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Cal: I don’t care what critics think of me as a coach

Kentucky Coach John Calipari recently appeared on Mike Francesa’s show on New York City’s WFAN. In an off-handed comment, Francesa lauded Calipari as a recruiter, but questioned Calipari’s skill as a strategist.

Calipari then called back to the show, disguising his voice to ask about it.

When asked Sunday about the exchange, Calipari described it as all playfull. Not to be taken seriously.

“When I called him back, it was in jest,” Calipari said. “Do you really think I care what someone thinks of me as a coach?”

Calipari called Francesa a friend dating back 30 years.

Of Francesa’s comment about Cal as a recruiter and strategist, the UK coach said, “He was being complimentary. But Mike doesn’t know how to be complimentary.”

Calipari then discounted Francesa as informed about college basketball. Francesa doesn’t even watch college basketball until the Final Four, the UK coach said.

As for disguising his voice (Francesa was not fooled), Calipari said, “That was a Kentucky voice. Did that sound like it was from Kentucky?”

Cal laments empty nest at home, compensates for empty gas tank for team

As his Fantasy Camp wound up Sunday, Kentucky Coach John Calipari lamented the empty nest he will have at home and noted how he’ll compensate for the empty fuel tank his players might have.

Calipari said he would take his youngest child, son Brad, to a prep school in New England later Sunday.

“Looking at my house being kind of empty,” he said. “Wait a minute. My last one’s leaving. It kind of hit me in the face and (I) got a little emotional. It’s just going to be (wife) Ellen and I. I mean, there’s no running down the steps. ‘I got to go.’”

As for the UK team, Calipari noted how taxing the recent nine-day, six-game trip to the Bahamas was.

“They’re tired,” he said of the UK players “We’re all tired.”

Calipari said he will limit the players’ basketball activities to individual drills, conditioning and pickup games.

“That’s enough,” he said.

Calipari also said he asked the assistant coaches and staffers to prepare “a full evaluation” of Kentucky’s play in the Bahamas. UK won five of six games against older players and/or pro teams based in the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and France.  “Of what they saw, what they think,” he said.

UK will be good, and other takeaways from the trip to the Bahamas

With Kentucky’s trip to the Bahamas completed, here are some takeaways to ponder with the regular season only three months away:

1. UK will be good. With nine McDonald’s All-Americans, how can UK not be good? “I don’t see anybody who has better personnel.” ESPN’s Jay Bilas said mid-way through the exhibition series. Ex-Cat Eloy Vargas, who played center for the Dominican Republic National Team that beat Kentucky, saw a national championship contender. “Hopefully, we win the (title) this year,” he said.

2. Although only 5-9, Tyler Ulis  stood out among all of UK’s tall timber. He’s quick on his feet and with his mind. He’ll still adapting to the college game. He’ll make mistakes, although 24 assists and 11 turnovers supported Kenny Payne’s contention that Ulis must be free to play on instincts. The pressure he puts on ball handlers, especially with 24,000 in Rupp Arena thirsty for a turnover, will be fun to watach. Ulis can “change the dynamics of our team,” Coach John Calipari said. His full-court hounding makes him a target for screens. But he’s fearless and tough, as the story about standing up to DeMarcus Cousins in a pickup game last year suggests.

3. Stats? Who needs them? Calipari dismissed the importance of any numbers generated by games in the Bahamas. “I didn’t look at any stats,” Calipari said. “. . . I’m watching guys play. I’m watching what we’re doing together. . . . And then when a guy doesn’t compete or doesn’t talk, I’m seeing that. I’m not looking at numbers.” Stat most likely to be irrelevant and forgotten: Devin Booker made only 11 of 32 shots.

4. Kentucky seemed noticeably cohesive, although how do you measure unity of purpose in mid-August. But the Dominican coach, ex-UK assistant Orlando Antigua, knew it when he saw it. “They’re having a lot of fun,” he said, “and they’re in great shape. And they just look like when they are off the court, they’re a family. They look like a family. They move the ball. It’s impressive.” Andrew Harrison credited the blessing of having experienced players. “Now we know how to play together,” he said.

5. To bring up the notion of Kentucky having too many players is to risk ridicule. More is better. Always. “A good problem to have,” Antigua said.

