John Clay: Calipari loses the tie as UK keeps winning

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistFebruary 6, 2013 

  • 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

You may have noticed, Kentucky Coach John Calipari has stopped wearing a necktie.

The last few games, including the Cats' 77-55 win over visiting South Carolina on Tuesday night, Calipari has gone to the open-collar look with his trademark dark suit.

And you may have noticed South Carolina Coach Frank Martin has stopped coaching.

"We did a good job of putting the fans to sleep," Martin said after his team took its fifth loss in its last six games.

Or at least the Gamecocks have put Martin to sleep. For much of the game in Rupp Arena, the first-year Gamecocks coach stared off into space. Or he looked at the floor. Or he looked the other direction.

At one point, a Rupp Arena patron yelled out, "Hey Martin, get off your (posterior) and coach!"

"I don't coach when we aren't doing what we're supposed to do," Martin said. "I'm not going to stand up there and clap so people say, 'Look at him up there still coaching.'"

Accustomed to winning at Kansas State, Martin's team is 2-7 in conference play. It scored 10 points in the first half at Florida. It scored six points in the final 10 minutes of the first half against Kentucky.

"We just got out of the way and let them practice their dunking," Martin said.

Kentucky did outscore South Carolina 28-6 over the final 10 minutes of the first half. The Cats shot 68.2 percent the first 20 minutes. They built their biggest intermission lead since being up 52-25 on South Carolina last year in Columbia.

Then, as this team has a tendency to do, UK took its foot off the gas. The second half was sloppy. South Carolina ended up with seven turnovers. Kentucky turned it over 17 times.

"And they didn't press," lamented Calipari.

Which brings us back to Calipari's new open-collar look. Could this be because he doesn't want anything else around his neck, except maybe his own hands? Might he be afraid that, watching his young team game after game, he might use the tie for hanging purposes?

"No," said Calipari, smiling.

"Part of it is, again, I got aggressive in the second half, I got a little mean in the second half and I don't want to coach this team this way because if they don't want to bring it, then that's on them, and I'm just going to coach basketball," he continued.

"I don't want to coach emotion. I don't want to coach intensity. I don't want to coach toughness. If you have no toughness, I'm not going to get it out of you. Then I'm just going to coach strategy. Part of it is I wanted to kick back a little bit. Plus, I was running out of ties. I was sweating through ties."

This team will make a coach sweat. Every time it appears they are about to figure it out, it takes a step or two in the opposite direction.

UK had a 21-point halftime lead against one of the worst teams in the league. The Cats won by 22.

"We're just not that kind of team," Calipari said.

It's obvious Martin has no use for his team. When he did bother to watch, the coach looked like a man who had been chewing light bulbs. There are five assistant coaches or staff members between Martin's seat on the bench and his nearest player. Given his usual outbursts, there is probably good reason for that.

"We didn't do a single thing we talked about doing in two days of practice," Martin said. "Maybe some guys are good at standing up and playing the part — I try to be the part. If my guys aren't playing, I don't see any reason I should be losing my mind there."

Calipari may have sported a casual attire, but he is willing to lose his mind if that's what it takes. He wants more out of this team and he's trying everything he can think of to get more out of this team.

"I want (our players) to have the joy my other teams have had," he said. "That's why I get frustrated at times."

And, besides, there's one very good reason for losing the tie.

"My wife said she liked it," Calipari said. "Other people said they don't but I don't really care. I care about my wife more than anybody else. She said she liked it."

John Clay: (859) 231-3226 Email: jclay@herald-leader.com Twitter: @johnclayiv Blog: johnclay.bloginky.com

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