DESTIN, Fla. - Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari sat down with Cats Illustrated for an extended interview this week at the Southeastern Conference meetings.
Presented here is Part 3 of that interview. Some questions have been altered for clarity. Brief portions of the interview have been omitted.
Cats Illustrated: What chance do you give Anthony Davis of making this Olympic team?
Calipari: Good. Good. Very good. He would be the youngest player to ever play on the Olympic team (since the team began using NBA players in 1992). They say, 'College player, it was Christian Laettner.' This kid's 19 years old.
Cats Illustrated: How important is being at the Draft for you?
Calipari: I want to see all six guys, and I've kind of asked them all to be there. You don't have to sit in the dugout. You can be right there (in the stands) and they call you down, and you come down and put your hat on.
Cats Illustrated: Everybody knows where Anthony's going to go. Do you have much feedback yet on the other guys?
Calipari: I have a range, a good idea. But their workouts are probably going to dictate where they'll go.
Cats Illustrated: How do you feel about the chances of all six finding a way into the first round?
Calipari: There's a chance. Guys like Darius Miller, and they're saying that he would be the last pick of the group? I'm not sure he will be. He's mature. He's perfect for Oklahoma City, and especially if they get beat anywhere along the way here and they want to get to the next level. The kid's won everywhere he's been. You get the one guy who's prepared to show you and help your team.
Cats Illustrated: Let's talk a little about this year's team. Ryan Harrow is a little different from some of the point guards you've had. And they've all been different, but he's physically not as big as some of the other guys. How differently will he play?
Calipari: He's physically not as tough. But he puts his head on the rim. He's fast and quick and good with the ball. They're all different. He shoots it better than everybody other than maybe Brandon (Knight). He has better scoring ability than even Derrick (Rose) coming in. Derrick didn't want to score the ball. We had to make him. He doesn't score like Tyreke (Evans), but that was Tyreke's thing. He was going to shoot it.
Cats Illustrated: Is there any Brandon Jennings in Ryan? Just from a standpoint of being kind of a slight guy, but having that explosive game?
Calipari: Maybe a little bit. And then you can play Archie (Goodwin) at point. Now you have a big point. It's not bad, that little rotation… . I'm anxious to see these guys in pick-and-rolls.
Cats Illustrated: You seem to always get the players and say, 'How do I play with these players?' as opposed to 'We're going to play this way, so let's go get these players.' Is this another year of figuring out that process of how to play?
Calipari: Yeah. Which is why playing Maryland and Duke early is an issue. You're playing two teams early that you can get nicked and be 0-2 and have everybody losing their minds. When we lost six league games (in 2010-11), I kept telling everybody, 'I like my team.' Where we're rated, I keep saying, and you've heard me say it, I don't care. I don't care where the coaches say we're rated; I don't care where the media says we're rated. Where do I get my information? Vegas. Where do they say we are? And they say we're pretty good. So if they say we're pretty good, then we're pretty good. What I've got to do is just make sure that I worry about getting better. We're going to be young, we're going to be figuring each other out. Be patient. Let's get better. It's a little different. Last year, I knew we had the best team, best players. At the end, we had the best team who had the best players. The year before, we were the best team. We didn't have the best players. The year before that, we had the best players. Didn't have the best team. I kept using the term, 'We're not a great execution team.'
Cats Illustrated: But you had a great collection of players. Did you learn anything from coaching that first UK team that made the next two better?
Calipari: This team was more skilled than that team. This team, you weren't going to go 0-for-20 (from three-point range) in a game. And we knew going in. (Former staffer) Jason Walberg, the little jagoff, said it. I said, 'All right, how are you guys thinking?' I think we've got a chance of doing this. My first year. I was like, 'This (stuff's) on.' And Jason Walberg says, 'One thing.' I say, 'What?' He says, 'We could hit one of those 0-for-25 games because of the way we shoot.' So then the first two games, we kick ass. First half against Cornell, we're on. We're winning this. We're winning a national title. Second half, we don't make a shot, but still win because we could defend. And then we can't make a shot against West Virginia.
Cats Illustrated: Does that one still eat at you?
Calipari: Nah. That team maxed out. We almost won every game that year.
Cats Illustrated: You talked about playing Maryland and Duke early. I think Gene Keady used to say that the most important thing for a program is what players you recruit, and the second-most important thing is who you play and when you play them. Do you buy that?
Calipari: Well, when I was at UMass and Memphis, I always wanted to play the ranked teams, the highest-ranked teams, in my first five games. Because I figured we could beat them, and then we'd be ranked high. So when we beat Arkansas first game of the year, we beat Kentucky first game of the year, we beat North Carolina - all No. 1-ranked teams - in the fourth game, fifth game of the year. We were never going to be that team. Now that I'm at that team, you kind of don't want to do that early. It's not all bad to play a Duke or a Maryland or some of these people early, because if you get dinged, it's OK.