John Calipari knew that becoming the head coach of the Kentucky Wildcats would be a pressure filled job when he took the position. But late;y, the stress of being the coach at UK seems to have worn on Calipari. He is frustrated, yes, but for a totally different reason than he was last year. Last year, he stressed that the program had been “hijacked”.
While no one is coming out and saying that the program has been hijacked, John Calipari is frustrated trying to find the right mix to right this ship.
Over the course of the last week or so, Calipari has taken to the media in an apparent attempt to get his team to respond. After the North Carolina, Calipari uttered his now infamous “If you wanna keep losing, keep acting this way” statement and well, the national media was on it like flies on … you know.
That said, they’re still losses … and nobody had Kentucky starting 8-3.
“My hope was that we’d be like the best team in the last 12 years,” Calipari said while smiling the type of smile you flash when you’re frustrated with how things are progressing.
“We were playing well,” said UK freshman James Young. “Then we stopped playing.”
Stopped playing hard.
Stopped playing together.
Stopped playing like their talent suggests they should play.
It was interesting to watch in person because the TV cameras couldn’t have possibly captured the extent to which Calipari was bothered by his players breaking down individually and collectively against UNC. I watched guys check-in and out without touching hands, which isn’t a big deal except for that it rarely happens with close teams. I saw Julius Randle roll his eyes at his guards — specifically Andrew and Aaron Harrison — whenever they failed to even think about getting him the ball on the block. I witnessed Calipari reduced to yelling at players to huddle after a foul when most players these days simply huddle on their own.
Calipari seems really stressed these days as his CoachCal.com website has featured a commentary about how UK should not be judged by his preseason chatter. And another story by Calipari himself that growth is a process.
Calipari definitely has his own website in spin mode and yesterday’s press conference found Calipari trying to overcome the coaching that his all-star players have gotten in the past.
And that is a valid point. As talented as this team is, they really have not had any coaching on how to play as part of a team or as a well tuned machine. And that is the lesson that Calipari has to deliver.
Too much has been made of the fact that this team has no veteran leadership but there could be a player on this team waiting to emerge. And that is Alex Poythress.