Kentucky Wildcats Basketball: Let's be thankful for the John Calipari Way

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Mandatory Credit: Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

Shortly after his Kentucky Wildcats defeated the Louisville Cardinals on Saturday, John Calipari met with the press. It’s understandable  if Calipari wanted to gloat a bit about a big rivalry win and brag a bit about beating Rick Pitino for the fifth time in six games. Instead, Calipari sensed the comparisons between the way he runs his team and the way Pitino runs his would be coming and cut it off at the pass:


But you know, the one thing I want to tell you, please, all this stuff about, you know, doing it this way, doing it another way. This is not two basketball teams. Please, stop. Cal way; there’s no “Cal” way. There’s no “Cal ball.” This is about those players. Last year, Louisville was better than us and if they had played us again they would have beat our brains in again. Two years ago, we were better than them twice and we were better than
them, and we beat them twice. Well, young, old, ugly, pretty, doesn’t matter. Now, if we play them again, I don’t know if we are good enough to beat them again. I know in this environment we were the better team today but all this stuff about the way he does it, the way they do it, the way this is ‑‑ that’s all, just please stop. Quit wasting your time. This is about players playing as a team.


Calipari had the chance to take some digs at Louisville, but stayed on point with his “Players First” mantra.  Calipari has been mocked in national circles for his “Players First” approach, but maybe it is time to admit that while this approach is not right for everyone, it is perfect for Calipari at Kentucky.

And while it may not be technically “The Calipari Way”, there really is a huge difference in how Calipari runs his team and how the University down the road manages theirs.  Shortly after the whole “Players First” talk started, the University of Louisville decided to make their new slogan, “Cardinals First”.  It was an obvious dig, but you don’t have to dig to far to see which approach is working.

Even during last years disastrous season, John Calipari did not call out his team and throw them under the bus.  We heard the refrain of “I like my team” so much it became a punchline, but Calipari never wavered in his support for his team.

Unlike Rick Pitino who yesterday ripped a couple of his players in comparing them to Christina Aguilera and Justin Timberlake:


Let me give you an analogy of our front court knowing who they are.  It’s like having Christina Aguilera to sing at a concert, she comes out, ignores her great voice and dances for two hours. That’s our front court. I remember as if were yesterday asking Rodrick Rhodes, who played for me at UK, this question.  You are a great defender, slasher and passer — why are you trying to show everyone the 3pt shot is your thing?

People come to watch Christina sing.

People would come to watch Rodrick pass, slash, and defend…. In other words, Montrezl and Chane – Need to dominate the paint. Rebound like Kenneth Faried , defend like Dennis Rodman, block shots and dunk.  Score off rip moves and leave the dancing to Justin Timberlake.


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