and I’ve had guys do that,” Calipari said. “Like, you’re listening and buying it and it’s making you feel good and you become delusional. Or you can man up a little bit, own your own performance, listen to it but understand: This person is not helping me. Then you want that call less and less instead of more and more. ‘Tell me what I want to hear. It makes me feel good because I don’t want to take responsibility.’ Then that’s who you talk to all the time, become delusional.
“And let me just say this: What I’m saying, I’ve done this a long time; every team I’ve coached has the clutter. Now who’s going to deal with it and who’s not? My good teams don’t buy it. Sometimes the clutter is they’re on each other, the other players. ‘He shouldn’t be shooting all the balls. You’re better than …’ It’s everywhere. It’s not just here. Now is that a major problem? It might have been. I don’t know. But I know this: it’s out there now. If it was, I think it’s been addressed.”