Calipari finally reveals his mystery 'tweak'

jtipton@herald-leader.comApril 14, 2014 

Chapman

MARK CORNELISON — Herald-Leader Buy Photo

On Monday, Kentucky Coach John Calipari revealed the much-discussed-but-never-explained "tweak" that supposedly fueled his team's post-season success. In terms of a letdown, think Ghostbusters 2 or The Lone Ranger movie in which Johnny Depp/Tonto had a bird sitting on his head.

Duh alert: the "tweak" was to encourage Andrew Harrison to play point guard with more of a pass-first mentality.

Toward that end, Calipari said he and Harrison watched video of Deron Williams create scoring opportunities for his New Jersey Nets teammates.

"You're the same guy," Calipari said he told Harrison. "Big. Strong. Sneaky athletic."

On a day-long series of interviews in New York to promote his latest book, Players First: Coaching from the Inside Out, Calipari said he followed up the film work by ordering Harrison not to shoot in practices leading up to the Southeastern Conference Tournament.

In UK's first SEC Tournament game, Harrison had a career-high eight assists. He topped that with nine against Georgia the next day. After averaging 3.5 assists in the regular season, Harrison averaged 5.4 assists in the SEC and NCAA tournaments.

During the postseason, Calipari coyly refused to reveal the "tweak" while gushing about its supposed effect. He said only informed basketball minds would detect the change, and all but taunted reporters to figure it out. But when a reporter in a formal post-game news conference asked Harrison about passing after penetrating LSU's zone, the UK coach misdirected the media.

"That's not the tweak," he said as reporters laughed. "Keep guessing though."

Actually, it was.

On the Mike Francesa Show on Monday, Calipari said Harrison had 21, 19 and 16 assists in the first three practices leading into the SEC Tournament. Harrison also had eight "hockey assists," Calipari said, meaning making the pass that led to the pass that set up a basket.

"It changed our team," he said.

Eight-and-done?

Before Willie Cauley-Stein's announcement that he would return for his junior season, NBA people considered eight UK players as possible selections in this year's NBA Draft, Calipari said.

"The good news is there are eight that could be going," he said before adding, "I know eight are not going."

Calipari downplayed his role in the decision-making.

On the Dan Patrick Show, he said he acts as a conduit, providing estimations of where a player might be picked. Then the player and his family make the decision about returning to Kentucky next season or entering this year's NBA Draft.

"I'm not going to meet with them nine times," Calipari said. " ... This is, 'Tell me what you want to do so I can help you.'"

Done deal?

Calipari repeatedly debunked the talk that he would be coaching the Los Angeles Lakers.

Hours before the NCAA Tournament final, former UK star Rex Chapman tweeted that it was a "done deal" for Calipari to leave Kentucky to coach the Lakers.

On the Dan Patrick Show, Calipari playfully pretended to be unaware of the talk. "Where did that come from?" he asked.

When Patrick mentioned Chapman, Calipari said, "Who is he?"

Calipari said neither he nor a representative had spoken to the Lakers. "There has been nothing," he said.

Asked whether he would want the Lakers' job if offered, the UK coach said, "No, I'm good."

On the Jim Rome show, Calipari indicated that he had spoken to Chapman.

"Bless Rex," he said. "I don't think he meant it in a negative way."

As if speaking to Chapman, Calipari said, "What are you doing? It's just not true."

Depression

Calipari credited Connecticut's guards and Kentucky's inexperience as key factors in the championship game.

"Connecticut's guard play was so good and they were so active that it affected us," he said. "I tried to minimize the game for (UK's freshmen)," he said. "It wasn't that big a game.

"Well, it was."

To come so close to winning a national championship and then lose was difficult to accept, Calipari said.

"The true depth of depression," he said.

In a later interview, Calipari clarified the comment to make sure listeners knew he was not talking about clinical depression.

"I say depression," he said, "but you know what I'm saying. You're just devastated."

Turning his attention to learning about how NBA people viewed his players helped him move past the hurt, Calipari said.

NCAA/Soviet Union?

In the new book, Calipari likens the NCAA bureaucracy to the former Soviet Union.

"Probably not the best way of putting it," he said in a morning interview.

By afternoon, Calipari was accusing the NCAA of "selective enforcement" of its rules and a desire to "embarrass" the UK coach.

Jerry Tipton: (859) 231-3227. Email: jtipton@herald-leader.com. Twitter: @JerryTipton.Blog: ukbasketball.bloginky.com

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