Week 16 of the college basketball season is here, and the No. 14 Kentucky Wildcats’ judgement week is here with a matchup against the No. 3 Florida Gators, who sit atop the SEC at 10-0 and two games ahead of the Cats.
That’s the matchup everyone will be waiting for, but before then the Cats have to take of business at Auburn, who John Calipari spoke about in his weekly SEC media teleconference on Monday.
Cal actually coached the Tigers’ head coach, Tony Barbee, while at UMASS early in his coaching career. From there, Barbee would eventually become one of Cal’s top assistants while at Memphis, and Cal continues to support Barbee’s efforts to build up a program that has no real tradition in Auburn.
On going against his good fired and pupil in Barbee:
First of all, let me tell you, watching tape of Auburn, Tony is doing so. He’s doing so many good things with his team. His guard play is outstanding, his big guys are active. Defensively, the way they’re guarding and rebounding, the stuff that he’s running.
I just talked to Bruiser Flint, who we coached Tony together up in Massachusetts, I just said, ‘You’d be so proud of what he’s doing. They started with a ridiculous schedule that any of us would have been on a losing streak. You talk Missouri early in the year, they were top-10, and then Florida, at Tennessee and at Arkansas. We’d have all — we could have been 0-4.
So what he’s doing with that team right now, I’ll just tell you, he’s coaching as well as anybody in this conference and in the country. To keep them going and playing the way they’re playing, it’s amazing!
On Rupp Arena Renovations:
I’m not really involved in it. The one good thing about coaching here. I’m not involved in selling tickets, I’m not involved in fundraising, I’m not involved with game-day operations, I’m not involved in the video or selling shirts, things that I’ve had to do over the years.
When you’re here at Kentucky, you coach basketball. They want you to recruit, they want you to coach, they want to take all the things in academic support, they take it off the table for you. So, I haven’t been involved in any way. I’m anxiously awaiting to see how it all plays out. I think there are good people on all sides trying to make something good happen. And I’m anxious to see what goes down.
On his team continuing to develop and mature:
They’re 18 and 19 years old. It was only six months ago they were in Vegas playing four games in one day. And so now all of the sudden we’re throwing them in this fishbowl where they have to perform and win every game by 20, any loss is paid double and you’re put in the position where you can’t be hid.
Everything you do is out there. So I’m telling you that this team has responded pretty good. You know, we have five losses, none of them by many points. And we’re not where we want to be right now. The biggest thing and the hardest thing to teach any of these kids.
A coach knows what I’m trying to do. It’s get them to think different, to get their emotions tied to our team, not their individual offensive performance, to get them to have a spirit on defense and take so much pride in how we play together that we cover for each other.
It’s a totally different way of thinking than they did six months ago. So they begin to think the right way and when they don’t think they’ve got to do it that way, they revert back to doing it their way
On the Marcus Smart incident and the similarity to Aaron Harrison’s incident at Arkansas:
Ignore them. Just ignore them. Feel bad for Marcus Smart. You know, he came back and all the stories about him coming back and this is what you’re supposed to do — I just feel bad for him, because I know him as a great kid, too. And it’s just a hard deal.
Again, I wasn’t there, I don’t know, but you guys all know that we’re in hostile environments everywhere we go. And I tell them, ‘Guys, you just can’t deal with all that.’
I can remember being at Masschusetts and Memphis where we knew we were gonna lose a game and they were gonna charge the court, I got half the team out of the arena. ‘Just go in now. And then the rest of you guys, we’ll come out and grab you and let’s get off the court.’
I didn’t see him (Aaron) stare down anybody. I don’t know what you’re talking about. You mean when the kid charged Aaron? Did the kid charge Aaron? OK, so that’s what happened. So the kid charged Aaron, and Aaron did not respond. Which was good. I liked that.
Here’s the full video: