Since his arrival on campus in 2009, John Calipari has been the “Spin Doctor.” The king of “coach speak” and “double talk.” He routinely makes veiled references to our lesser kin up the road, but only as a retort, usually. When players are dogging it in games or practice, he’ll drop a little bit about it to the media as a subtle wake up call to said player. His players are all used to it by now so it’s never taken as hateful negative but a constructive criticism. So as the 2013-2014 basketball season gets underway, a story, Eamonn Brennon of ESPN floated a little quote from Michigan State’s “Midnight Madness” from the nearly as adept communicator, Tom Izzo.
It all began back on Sept. 27, at Michigan State’s Midnight Madness event, when students in attendance tweeted a choice fire ‘em up line from Izzo about the team’s practices to date: “We’re working to kick Kentucky’s [butt].” Considering the Spartans’ only game before the Nov. 12 matchup with UK is a home warm-up against McNeese State (2012-13 KenPom rank: No. 308), this was a pretty innocuous thing for Izzo to say. Of course that’s what Michigan State was doing. With all due respect to McNeese State … well, come on.
But John Calipari being John Calipari, it didn’t take long for Izzo’s otherwise ho-hum declaration to catch on. Ina luncheon for UK’s Greater Louisville Alumni Club Monday, Calipari gently fired back, but really spent most of his time on the topic spinning Izzo’s five-word admission into another ingenious way to sell his program:
And let me say this about this team: Our third game is against Michigan State. That’s going to be hard. They’re already a veteran team. They’ve already made comments that their practices are about beating Kentucky. But I say this to you: If I ask my team when we play Florida, they’re not going to know. North Carolina (they don’t know). I’m going to do it today, because as I thought about it, they don’t know. You think they know when we’re playing Louisville? They don’t know. They want to know if there is a meal tonight. They don’t know. Now, I ask you this: Does everyone on our schedule know when they’re playing Kentucky? Oh, they know. And it’s on their locker, it’s on their ceiling of their bedroom. You’ve got to deal with that. That’s part of being at Kentucky. You know what I tell them? Not only do they want to beat Kentucky, they want to beat you as individual player. You want to know why? They wanted that scholarship that you got and they want to prove they’re better than you, not just their team is better than Kentucky. So that’s the challenge that we have. But would you want it any other way? I don’t. Bring it. Let’s go – as long as I’ve got a good team. (Laughter). Bring it, let’s go.
See, now THIS is why I love college basketball and the gamesmanship that comes when you combine highly successful coaches with highly developed minds. It’s a job to them yet it’s still a game. They understand all the nuances of motivation and will do/say anything to get their team to where they need to be.
Remember to circle November 12th on your calendar for this game in the Champions Classic.
Oh and don’t tell the Kentucky Wildcats basketball players, they apparently don’t know when this game is.