6. UK might be an example of better basketball through better diet. The Cats look slimmer and trimmer and faster. Dakari Johnson described his change of diet as Less carbs, more salads (and) greens.”

7. After victories this season, Kentucky could politely say, Dunk-you-very-much. Many dunks, which never failed to draw an appreciative ooh or aah from UK fans in the Bahamas, For some reason, Dakari Johnson simply laid the ball in rather than emphatically dunk. When asked about this old-school approach, he smiled and said (in gest, presumably) “That’s a good point. Maybe I’ll dunk it next time.” He did not.

8. Calipari had noted a downside. A six-game, nine-day trip to the Bahamas would lengthen the season. And, no doubt, Calipari, the assistants, the players, the fans and the media were tired by Sunday and eager to go home. But Bilas saw plusses far out-weighing minuses. “Most teams look at these trips as real positive turing points,” he said. It’s a head start on evaluating players and strategic options, plus a means of building team unity. By the start of pre-season practice, “they’ll be able to hit the ground running,” Bilas said. “It’s a springboard.”

9. Andrew and Aaron Harrison were not above a serious frown or a slumpe shoulder when a call did not go their way. But the issue of bad body language did not resurface.

10. UK fans are over-heated and not firmly tethered to reality. After Booker hit a step-back shot to put the Cats five points ahead of the pro team from France with four minutes left, a fan could be heard saying in an urgent voice, “Need a stop here!!!” When UK lost to the Dominicans Sunday, a fan who had been whooping it up after seemingly every basket, said with a tone of disbelief, “Oh my.” Yet, UK fans were unfailingly cheerful, thoughtful and a welcomed sight in the Atlantis resort’s surreal gaudiness.

12. Every time a fan and/or UK traveling party member was asked, he or she favored Maui over the Bahamas. Coincidentally, a fan wearing a Maui-themed shirt attended one of UK’s games. Matthew May, who is from Long Island. wore a shirt that read, “I survived the road to Hana.” He and hsi wife, Rachel, were celebrating their 10th anniversary in the Bahamas. He got the T-shirt on their honeymoon on Maui.

13. Nice guys. After speaking to the UK team last week, Bilas said he was struck by how the Cats are a bunch of nice guys. But doesn’t any coach want a few hard-nosed, nasty guys on the team. “Bill Raftery refers to it as you don’t want too many milk drinkers,” Bilas said. “I don’t think it really comes down to whether you’re a good person or a tough guy. I don’t think those two things are mutually exclusive.”

14. The Bahamian National anthem sounded good. It’s got hints of Oh, Canada and the English march Soldiers of the Queen.

15. It’s always sad to be left behind after the circus has left town. Kentucky flew home after Sunday’s game. Earlier in the weekend, North Carolina, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati departed. The college teams still in the Bahamas were Samford, Louisiana Tech, Whitman College and Portland State.

D.R. Swims upstream well to beat UK

Kentucky got another test Sunday as it concluded its exhibition series in the Bahamas.
UK lost 63-62 as Jack Martinez hit a fadeaway in the lane with 3.4 seconds left.
After scoring, he turned toward UK Coach John Calipari and brought a hand to his throat.
UK did not score in the final 4:30. UK finished with a 5-1 record here.

UK leads 59-48 with less than seven minutes. To fall behind UK here is deadly. Or as Dominican coach Orlando Antigua said, like “swimming upstream.”
UK hustle made swimming difficult. Ulis, Towns, Ulis again and Booker all dove for loose balls in an eight-minute stretch.

UK rallied to a 36-29 halftime lead.
WithLess than eight minutes left in the first half, the Cats trailed 24-17. That marked UK’s second-largest deficit of the exhibition series. The Cats trailed The French pro team 20-12 in the first half Saturday.
Tyler Ulis capped UK’s rally by finding Dominique Hawkins for a floater along the baseline, then made one himself inthe lane at the buzzer to set the halftime score.
UK has been a lock when ahead inthe second half here. In the first five exhibitions, the Cats trailed for only 63 seconds: by one point against the French pro team on Saturday.

UK was tied at 15-15 mid-way through the first half.
UK looked fresh despite playing a sixth game in eight days.
The Dominicans’ James Feldeine, who took a nasty fall against UK on Friday, started.

