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October 2, 2012
Part III: Calipari talks schedule, fans, his UK future
Last month, Kentucky coach John Calipari sat down with a group of reporters, including Brett Dawson of Cats Illustrated, to talk about the upcoming 2012-13 basketball season. The content of those interviews was embargoed until Oct. 1.
Calipari met with reporters for almost an hour, and Cats Illustrated will present his comments in their entirety in a three-part series. Presented here is the third part of that roundtable discussion.
Reporters' questions have been edited for space and clarity.
Q: Are you happy with how the nonconference schedule turned out?
Q: What do the two new teams do for the strength of the conference?
Q: It seems you've been going nonstop even since winning the national title. Are your batteries recharged enough to do this again?
Q: Could you coach here 20 years?
Q: You say the UK coach must take a lot of crap. What is your definition of 'crap'?
Q: What was your take on CBS' recent anonymous polls of your coaching colleagues that portrayed you negatively?
Q: Did you ever take a moment this summer to revel in winning it all?
Q: Is the fan base what you expected when you took the job, and have you embraced the craziness?
And then, I did some stuff early (in his UK career) and it was by chance. Do you remember what I did when I first took this job - by chance? I did a tour. Do you remember what that tour was? The book tour. That book was written a year and a half, two years earlier. I never knew I was taking this (job). It was by chance. That tour showed me, like, 'Oh, my gosh, it doesn't matter where I got in this state; these people are into this program and it means something to them.' And then you do Midnight Madness and you've got the grandmother, the granddaughter, the grandchild, the great grandchild, and they're all under one tent. Then you start saying, 'Wait a minute. This is a little bigger than I'm thinking.' That happened.
And they've been great at home games. Have we lost yet there? (Nope) OK. So I'm anxious to find out when you spill one, how are they then? And I still tell the story - DeWayne will tell you - I don't know if we were in the 40s (consecutive home wins) somewhere and I said, 'DeWayne, this thing, we need to lose one just to get this thing off the deck.' And I said, 'By the way, what's the record (for consecutive home wins at UK)?' He said, 'A hundred and twenty-nine.' And I go, 'Straight?' I said, 'That had to be nine years.' It's twelve. How in the world do you win 12 straight years of home games? That means a person was 12 years old and you didn't lose until he was 24; he went from sixth grade to having two children. That's sick. But that's where this thing was.
So I could see why - how did Coach Hall follow this guy (Adolph Rupp)? How in the world does he follow? He was telling me he was a little meaner then, huh? But I mean, it's part of it. It's part of what you do here. And the last thing, and I'll just say: What I also learned is when you're in this seat I'm in, which is you're the keeper of the tradition; whoever is this seat is the keeper of the tradition as much as anything else you do. So if you come in and you think, 'Well I'm just going to watch tape and coach my team,' you cheat the position. Which means connecting to the past. If you ever try to eliminate the past, it's because you wanted the program to start with you, like it was going to be all about you. The reality of it is this thing started in the 30s. You're the keeper of the tradition. That's one. And the second part of it is you have a chance to move people for the good or bad by how you act and the things you do. Or you can sit in the office and watch tape. So you almost, if you're not going to cheat the position, understand you better be the keeper of the tradition and keep people around and connect the dots and bring everybody back in and be a gatherer.
Q: Looking back, what was the significance of dropping last year's SEC title game?
Q: With Louisville, Indiana and UK all expected to be top-five teams this season - and Murray State will be good - do you like this area being the epicenter of college basketball?
Q: So are you a believer in karma, then, if you say you 'don't want that stuff coming back at us'?
Q: Did you view Kentucky as the epicenter of college basketball when you were coaching against the Cats, and how badly did you want to beat that?
But their families understand the history of this place. The 2K game means something. It did. It did then. And we knew, we scheduled, believe me. We needed to get there before Carolina and we knew it. I said, 'Can we win these games to make sure we get there before they do?' I didn't want it to have to be us playing them - oh, my gosh - for the 2K. That's all we needed. But this is a unique place. The expectations are high. You're under a magnifying glass. Stuff that goes on, on other campuses, psssh. If it goes on here, it's a big deal; goes on over there, 'Eh, he didn't mean it; the guy walked into the kid's fist.' But if it goes on here, I'm telling you it's huge. It's all part of what it is.
I'll just leave you with this: The whole thing here, it's a players-first program. It's not changing. Every decision I make is based on what's right for these kids. That's not changing. Everything I do is based on them, and if I do right by them and keep doing right by them, they'll drag us where we want to go. Now I'll say this: This team will drag us maybe as far as it can go and that may not be what we all want, but I look back and say, 'Hey, I feel great about that.' I think of the team two years ago and the first team I had here; those two teams, both of them had a chance to win both national titles. You all may say we should've won it in 2010, we should've won it then. Well if we don't go 0 for 20 against West Virginia then maybe we do. Because I think we were better than the other teams. And then that next year, where you didn't think and we ended up going farther, and we should've won it then. Man, that's just how it is here. You just want to be up at bat.
I think we've got good kids, but it's going to be hard. This is one that it's not going to be as easy as it looks to figure stuff out how we play. That'll be the challenge of it. But that's exciting. People will say to me, 'Doesn't that drive you crazy to have a new team?' I say, 'No, it's exciting.' I mean, think about it. You wake up every day and your whole thought is, 'How do I make this better for these guys? How do I figure this stuff out?' I say this: Guys staying with you three years, they don't learn to hate you after one, maybe two, but they do after three and four.