LOUISVILLE — Forget national championships or transforming heralded players into an effective unit or even pleasing a famously hard-to-please fan base.
On Wednesday, new University of Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari noted an even higher goal: Make UK's program and fun synonymous.
"I want to have fun," Calipari said at a news conference prior to an appearance before the Greater Louisville (UK) Alumni Club. "I'm going to have fun in this job."
But, Calipari added, he wasn't expecting a problem-free time as UK coach.
Never miss a local story.
"That doesn't mean everything's always going to be rosy," he said. "There will be problems. That doesn't mean I won't stub my toe."
Then Calipari offered an example. He said he referred to Thoroughbred breeders as "horse farmers."
Yet Calipari insisted he'll have fun in what he's called his dream job.
"Why would I come here and be miserable?" he said. "I'm 50. I want to have fun with it."
A record crowd of almost 2,000 came to the Kentucky International Convention Center and heard the same message.
"That's my challenge to you: Have fun with this," Calipari told the crowd. "It's about the path as much as it's about the prize. If I'm having fun and you're having fun, do you think my team will have fun? Yeah!"
Calipari cautioned against fans being unhappy with, say, a 12-point victory. And he suggested fans look for satisfaction in steady improvement through the upcoming season.
Each week will bring "better shots and less turnovers," he said, "and fans will see an aggressive team unleashed."
With a tour of Kentucky, which included several signings of his new book Bounce Back, Calipari is getting a feel for his first UK team. The NCAA allows two hours of team practice a week before the official start of practice, which begins with Big Blue Madness on Oct. 16.
When asked what he's learned of the players, he said, "We're really fast, which I kind of knew.
"We're kind of big, which I kind of knew."
Other than that, Calipari said he's trying to get the players to not be so self-critical as they learn a new offensive system and new press.
"It's like teaching Martians," Calipari said. "They know nothing of this offense."
That process led Calipari to say the expected lofty spot in the pre-season rankings should not be taken seriously. He likened the UK team to a mountain climber.
"The mountain we're supposed to climb is going to be very high," he said.
Other programs, with players accustomed to the system and familiar with the coach, are starting from a position somewhere on the side of the mountain.
UK is at base camp.
While noting the adjustment to the dribble-drive offense, Calipari said, "if we're truly going to climb the mountain, we have to be the best defensive team in the country."
Other highlights of the news conference and luncheon included Calipari saying:
■ He'd like to return the series with Indiana to Louisville and Indianapolis in alternating years. He speculated about having the Cats play Notre Dame in Louisville in the seasons that the Indiana game is in Indianapolis.
Calipari also wondered aloud about as many as three games in Louisville in a season, although he noted that he had to "protect" fans who wanted home games in Rupp Arena.
Three games is the limit a team can play in an arena and still be eligible to play NCAA Tournament games in the same arena.
■ He's thinking of ways he can play freshman big men Daniel Orton and DeMarcus Cousins at the same time. But he's also thinking of ways to play freshman point guards John Wall and Eric Bledsoe at the same time.
■ He's not attempting to take support away from the University of Louisville by appearing in Kentucky's largest city. He just wants to build support for UK.
"I won't do anything to hurt them except try to beat their brains out," he said.
■ Big Blue Madness may be no more effective as a recruiting tool as a home football game.
But Calipari acknowledged rival recruiters may not be happy because some prospects chose to attend UK's Madness.