The Many Faces of John Calipari

Hogs sweep John Calipari and his wildcats

We give him a hard time. It’s easy to do, but the truth is John Calipari has done a fine job with his Kentucky basketball team this season. After dropping a game at home against the Arkansas Razorbacks, then turning around and losing to South Carolina on the road, who would have thought these Kentucky Wildcats would be vying for a national tonight?

Not us.

Love him or hate him, John Calipari is fun to watch on the sidelines during a game and fun to make fun of for us, to be sure. So in that spirit, we’ve concocted a little quiz to test your ability to translate Coach Cal’s face with what he’s thinking and saying. Below that, you’ll find a transcript of his press conference on the eve of the 2014 NCAA title game

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Here is a transcript from the press conference on the eve of the 2014 title game against UConn.

Q. John, I was wondering if you could take us back to your time at UMass, the rivalry with UConn on different fronts and just what you take away from that, what lingering memories you have of that era in your career?

COACH CALIPARI: Well, first of all, what I loved about what Jim Calhoun did at Connecticut, it became the catalyst to absolutely change that whole university. It was the catalyst. He was the catalyst. They had their billion dollar redo of the campus.

So from that time, while he was there, it became a different campus. They used basketball to change the whole culture on the campus and everything else.

I think at UMass during our time, they did the same. And I look back on UMass’s campus now, it isn’t the same place. Unbelievable what they have been able to do. And it was a rivalry. We wanted it to be, they did not. Which I don’t blame them.

They were in the Big East. We were in the Atlantic 10. We really didn’t play each other, but you had two teams going at each other.

But all I can tell you is I’ve always had respect for the program, the players in it. I’ve gotten along with all those kids that were in that program. When Kevin was in Philadelphia, Coach Ollie, we had a chance to be together and all I can tell is he is one of the wonderful people that I’ve ever come across in my life. Genuine, loyal, and a great coach.

Because you know what he was doing while he was playing, he was coaching. That’s how he played. He was an unbelievable student of the game then, he was teaching me when I was in Philly. As an assistant for Coach Brown, he was teaching me. So, fond memories.

Q. John, piggybacking on that, first off, congratulations.

COACH CALIPARI: You changed your hair. I didn’t remember you. I apologize.

Q. When the scoreboard at Curry Hicks Cage has smoke coming out of it, you probably never thought about National Championship games, but I know this is about Kentucky, UConn —

COACH CALIPARI: You say the squirrels and the birds or just the thing burning?

Q. Just the thing burning.


Q. Did you think, though, at some point it was almost destiny that you, wherever you were, would end up against UConn on this stage?

COACH CALIPARI: No. I was fortunate enough to take over a UMass program and a Memphis program, but neither one was in a BCS league.

I have been blessed to be able to have this opportunity, more so because what I can do to help families. These young people with this platform is like nothing I’ve ever seen.

But my time at both of those places, I loved it. Playing against Connecticut, I mean, I’m just happy we’re still playing. So whether it was Connecticut or anybody else would not have a bearing for me.

Q. In ’92, you were in a different region from the Fab Five, but when you think of their impact, can you talk on that. And when you saw that, then the maturation of freshmen and how he did it, to what you can do now, is there any correlation? Did you think 20 years later you would say, I’m doing it this way with freshmen as compared to what they did?

COACH CALIPARI: No, to be honest with you. The only thing is that I think we had the long shorts before Michigan at Massachusetts. Will Herndon was my 6’3″ power forward and his shorts were 5’2″. So I think we were the first ones. They tried to take credit for that.

But again, what they did and how they came together, anything you ever watch on that, can’t you just feel the brotherhood? These guys are the same way. They’re fighting for each other. They close ranks as things got ugly. They were there for each other.

I said this to you guys, I went up in the game room the other day, they have a game room in the hotel, and these guys, everyone of them are up there laughing like little kids, which they are. But they were together and it was great to see. So the correlation, they were young, we were young. We are young. But I don’t know.

Q. Congratulations. I asked the same question of UConn, so this is for you, coach, and also for any of the players that want to answer. Coach, what did you do last night? Did you get any sleep? How much sleep? What time did you go to bed? And players, same thing, and any interesting texts or Tweets that you received from anybody about the game?

COACH CALIPARI: Well, I laid in my bed about 1:30, and I had eaten. I had family there, my kids and my wife, I had a lot of people. I went upstairs and I said, You know what, I’m going to do the tape tomorrow.

As I laid there, I said, These guys are fighting so hard for me, I’m not going to do that. I’m going to do the tape now. So I was up until about 3:30 and got up about 7 o’clock this morning.

I asked them, Did you guys get any sleep?

You know, we’re working on fumes now. It’s not like we’re not tired, but your adrenaline gets you through all this.

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