Coach Calipari not fussed by NCAA decision to subtract wins

Wildcats' academics, draft chances more important

jtipton@herald-leader.comJune 21, 2011 

Kentucky Coach John Calipari

CHET WHITE

BOWLING GREEN — Except for comedy inspiration, Kentucky Coach John Calipari distanced himself from last week's kerfuffle about whether or not he achieved his 500th career victory last season.

A reporter at Calipari's "satellite" camp Monday asked the UK coach about senior Darius Miller possibly taking a backseat to the heralded freshman class. Calipari noted that Miller had played in Elite Eight and Final Four games for UK."And won how many games?" he added before dropping the punch line. "You'll have to call the NCAA and check that number."

As reporters laughed knowingly, Calipari feigned surprise. "Why are you laughing?" he said.

Because, as requested by the NCAA Committee on Infractions, UK publicly admitted last week it made a mistake when it recognized Calipari on Feb. 26 for his 500th victory.

UK failed to take into account the 42 victories vacated from Calipari's record when he coached at Massachusetts (four) and Memphis (38), the NCAA said.

When asked what he thought of the NCAA insisting the 42 victories be subtracted from his official record, Calipari said, "Zero. Zero. I could care less.

"This is a players-first program. It's about our players."

Calipari spoke of his pride in the players' achievements on the court and in the classroom. UK had a 3.14 team grade-point average in the spring semester, had nine players with a 3.0 or better and tied Vanderbilt for the best Academic Progress Rate among Southeastern Conference men's basketball teams, he said.

"It's not about me," Calipari said. "They don't have to put my record anywhere, for all I care."

On other topics, Calipari said:

■ He had little concern about whether sharing the ball would be a problem for a deep and talented UK team.

"It seems to play itself out," he said. "If you're teaching them to be good teammates and you're teaching them to be good basketball players, that doesn't become an issue. Especially when you recruit like we are. We're recruiting good kids."

■ He advised Miller how to deal with the heralded freshmen.

"What I told him is if you're not dragging them, they're going to run by you," Calipari said. "So you better be working."

■ He supported a SEC schedule of 16 games, as has been the case since expansion in 1991-92. The league must decide by the 2012-13 season whether to stay with 16 games or, as has been suggested, play 18 or 22 conference games.

"They should never go to 22," Calipari said. "It'd be disaster at 22. ... Sixteen should be fine. Eighteen is OK. I'd rather not have it, but if it's best for the league, I'd say fine."

The UK coach said the emphasis should be on the non-conference portion of the schedule. But he acknowledged that a program like UK is in better position than many SEC teams in controlling its non-conference schedule.

■ He predicted that Brandon Knight and Enes Kanter will be picked within the first half-hour of Thursday's NBA Draft.

DeAndre Liggins is aware that he might not be drafted, Calipari said. The UK coach likened Liggins to Tony Allen, whose versatility as a defender made him a valuable player for the Memphis Grizzlies this past season.

■ Calipari agreed with the premise of a reporter's question about UK's program being adept at producing NBA-ready players.

"The style we play, it's such an aggressive style, they can go in there and feel more comfortable," Calipari said. "... There is what I call the Kentucky Effect. When you play at Kentucky, it's like you get a 20 percent bump whether it's draft position, whether it's from your shoe contract."

Calipari also suggested Kentucky has more nationally televised games than any other team and draws a higher rating.

■ He acknowledged that UK wants to extend his contract.

"They approached me, probably, 10 days ago," he said. "We haven't had time to sit down with it. But we will."

When asked if UK wanted to give him a salary increase and/or extension, Calipari said, "I probably shouldn't talk about it. Let it come out."

■ He found summer pickup games of limited value.

"I hate pickup games," he said, "because it's not how we are going to play."

Calipari said he'd advise a player to work on a particular skill and use pickup games to help with conditioning.

"But short of that, I told them they're useless," he said.

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