All you haters take note go ahead and laugh, mock and poke fun all you want now, but Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari has a stern message for you all making fun of this season’s woes and not making the NCAA Tournament.
“Enjoy your time now. Next season is gonna come soon enough.”
That was his closing statement during his final radio call-in show Monday and it evident Calipari had a few days to breathe putting this past season in perspective.
However, the woes may have unleashed a monster for next year as the coach was back in typical Cal form bringing some swag and breathing some redemption fire.
He has been coaching long enough to have a thick skin and can handle all the ridicule haters bring and the frustration that Big Blue Nation endured.
There is no vacation for Calipari and while still mentoring current players on their decision to stay or go, he is squarely focused on raising Kentucky back to the mountaintop of which they are accustomed to sitting.
Never enduring a season like this past one Calipari says breathe all will be fine
Calipari faces challenges year in and year out with turning his team over and bringing in a new roster but none of them has been as frustrating as this one turned out to be. He just completed coaching his 29th season amassing a 784-233 (.771) record starting with eight years at UMASS (193-71), nine at Memphis (252-69), and the past 12 at Kentucky (339-93).
In that span, 2020-21 win total of just 9 was the lowest of any season.
He didn’t make excuses of how young his team was, or injuries or covid but more so of how the season was not acceptable especially for Kentucky.
During the show, he said he was grieving, despondent, or whatever people wanted to say, but is firmly focused on where they need to go.
“It’s only been four days and I’ve spent a lot of time. We have got to evaluate everything. .. You can’t do it emotionally, you have got to do it thoughtfully. Got to bring out lots of different opinions, talk to different people that I respect. At the end of the day, we know this is Kentucky and it was unacceptable what just happened for the season. We can put it on COVID, no summer, we could do whatever we want to do. New guys, Keion (Brooks Jr.) didn’t play, blah, blah, blah. It’s still unacceptable.
It harkened back to the 2012-13 season where UK also failed to make the Big Dance going 21-11 and headed to play at Robert Morris in the opening round of the NIT. We all know how that turned out.
But what it did create was a need to self-evaluate what went wrong and what needed to be done. Sort of going back to the drawing board. What followed was a 29-11 year and a trip to the championship game. Lest we forget what Aaron Harrison did to Wisconsin.
He also mentioned some changes to his offseason workout style and philosophy as he talked about finding skill and not just pure athleticism.
He wants players in the gym playing pick-up game after pick-up games working on not taking a three in that game, or creating shots for other players and never taking a shot. If they get to practice this all summer they will be more poised when the season hopefully returns to normal by the start of practice. Something that didn’t happen this year.
The landscape has changed and he is seeing what makes teams click now. Where it used to be pure athleticism for that team today its has become a game of skill where players are finding success. Those players then could make things happen but necessarily couldn’t shoot. That has changed in today’s game.
Those players helped Kentucky make deep tournament runs and line up as one-and-done lottery picks heading to the NBA.
Now the transfer portal and graduate transfers are changing rosters just like player skill sets.
“The game on the court changes every three or our years. In the game, you’ve got to be able to space the court just like we did with Derek Willis and some different guys….. We’ve done it with guys who make shots. It’s more what’s happening, how do you put a roster together? How do you do it where you’re going to have some guys who stay now, three years, four years, but you’re going to integrate them with other players. That’s going to be tricky.”
How next season’s roster shakes out is a waiting game. He said it’s only been four days since this season ended in the SEC Tournament and needs a chance for everyone to breathe to have faith in him and his staff because they will make the needed adjustments just like in 2013.
So far next season Devin Askew and Dontaie Allen have committed to return and Oscar Tschiebwe is already been practicing since January. Isaiah Jackson, Brandon Boston, Olivier Sarr, and Terrence Clarke are more than likely gone. Cam’Ron Fletcher already announced he is transferring so that leaves Davion Mintz, Jacob Toppin, Keion Brooks Jr., and Lance Ware still pondering their futures
Whatever the team makeup is Calipari is ready to get to work. He said was even hacked off by getting an eight seed in the SEC Tournament.
“I’m not satisfied. My whole mission now is to put this behind us. It’s going to take me some time, but let’s put it all behind us. So let’s continue to say, ‘This is Kentucky. This is a standard.’ There were a lot of happy people out there that we had this kind of year. And you know what? Hey, enjoy your time now. Next year’s going to come soon enough.”
Be careful out there Cal and his troops will be on a mission and nothing is worse than karma bitting you while watching Kentucky cut down the nets in New Orleans come April 4, 2022. The same place they won the 2012 National Championship.