Kentucky finishes its nine-day trip to the Bahamas with a rematch against the Dominican Republic National Team Sunday.
UK beat the Dominicans 83-71 Friday. Alex Poythress led the way with 20 points.
If The two games here against a pro team from France are a reliable gauge, the Cats will face an improved and inspired opponent inthe finale of the trip. UK beat the French pro 81-58 on Monday, then needed clutch defense from freshman Tyler Ulis inside the final 90 seconds to win Saturday’s rematch 77-72.

UK brings a 5-0 record into Sunday’s game.
The Cats plan to fly home after the game. The team is due back in Lexington around 9:30 p.m.

UK gets test, beats French

Towns’ first 3 — after missing 7 attempts in earlier here helped UK lead 58-55 mid-way through second half.
the lead grew as much as 63-55 with just under 10 minutes left.
Former Syracuse center Darryl Watkins kept the French pros close, scoring 10 points in the first 16 minutes.

Tyler Ulis made a bog play to help Kentucky beat A French pro team Saturday 77-72.
His harassing defense led to a French pro slipping, and Ulis speeding to a layup that eased concern among UK fans here.

For the first time here, UK trailed at the half. The France-based team led 44-43 at intermission.
transition defense and turnovers, which can go hand-in-hand contributed to the deficit. The Cats turned it over eight times, well on the way to the average of 12.5 here.
France had 8 fast-break points, and twice scored within seconds of a UK basket.
UK had balanced scoring. All 10 players who got on the floor scored, the 10th being leading scorer Alex Poythress with 3:25 left in the half.

Four turnovers before first TV timeout stalled UK
Tyler Ulis sparked off bench. Cats lead 16-10 mid-way through first half.

Kentucky continues its exhibition series in the Bahamas Saturday with a game against the French team, Champagne Chalons-Reims.
UK beat the French-based pros 81-58 on Monday. Karl-Anthony Towns scored 19 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in that game.
UK has won the first four exhibitions by an average margin of 24 points.
New assistant Barry “Slice” Rohrssen will direct UK today while Coach John Calipari watches from the bleachers.

UK beats Dominicans in most competitive game so far

UK led 66-48 mid-way through second half.
Marcus LEe’s two dunks got the party started.
Kentucky led by 22 points mid-way through the second half. But unlike UK’s first three games here, the Dominicans kept competing. UK’s lead narrowed to 12 points several times. UK Led by 10 with barely a minute left and won 83-71.
Alex Poythress scored 20 points.
Alex Poythress made his second three-pointer. He was zero for two from three in earlier games here.
with 12:48 left, Andrew Harrison’s hard foul caused James Feldeine to take a nasty fall. After laying on the floor for several minutes, Feldeine got up slowly and walked to locker room. he returned to the bench with 10 minutes left.

UK’s depth has been lethal here. B it it needs time to take effect.
with 11:28 left in the first half, UK led the Dominicans 18-16 .
UK had six fouls mid-way through first half.

UK led 4736 at halftime, which fit the pattern here. In the first three games, UK led by an average of 11.7 points at intermission.
Alex Poythress had 13 points in the first half.
On the downside, UK fouled too much: 12.

Eloy Vargas busy: 5points, 6rebounds, 2 blocks, 3fouls.
Leading scorer James Feldeine has 9 points, but 4fouls

Kentucky plays the Dominican Republic National Team today (1 p.m. Tipoff) as part of the launch of the SEC Network.
UK arrived at the Kendal G.L. Isaacs National Gymnasium a few minutes ago.Not long after, assistant coach John Robic had a man come with a ladder. Armed with a tape measure, Robic made sure the baskets were 10 feet above the court.
UK has a 3-0 record in the exhibitions here. The average margin of victory is 28 points.
The Dominicans, who are prepping for the World Cup later this summer, have a 1-1 record in exhibitions here.

UK fans getting weary

I ran into UK fan Ken Schrader this morning. I asked him if any fans had gotten bit by a shark or fallen out of a helicopter.
But he said, “Kentucky fans are walking their legs off.”
Atlantis resort -from end to end – is a solid 20-minute walk.

