SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — Induction into a Hall of Fame seems like the culmination of a career. But Kentucky Coach John Calipari did not sound ready to retire.
"I'm really, like, excited to coach this team I have," he said Thursday. "I think I'm going to have a lot of fun. Great guards. I didn't say good guards — and I'm not one to throw stuff around — we have great guards."
ESPN analysts have called Tyler Ulis likely the best point guard in college basketball next season. Freshmen Isaiah Briscoe and Jamal Murray, plus transfer Mychal Mulder give UK several options at guard.
Calipari also spoke highly of UK big men like Alex Poythress and Skal LaBissiere.
"Marcus Lee is showing unbelievable signs," he said before adding, "We have good wings. So I'm looking at this saying, 'I'm ready to get going with this team.'"
In 2015-16, Kentucky will have a hard act to follow.
"I don't see anybody ever going 38-0 in our lifetime," Calipari said.
Calipari suggested he might change his timetable and put off retirement. He will be 57 in February.
"I said I'd never coach past the age of 60," he said. "And if anybody does, they're crazy. Now we got all these guys coaching in their 70s. And I'm thinking, man, maybe I'll coach in my 70s. I'm having a ball."
Calipari acknowledged that the demands of being Kentucky coach must be considered.
"It's a different animal," he said. "You got to be healthy. I got to be at the top of my game or I'm cheating the position. And it's a position that's so important to the Commonwealth, that you just can't do it and be (average). You can't retire on the job at Kentucky. Let me just put it that way. You're going to be there, you're going to be coaching, you're going to be recruiting. You've going to be involved in the community. You're going to be going 20 mph. You're getting a few hours of sleep now and then. That's Kentucky."
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Despite his reputation for being soft-spoken, former UK player Louie Dampier might have gotten off the press conference's best line.
He likened being inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame to attending a grandson's birthday recently. The boy wanted to know who was the best player ever: Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Larry Bird, Kobe Bryant or Louie Dampier?
"I didn't know exactly who the best was," Dampier said. "But I knew who the worst was."
That was Dampier's way of saying he would not be the best player ever enshrined in the Hall of Fame.
"But I'm in," he said. "And I'm going to accept it."
Calipari vouched for Dampier's worthiness.
"He's the best long-range shooter in our program; maybe any ... ," the UK coach said.
With that, Calipari playfully noted Dampier's reticence to talk about himself. Calipari said he had a request to make of Dampier.
"Are you going to yield me some of your time," he said. "The gentleman from Kentucky. Are you going to yield me time?"
On Thursday, Dampier spoke for about 90 seconds, which was the norm.
"That's more than I've ever heard him talk," Calipari said. "And more than that, he never talks about himself. This is a humble (man). He'll defer. He's about his family. He's one of the neatest persons I've met, and that God has ever put on this Earth. So deserving. And all the people who played with him, I can't begin to tell you how happy they are because they love him."
Emotions in check
Calipari said he hoped to avoid getting emotional in his speech Friday night.
But he choked up when he spoke about Marcus Camby, his first star.
"I thank him for what he's done for me and my family," he said.
When a reporter asked if Camby changed everything in Calipari's life, the UK coach said in a quiet tone, "He did."