Championship ambitions aside, Cal wants to be loved

It’s not enough that Kentucky has nine McDonald’s All-Americans, been ranked No. 1 from pre-season to present, hailed as historically great and compared favorably to NBA teams.
Coach John Calipari also wants his team to be — sniff — loved. By everyone.
Following up on a theme he spun after Tuesday’s rout of UT Arlington, Calipari suggested Friday that a bias against Kentucky or himself lessens the praise and appreciation due UK.
Either that or he’s not going to let blowout after blowout dull his desire for us-versus-them motivation.
“What I don’t get (is) if this was another school, they’d say this is all what college athletics is all about: sharing, team before everything else,” Calipari said. “Can you imagine? This is what it should be. I’d be called before a congressional hearing down in D.C. ‘Coach, what are you doing to make this about college athletics?’
“Instead, the dialogue becomes ‘He can’t keep these guys happy.’ ‘There’s no way these guys can be happy.’ If it were at other schools, Wooo, is this great for college athletics? Is this refreshing to see in this ‘me’ society and narcissism and all that.”
Calipari offered his idea of the proper perspective on Kentucky’s team.
“This is the greatest thing,” he said. “We all (have) got to follow this team and cheer that this works.
“Wooo, it’s not happening that way.”
With that, Calipari ended what appeared to be theatre (light comedy?) with an exit line.
“But (pause), I got to go,” he said. “There you go.”

Cal: If UK needs a clutch basket, Aaron will take the shot

When — or if — Kentucky needs a clutch basket in the final minutes of a close game, there should be no confusion about which player on its deep roster will take it.
UK Coach John Calipari said Friday that Aaron Harrison will take that shot. No ifs, ands or buts about it.
“If it’s late-game and it’s tight, who do you think I’m going to go to?” Calipari asked media types. “I don’t care if he’s shooting 12 percent, I’m going to him. And the reason is demonstrated performance. I’ve seen it. I know.
“I’m not testing the waters with other guys.”
Of course, Harrison made clutch shots in three straight games in the 2014 NCAA Tournament. His jumpers helped UK outlast Louisville, Michigan and Wisconsin in a nine-day period.
“He believes he’s making it,” Calipari said. “Everybody in the building believes he’s making it. The other team believes he’s making it. We just have to create it so he gets it off.”
Calipari dismissed the notion of calling upon another player to make the clutch shot. if only to test that player’s capabilities.
“Game on the line, I ain’t taking any chances,” the UK coach said.

Tickets available for upcoming UK games

A limited number of tickets remain for Kentucky games against Providence (Sunday), Eastern Kentucky (Dec. 7), Columbia (Dec. 10) and Mississippi (Jan. 6), UK announced Wednesday.

Tickets are available online at, or by calling Ticketmaster at 800.745.3000 or through the Rupp Arena Box Office at 859.233.3535. Tickets are also available to purchase through the UK Ticket office by calling 800.928.2287, UK said in a news release.

Cal: the ‘whole story’ of UK’s blazing start is unselfishness

After Kentucky blitzed UT Arlington 92-44 Tuesday night, John Calipari credited the players’ unselfishness as the key factor in the 6-0 start.
The platoon system. The average margin of victory so far at a surreal 36.8 points. Opponents shooting a paltry 27.9 percent. Opponents in the ill-named Cawood Ledford “Classic” combining for 20 assists and 75 turnovers.
All of it boils down to one factor.
“They’re sharing,” Calipari said of the Cats. “The story, everybody wants to talk about defense. They all want to talk about the energy, the blocked shots and the length, and the story is you have 10 guys sharing minutes. That’s the whole story in a nutshell.
“Why is that happening? Because they’re allowing it to happen.”
Calipari noted that the sharing and the sacrifice is not hurting any player’s NBA stock.
“Is anybody being hurt by this? No,” Calipari said in assuming the roles of reporter and coach in the post-game news conference. “Will their NCAA stats be as much as some other players? No. Their team NCAA stats will be way beyond most. And their efficiency stats, the big data stats, will be some of the best in the country. And that’s how they’re evaluated more than anything else.”

Cal can’t explain, but lauds Dakari’s 12-for-14 free throw shooting

Kentucky Coach John Calipari welcomed Dakari Johnson’s 12-for-14 free-throw shooting in Tuesday night’s victory over UT Arlington.
But he couldn’t explain why Johnson, who had made 12 of 25 free throws this season going into the game, shot so well.
“I don’t know,” he said. “You’ll have to ask him. But I’m happy for him. He does want to play, and he knows I’m not playing him at the end of a game if he can’t make free throws. So he’s making them. And now, Karl (Karl-Anthony Towns) is missing them.”
Towns made three of five free throws against UT Arlington.

Cal relates humorous exchange with Andrew about PG play

Kentucky’s 92-44 victory over UT Arlington Tuesday night saw Andrew Harrison make four of seven shots, score 11 points, hand out four assists and commit only one turnover.
But, of course, the coach can always find room for improvement. UK Coach John Calipari said he told Harrison that at times he passed to an open teammate who was not as good a shooter.
“I said, ‘You’ve got to shoot that,'” Calipari said he told his point guard. “‘You’ve got to be down and ready and shoot it.’
“And he looked at me and smiled and he said, ‘I’m a play maker.’ And I laughed back at him. I said, ‘I understand.
“‘You’ve just got to figure this out. You’ve got to know when you’ve got to score and you’ve got to know how you’re creating shots for his teammates.'”

