UK basketball notes: Cal says coaching stars not as easy as it looks

'History will tell' how good Cal is

jtipton@herald-leader.comJanuary 24, 2012 

UK coach John Calipari talked with Kentucky Wildcats forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (14) during a break in the action in the second half of the University of Kentucky vs. University of Alabama basketball game on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2012 at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky. Kentucky won 77-71. Photo by David Perry | Staff

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  • Kentucky vs. Western Kentucky

    When: 7 p.m. Saturday
    Where: LP Field in Nashville
    TV: ESPNews
    Radio: WBUL-FM 98.1; WLAP-AM 630; WWRW-FM 105.5

More than once in his three seasons at Kentucky, John Calipari has suggested that critics belittle his coaching acumen. They consider him more a recruiter of talent than a wily tactician, he said.

When asked Monday about UK's highly rated defense refuting such a perception, Calipari said he would let history judge.

"History will tell what kind of job you've done," the UK coach said.

Calipari used Phil Jackson as an example of good coaching: Uniting star players in a collective effort. Coincidentally or not, the standard would apply to Calipari, who has recruited three straight classes of prospects to Kentucky rated No. 1 in the nation.

"To get a mediocre group to come together and be a good team, there's a bunch of coaches (who can do that)," Calipari said. "To get all-stars, like Phil Jackson, to play the triangle offense and defend together and communicate together and have a 'Breakfast Club' together, that's the challenge."

UK has a so-called Breakfast Club, a voluntary morning workout.

Calipari spoke in response to a question about UK's defense. Going into Tuesday's game at Georgia, Kentucky ranked No. 2 nationally in field-goal defense (opponents making 36.3 percent of their shots).

Calipari's last seven teams (two at Kentucky and five at Memphis) ranked among the nation's top 15 in field-goal defense. His Memphis team of 2008-09 led the nation (opponents shooting 37.1 percent). Bringing up the rear in this time span is his UK team of last season with a No. 15 national ranking (opponents making 39.4 percent of their shots).

Despite this string of standout defenses, Calipari suggested other ways of determining how well a coach has done:

■ Did the players become productive citizens?

■ Did the coach better his community and campus?

"If somebody wants to say I'm the worst (coach), I say, 'Have at it,' " Calipari said. "Maybe I am. We'll see."

Calipari dismissed advancement to the Final Four, and, by inference, national championships, as an accurate gauge. He noted that such coaches as Gene Keady and John Cheney did not put a Final Four appearance on their coaching résumé.

"Does that mean they can't coach?" Calipari said before answering his rhetorical question. "It's where they coached."

Hip check

Alabama contained Anthony Davis by keeping a body on him.

In reviewing the game, Calipari offered a counter move: Davis should get into preventative defensive position before his man gets the ball.

"As the ball was caught, he tried to move into position, and he got sealed," Calipari said.

Calipari advised a similar proactive approach on offense: Anticipating a scoring opportunity earlier in a possession. "He'll learn," the UK coach said.

Get physical

Calipari prescribed doing a better job taking contact and scoring for forward Terrence Jones.

"Terrence has missed 25 1-footers with his left (dominant) hand," the UK coach said. "Well, you've got to make those. I don't care if you got hit, whacked, grabbed, punched. You've got to make those."

Playing to the crowd

Freshman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist acknowledged playing to the crowd. After a score, he had on occasion looked into the crowd seemingly for affirmation.

"I always like to have fun with the crowd," he said.

Kidd-Gilchrist said he can get motivation from the fans.

Etc.

Brad Nessler, Jimmy Dykes and sideline reporter Shannon Spake will call the game for ESPN.

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