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February 4, 2014

John Calipari


Q.  They got off to a pretty good shooting start.  They were 10 of 19 then on a pretty rough night.  What did you guys do well defensively?
COACH CALIPARI:  Well, we switched and we tried to make it hard without fouling.  You know, one of the things that I told my staff today, the reason Willie's defensive presence is important‑‑ you think of our team last year, we were a pretty good defensive team until he got hurt.  Wow, we're not the same team.  So the last game, all those right drives, who was not in the game?  Willie.  So you get confident just driving and I can shoot lay‑ups, so then you shoot them.
It was a little different today.  We end up with 12 blocks because they just thought they could drive it, and that's what he does.  He had great defensive confidence.  And there is such a thing as defensive confidence.  He didn't have that at Missouri.  He left early; he was antsy; he left his feet on 6‑foot guys and fouled.  But today he had it.  I was really proud of him.
You know, we're getting better.  We've still got a ways to go defensively.  We've rebounded the ball, and that's a tough team now.  They were tied to us for a reason.  You know, that's a tough team to play, and I told them, we'll see you down there.  It's going to be another war down there.

Q.  Did you see this coming from Willie?  Did he have a different approach tonight?
COACH CALIPARI:  Yeah, I told him to go back blonde.  I said you play better blonde.  But, no, he's been practicing.  Look, if you think he wants to play bad, he doesn't.  I said this after the game to the TV, this is the most overanalyzed team I've ever seen in the history of the game, at any level, in any sport.  There is a weekly update on what we are and what we're not.
Then they go to Synergy, and take out every play to show where we've‑‑ I've never seen it.  Our losses are worse than every other loss in the country.  We lose, you're not in the top 25.
Now you understand LSU has three NBA players, a junior guard and a senior guard.  They're no schmo team now.  At the end of the day, they'll be in the NCAA Tournament.  LSU is good.  This team has to deal with that.  I went and told them.  I told them before the ranking I thought we'd be as low as 19.  I said it will be 17, 18, and 19, so when I was right I asked the staff, when is the last time I was wrong?  They said 1978.  I think it was '78.  Might have been '77, but I think it was '78 though.
So it's hard to play here.  How about this one?  When I recruit these kids, I can't hide you.  Is that true?  You're not hiding here now.  You have a bad game, you can't play anymore.  Another guy has a bad game, yeah, tough game.  He's a terrific player.  My guy has a bad game, he can't play.  He just goes from a great player to he stinks in one game.  You're playing at Kentucky.  Good luck.
The good news is the success rate, so just fight it.  I think that's part of the reasons our guys go on and do so well.  They can deal with all the crap.  They've dealt with it here.
You need me to say anything else?  I'll keep going if you want.

Q.  Do you think that stuff has affected them?
COACH CALIPARI:  Sure it does.  They're 18 and 19 years old.  This is the youngest team in the country to play at this level maybe ever.  Yeah, it affects them.  I tried to tell them.  I said, you know, you think it's opinion.  Most cases it's the hope of the writer.  It's not their opinion; it's their hope.  Don't deal with it.  You can't let it affect you.
I told some of them, they came into practice really excited after Missouri.  Are you excited because we won?  You can't be that way.  You're excited because you want to get better.  You've got to be excited if we get dinged and we lose a game.  You've got to come in with an excited level.
I told them if you think every game you're going to play you've got to follow it with the win, you've got to learn to deal with adversity, and we've had some this year, so.

Q.  Is Willie's struggle, is that a blessing in disguise in the long run because it enabled Dakari a chance to develop and you have both?
COACH CALIPARI:  You could say that.  What I told Willie is let Dakari play 15, 20 minutes, let him do what he does.  You do your thing.  I can play you both together.  I thought, again, Alex was outstanding again.  Couple breakdowns on rebounds and a couple breakdowns defensively, but all in all, pretty good.  Julius was good in the second half.  First half he wasn't.

Q.  (No Microphone)?
COACH CALIPARI:  You'd have to ask him.

Q.  The great amplification of this program, how much of it is the media's fault?
COACH CALIPARI:  Well, I think the President said it best.  That network, you guys create it and it's not as bad as you think.  Here's what I would say.  It's you guys here, but it's national.  It's everywhere, and that's why kids want to play here, but that's what makes it hard here.  Everybody has an opinion, and they write them, and then is it their opinion or their hope that they're writing?  I don't know.  You'd have to ask them.

