With South Carolina tied for last place in the Southeastern Conference, John Calipari advised patience with Coach Darrin Horn.
"I think he's doing a fine job," the UK coach said Friday. "South Carolina's hard. Hard deal to get going. That's why you've got to stick with a guy, and you've got to give him seven, eight years, and let him get it going."
Horn, a Tates Creek High graduate, is in his fourth season at South Carolina. He's compiled a 59-54 overall record, 22-33 in the SEC.
In 21 seasons as an SEC school, South Carolina has a league record of 128-199 (.391). Only Ole Miss has a worse winning percentage.
"I think the last guy to really get some stuff going was — who? — Frank McGuire?" Calipari said.
McGuire was coach the last time South Carolina won an NCAA Tournament game: 1973.
"You see them moving in the right direction," Calipari said, "and I think they're going to start knocking people off. I just hope it's not us."
Junior Jon Hood will not play this season, Calipari said. Hood is continuing rehabilitation after a surgical repair of an anterior cruciate ligament.
"I don't think he'll play this year," the UK coach said. "Not at this late a date. There's no reason to use up a year of eligibility."
Calipari noted that Hood had only begun using a treadmill as part of the rehabilitation. "So I think he's a ways away," the UK coach said.
Doron Lamb explained his recent change in hairstyle: From bushy to close-cropped.
"Just getting tired of it," he said before adding, "and my dad told me to cut it. He said I was looking funny with it."
Backup big man Eloy Vargas hasn't played double-digit minutes since the first South Carolina game on Jan. 7.
When asked if he's been able to stay patient, Vargas said, "I'm doing the right things, and Coach knows it. So when anybody gets in foul trouble or he needs me, I'll be ready to play."
Vargas, a senior, said he had been putting in extra time in hopes of staying prepared.
UK's game against Florida on Tuesday will give Vargas a chance to renew acquaintances. While on the Florida team in 2008-09, he roomed with Erving Walker. He also played in high school and the AAU circuit with Gator guard Kenny Boynton.
Cal doesn't hover
When asked about the player pranks on road trips, Calipari said he gives the Cats room to relax and be playful.
"I don't go to breakfasts," he said. "I don't go to team meals. They see me enough. ... I stay away. They see me enough."
But, of course, Calipari re-appears when the time is right.
"When the bus leaves (the hotel), I'm in that front seat," Calipari said. "Ready to go."
South Carolina becomes UK's third opponent in the last four Saturdays to have played a game within the previous 48 hours. The Gamecocks lost at Florida on Thursday night.
On a SEC teleconference Monday, Horn tried to turn the potential negative of a Thursday-Saturday tandem of games into a positive.
"Sometimes the advantage of a quick turnaround is, as coaches, sometimes we screw them up by giving them too much," he said.
Horn said the schedule required him to emphasize a few key points rather than a long list of do's and don'ts.
Horn also mentioned another plus: two games in three days mimics NCAA Tournament play, the goal of every team.
As of Friday, about 1,500 tickets remained available. South Carolina figured to exceed its largest home crowd of the season: 13,654 to see the Gamecocks play Ohio State. The second-largest home crowd was 11,308 to see USC play Florida. The Colonial Life Center has a listed capacity of 18,000. ... Brad Nessler and Jimmy Dykes will call the game for ESPN.