Montana State coach familiar with Rupp and Bluegrass State

The game at Kentucky Sunday night will be something of a homecoming for Montana State Coach Brian Fish.
As a high school player from Seymour, Ind., he played in an all-star game staged in Rupp Arena.
Fish played his first two college seasons for Western Kentucky. When then WKU Coach Clem Haskins moved to Minnesota, Fish transferred to Marshall.
“I was a bad player, but I enjoyed it,” Fish said of his college playing career. “. . . I was never on the first page of the scouting report, I can tell you that.”
Fish also has family ties to the University of Kentucky. His brother, Mark, attended UK’s medical school.
A nephew, Luke, currently attends UK.

Cal emphasizes more shots for Aaron as part of UK growth

In emphasizing how Kentucky must improve, Coach John Calipari said shooting guard Aaron Harrison must do more scoring.
“Aaron has to get baskets for us,” Calipari told reporters after UK routed Kansas Tuesday. “You guys know if we’re in a tight game and there’s a basket that needs to be made, it’s going to come from him.
“Now, we have to figure out ways, and he does, to get more shots and get more opportunities. Better shots. Maybe I’ve got to put in a couple things where we know to go to him.”
Kentucky has “a long way to go offensively,” Calipari said. The Cats shot with 43.1 percent accuracy. To win by 32 points without shooting well seemed to thrill the UK coach.
When asked how he’d feel if told his team would win by such a large margin without shooting well, Calipari said, “I would love it.”
He said his UMass teams did that. “Which means you’re guarding,” he said. “You’re not turning it over. You’re doing other things.”
UK committed only six turnovers, and none from the 12-minute mark of the first half until only 10:26 remained in the game.

Cal lauds platoons; Self downplays them

On the subject of platoons, Kentucky Coach John Calipari and Kansas Coach Bill Self offered opinions about as disparate as Tuesday’s final score.
Calipari saluted the platoon system of substitution as an essential building block in this Kentucky team.
“There’s no way (UK could start the season so successfully) if we didn’t have solid, selfless kids doing what we’re doing: giving them half a game,” he said. “And accepting it. Unless they allow us to do this, we can’t do it.”
While saying Kentucky has much improvement to make, Calipari added, “The great thing is when we come into town, the other guy (the opposing coach) has to figure out two teams.”
But Self downplayed platoons as significant in UK’s 72-40 victory.
“I don’t think the platoon deal (pause) I don’t think it was a factor at all,” he said.
Ten UK players logged double-digit minutes. The ten played as many as 21 minutes (Aaron Harrison, Willie Cauley-Stein) and no fewer than 17 (Marcus Lee, Devin Booker, Tyler Ulis).
Whichever interpretation you like, there was no denying that Kentucky put what Self called a “beat-down” on Kansas. It was almost seamless, as evidenced by UK having as many blocks (11) as Kansas had baskets (11).
“His team by the end of the year will be fine,” Calipari said in trying to temper reaction to the one-sided victory. “We kind of bum-rushed them a little bit, and every time they looked, there were more tanks coming over the hill. It wasn’t substitutes. It was reinforcements. Here they come. It kind of gets to you a little bit.”

Bill Self: 40-0 talk about Kentucky not ‘crazy’

After his team lost 72-40 Tuesday, Kansas Coach Bill Self said talk of Kentucky going undefeated this season was not delusional.
“I don’t think it’s crazy to think that,” he said. “I don’t know if I’d base everything on this one game because this wasn’t, obviously, much of a contest.”
Things happen throughout a long season that make an unbeaten record implausible, Self said.
“They’re going to go somewhere where they catch somebody when (the opponent) plays great,” Self said. “It’s going to be hard.”
After noting that Wichita State did not lose last season until facing Kentucky in the 2014 NCAA Tournament, Self said, “There’s no reason that shouldn’t be . . . a goal. I don’t know if you should talk about that now. But by February, if they’re still undefeated, that could be something that could happen.”
UK Coach John Calipari began his post-game news conference by trying to tamp down reaction to the lopsided victory, the second-largest margin in the series.
“No, we’re not that good,” he said before the first question was asked. “Next question.”
Self disagreed.
“I thought they were great,” the Kansas coach said. “You get long athletes who like to guard, they can cover up mistakes as well as anybody I’ve ever seen. They were really, really impressive.”
When asked what kind of team or what kind of strategy could beat Kentucky, Self suggested it would take something unusual.
“Somebody’s going to have to play a great game to beat them,” he said. “There’s no question about that. That could happen, especially away from home. But somebody’s going to have to be special on a certain night for them to get knocked off.”
Because of Kentucky’s size, a team with a low-post scorer but not a power forward to create space with outside shooting will have trouble scoring enough to beat Kentucky, Self said.
“A tough team” could challenge Kentucky, he said. “But a team skilled enough that they can drive the ball and force help and play from the perimeter rather than play from the interior.”
Kentucky is ahead of competition at this stage, Self said. Perhaps, in part, because of the trip to the Bahamas. Other teams will have time to catch up to Kentucky, the Kansas coach said.
“There will be teams out there that can challenge them,” he said. “Whether they can beat them, I don’t know.”
Calipari noted how Kentucky can improve.
“We have a long way to go offensively,” he said.
Calipari said future opponents, unlike Kansas, will pack a zone into the lane and invite Kentucky to shoot from the perimeter.
“We have so much to figure out about this team, it’s not funny,” Calipari said.
It was hard to tell if Calipari was serious or just what he was trying to say.
Self offered help. When asked if Calipari’s comment about UK not being good was coach-speak, the thing to say in mid-November, Self smiled and said, “Well, you guys who cover Kentucky, how much stuff do you actually believe that John says?”
When the laughter subsided, Self added, “I’m joking on that.
“I’d say he’s got to say that. For this early in the season, they’re pretty good.”