Q.  You (No Microphone) play Andrew tonight.  Did you see more positive?
COACH CALIPARI:  He's doing great.  He's coming over to me and talking to me throughout the game.  He's recognizing things.  Two things where he held the ball and Rod said after, come on, let him do two things.  But he's playing.  He's a point guard.  He's playing like a point guard.  He's defending better.  He's talking to his team.
I'm still having to do too much coaching, but that's okay.  I just came to terms that I'm going to coach like I'm 35.  I don't care.  I'll die when the season ends and go hide somewhere and shrivel up somewhere.  But right now I'm going to just coach them and bring them along.  We've got a bunch of young guys that are getting better.  I'm holding them accountable.  I'm holding them responsible.  I'm loving them.  I'm not beating them down.  I'm not beating them down in practice.
We're raising the bar now and we're going hard, and we're going body to body and doing stuff, but I'm not trying to beat them down.  These are 18‑year‑old kids.

Q.  (No Microphone)?

Q.  Andrew.
COACH CALIPARI:  Probably, well, I think he made a statement to you guys that no one has ever criticized his game.  Wow.  Well, that has changed.  But, you know, I think he's responding.  I think he's getting better.  Now he's just got to stay on the path.

Q.  How is your son doing, and in addition to that, you've coached players who have been injured before, but has it changed your perspective now that you're living it day‑to‑day?
COACH CALIPARI:  It's different when it's your own child.  I always say these are my children, but he is my blood son.  So I'm trying to make it for him to bring out the positives in it and what this could become.  But the one thing I've loved in all of this and it's what I say about these players, my own son has changed his body.  He's gotten more disciplined in how he eats and his training.  He's worked extremely hard.  He comes in the gym in the morning and he's doing everything.
That self‑confidence, that self‑worth, the self‑discipline will help him in whatever he does.  Now he's got to deal with this adversity.  It crushed him.  I was in the hospital, and I had to tell him.
I called Doc and said, can I do it tomorrow?  I don't feel like I'm up for this right now.  And I told him, and he cried, he and I, and I just tried to pick him up.  But he's doing fine.  He's a big baby, but he's doing fine.
I had all my friends tell me don't you tell him to rub dirt in it you're a mama's boy.  That is painful.  That surgery is painful, so I haven't used those lines on him.  But he's done fine.  He's a good boy.

Q.  The way Alex is playing with his intensity and energy, how much is that rubbing off on the other guys now?
COACH CALIPARI:  Well, I was going to start him last game, and then the night before I decided not to because I like what he's doing right now and the challenge of it made Aaron play better because I told him I may be starting Alex in your place, and you may come off the bench.
I want the guys to know that they are responsible for their performance.  More importantly, they're responsible for their effort and their desire and their passion.  They are responsible; I am not.  You don't bring it, someone else plays.  Doesn't mean you're going to play great every night, but you can bring it.  I'm holding them more responsible.
But I'm just proud of him.  Here's another one that 20 years from now something hits him.  He's not going to blame anybody.  He's going to look inside and say I can make this different.  Any adversity that hits him, he'll know I can deal with it.  I can do this.  I can change.  I can make myself something I wanted to be.  So I'm proud of him.  I told him again he is a beast, and the only guy that doesn't realize how much a beast he is is him.
So when I said it in the locker room, all 15 guys were pointing.  Who is the only one that doesn't know what kind of beast he is?  They all pointed to him.  So he's still got a ways to go now, but he's broken the barrier he needed to break to start that gradual climb now to be something special.  So I'm proud of him.  Proud of all the guys.  I mean, what we do is hard.
I'll tell you, Mississippi, Ole Miss is good now.  Andy has done a great job.  The kid that the more tape I've watched, the Summers kid is like really good.  So if you don't understand, he is really good.  He is as good as the guards in Missouri.  He is that good.  Obviously, Henderson could go for 40 and we were doing stuff that you don't do to a normal player.  He gets played like Julius gets played.  You've got to keep him away, and it forces you to do different things.  That's how good he is.
A good rebounding team, we outrebound by 15.  We only have ten turnovers in a game like that.  So proud of my guys.  Be safe going back, even the media.  I'm saying that to you guys too.  Be safe.  (Laughing).

Q.  About Henderson, it looked like virtually everybody on your roster guarded him at some point.

Q.  What do you get out of that?  What do you derive from that?
COACH CALIPARI:  It makes us communicate, and that's why I wanted to do it as much as anything else.  This team doesn't talk enough.  The only way you can play that way is if you're absolutely in tune with your teammates.  For the last week, all we've been doing is recognizing teammates doing things well, and they had to verbalize it.  So if a guy got a good rebound or dove on the floor, nice pass or made a shot, I needed to hear a bunch of guys saying, "hey, Willie, great," because I'm trying to get their emotions out of their offense and how they're playing.
Their emotions are all tied to themselves.  When you do what we did today, they've got to talk.  Because you can't start switching like we did and do the things we did unless everyone talks.  So as much as anything else, it's that.
If you don't make it hard on him, he can make ten threes now.  So you're just trying to make it as difficult as you can.  But I know how good he is.  You guys have watched.  I didn't do that to the kid from Texas A&M.  Then again, they did get 42 on us.

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