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December 20, 2009

Calipari, players reflect on chase to 2,000

New coach John Calipari has only been around for 11 of Kentucky's 1,999 basketball victories. So you can imagine his approach as the Cats look to become the first program to reach 2,000 wins when UK meets Drexel on Monday night.

"I'm such a small part of the 2,000 wins," Calipari said. "But there is a sense of responsibility when you are in this seat. There have not been many in this seat, but the guys that have been know there is a sense of responsibility that you feel to the state, university, former players and coaches.

"The minute you sit in the seat I'm in, you understand the importance to the state," he added. "I'm happy we are up against it now. Let's just get it over and move on to what we have to do this season."

Most inside the program have been trying to keep a low profile, but the true emotion was always percolating just below the surface, especially when everyone knows the race to 2,000 had boiled down to Kentucky and rival North Carolina. Heading into the season, UK needed 12 wins, Carolina just 16.

"We can act like it wasn't important for us to get to 12 before North Carolina got to 16," Calipari said. "But believe me, the day after I took the job I started thinking, 'How are we going to get to 12 before they get to 16?' Now I'm thinking, 'How can we get to one before they get to seven?' That may not be Monday. It may be Wednesday; it may be next week when we come back. We need to get to one before they get to seven.

"The good news is we have some gap," the coach added. "The pressure was the North Carolina game. When we got that I thought we'd have some breathing room to get there before them because we had some space.

"I wasn't sure what we would do in the tournament in Cancun, and I thought that could be a loss. I thought Connecticut and North Carolina games would be hard to win. I was hoping we could beat Indiana on the road, but I wasn't sure. I thought we'd have three to four losses with such a young team."

Calipari might be the new coach on the block, but the basketball historian appreciates this moment in time.

"This program has created a pride in this state, from eastern to western to northern to southern Kentucky," Calipari said. "People have a pride in their Commonwealth's team and it means something to them."

Being a part of an historic mark like 2,000 wins is something all these Kentucky players will remember, but it no doubt strikes a unique chord with homegrown products like Mark Krebs and Jon Hood.

"It's an unbelievable feeling that you are a part of a program that is so special and has won so many games," Krebs said. "To be a part of it is really going to be special. The first to 2,000 wins, that is amazing. It's going to be a great thing.

"Getting 2,000 wins just shows how special a place and a program that Kentucky is," Krebs said. "It's just special."

The northern Kentucky product also knows who might enjoy it more than the men in blue.

"The fans love it and why shouldn't they?" Krebs asked. "They definitely talk about it and you hear it on your way to class and things like that. Everyone is a part of this program that has helped to build it up and the fans are a huge part of it.

"They should love it and they should cherish this game," Krebs added. "Everyone that has been with the team so long should as well. I wish that (former UK equipment manager) Mr. (Bill) Keightley could be here to see it. It is going to be an amazing night when it happens and I am excited about it."






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