After formally becoming the only two-time winner of the Adolph Rupp Cup (the Commonwealth Athletic Club of Kentucky's national coach of the year award), John Calipari spoke optimistically Thursday about more UK success next season.
For starters, Calipari said Alex Poythress has decided to return to Kentucky for his senior season in 2015-16.
"We've talked," Calipari said. "I think he's wanting to come back. So I think he'll be fine."
Poythress, who averaged 5.5 points in eight games last season, later confirmed via a tweet that he plans to return to UK in order to be part of "something special."
Never miss a local story.
Poythress's return to preseason workouts and practices will not be delayed because of the anterior cruciate ligament he tore in mid-December and had surgically repaired, Calipari said.
The UK coach, who also won the Rupp Cup in 2010, spoke excitedly about what Poythress and other returnees can do.
"I'm so anxious to get him on the court," Calipari said. "I'm anxious to get Marcus Lee (on the court) because it's their time. This is their time, now."
Lee played behind All-American Willie Cauley-Stein and the possible overall No. 1 pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, Karl-Anthony Towns, this past season.
"In the normal college situation, that is normal," Calipari said. Not at Kentucky, where player development is set at "warp speed," he added.
Calipari all but predicted the 2015-16 season will serve as a coming-out party for Lee.
"People are going to say, 'Cal should have played him the last two years,'" Calipari said. "'What the heck was he thinking?'"
When asked about another returnee, Derek Willis, Calipari noted how the Kentucky native is working on his shooting.
"I see Derek in the gym on his own putting up shots," Calipari said. Willis, a junior-to-be, played in 19 games, averaging 1.3 points and 3.9 minutes last season.
Calipari noted how the loss of seven players to this year's NBA Draft has not dampened expectations for the 2015-16 season.
"We have three guys in the warmup line right now," he said. "And someone said they picked us No. 1 in the country. We don't even have a team and we're No. 1?!
"It comes back to what Coach (Adolph) Rupp started here. It's expected here."
Calipari did not make adding more players in this recruiting cycle sound especially important. He said UK might add one or two recruits. Or maybe not.
"I think we're going to be fine," he said. "I think at the end of the day, it's going to be crazy again."
In formally accepting the Rupp Cup from the son of former UK coach, Calipari said in an affectionate tone, "This thing here your father left is crazy."
Herky Rupp volunteered a respectful clarification and history lesson.
"I'm not sure Coach Cal really understands," he said. "When he says these people are crazy, and the insanity that circulates around the program, it's not really insanity."
Rupp noted how his father came to Kentucky in 1930 during the depths of the Great Depression.
"The whole country was depressed," he said. "Kentucky was really depressed. So he brought a pride to the state."
Noting the statewide enthusiasm generated for UK basketball, Rupp added, "As bad as the economics might be, as bad as conditions might be, it was something the people in the state of Kentucky could hang their hat on and say, 'We're the best at this particular thing' and 'We're better than you all are.'
"And I contend Kentucky fans, the Big Blue Nation it's become now, are the smartest, most educated and passionate basketball fans in the world."
Earlier in the 25-minute ceremony and media availability, Calipari noted Kentucky's statewide presence.
"Louisville has a good program and they have their following," he said.
But UK is unique, which Calipari attributed to Adolph Rupp.
"The legacy you want to leave is that when I'm gone, this thing just continues to go," Calipari said. "That's what this thing did. It hasn't changed."
To match Rupp's 42 seasons as UK coach, Calipari would have to head the program until age 92.
Not going to happen, he said. "At this stage, I'm in this seat, it's dog years."
Each season as UK coach equals seven or nine years in the aging process, he said. "So I figure if I coach another five years, my 11 is his 42. I got him. I caught him."