UK routs Puerto Ricans

Kentucky beat the reserves of the Puerto Rican National Team 93-57 Tuesday.
UK, which improved to 3-0 on its exhibition series in the Bahamas, had 14 dunks and 58 points I the paint in an overpowering performance.
Marcus Lee led the dunk-fest with six slams. Alex Poythress and Karl-Anthony Towns added three each.
tod Lanter punctuated the game with a three-pointer.
UK kept on keeping on in second half. With 13:37 left, UK. Had 40 points from paint.
AS if bored, Andrew Harrison threw behind the back pass that Dakari Johnson laid in rather than dunk.

UK had 15 dunks and 52 points from the paint with eight minutes left.

Still no drama in Bahamas for UK.

UK used its superiority around the basket to take a 46-26 halftime lead against Puerto Rico.
The Cats had as many dunks as the opponent had baskets: eight each.
this inside firepower enabled UK to shake off a slow start and lead by as much as 22points down the stretch.

numbers: 28 of UK’s first 39 points came in the paint. Alex Poythress had 9 points and 6 rebounds. UK took only 5 3-point shots, making 3.

Impressions: Things got chippy again, as happened Sunday. A double foul seemed to settle things down. Tyler. Ulis is tough. Seconds after a pick knocked him to the floor, he picked himself up and threw a lob than Derek Willis dunked.

For a second straight game, Kentucky got off to a slow start.
The Cats committed a turnover on their first possession, then freshman Devin Booker got beat on a back door cut.
UK trailed by as much as four points early.
but like on Monday, UK righted itself. The Cats led 18-12 with 10minutes left in half.

numbers: Four of UK’ first five baskets were dunks. UK committed five fouls in first seven minutes.

UK beats French team by 23, and now on to Tuesday

With victories in its first two games, Kentucky continues the Bahamas basketball trip Tuesday with a game against the reserves of the Puerto Rican National Team.
Game time is 1 p.m. ESPNU is televising.
UK beat the Puerto Ricans by 25 points on Sunday. In the rematch, assistant Barry “Slice” Rohrssen is expected to coach while UK Coach John Calipari watches from the bleachers.
During Monday’s game against a French pro team, Calipari manned an ESPN camera during a portion of the second half. He had a smile on his face as he and the camera followed the action.

a 16-4 run gave UK a 56-39 lead with 12:44 left.

Final: Kentucky 81 , Champagne Chalons-Reims 58

conclusion: The French team was supposed to test UK. but like on Sunday, UK’s depth seem to wear down the opposition physically and mentally. Late in game, fans gave hustling Cats a standing ovation. With 2 minutes left, more than a few fans, presumably satisfied, headed for exit.

UK leads French pro team 37-32 at halftime

I am at the Kendal G.L. Isaacs Natonal Gymnasium to watch Kentucky play the Club Champagne Chalons-Reims Basket, a team that will play in France’s top division next season. The game is scheduled to tip off at 1 p.m. Follow the action here. UK has not yet announced a starting lineupi. But UK Coach John Calipari said assistant Kenny Payne will coach the team.

ESPN analyst Jay Bilas said he was told Kentucky will have the same five players going in and out of the game as a unit. But no word on which unit will start.

Kentucky is 1-0 on the trip while Champagne Chalons-Reims will be playing its first game. The gym, which seats about 2,500 (or 1,900 depending on who you ask), is expected to be about half full.


A slow start put Kentucky behind early against the pro team from France. Even the insertion of five substitutes with 16:13 left failed to ignite the Cats.

Numbers: UK missed six of its first nine shots and committed five turnovers inside the first eight minutes. The French led by as much as eight points (20-12) with 10 minutes left.

Observations: Aaron Harrison provided a potential momentum-changing play. His steal and driving dunk seemed to breath new life in Kentucky. Tasmin Mitchell looks heavier than in his LSU days, but still effective as a player for the French team.


Numbers: Dakari Johnson had a busy first half (five points and four rebounds). The French team had three baskets in the final 10 minutes of the half. One was a put-back. Another was an improbable floater.

Observations: 1. Subs played a large role in a 16-2 run that put Kentucky ahead 28-22. Subs scored the final 12 points in the run, which included dunks by Marcus Lee and Karl-Anthony Towns, plus threes by Derek Willis and Dominique Hawkins. 2. UK switched to zone after the 4th TV timeout. 3. Andrew Harrison set the halftime scorer with a textbook pull-up jumper from the foul line with 2.3 seconds left.