ESPN analyst Seth Greenberg has a job to do. He watches games. He says what he thinks. That Kentucky and its fan base might take exception to his Wednesday morning rant on “SportsCenter” — which seemed to be an attack on the college freshmen the Cats rely heavily on — is not a consideration. He’s not worried about his reception Saturday morning in Rupp Arena during the “ESPN College GameDay” telecast.
“You really think I care?” Greenberg asked rhetorically as he talked with members of the local media Friday. “I coached for 36 years. I’ve been on the road. I’ve played at Duke. I’ve ticked off their fan base, Carolina’s fan base. Today, because I said something about Kentucky, Kentucky’s mad at me. People at Duke think I hate them, only because I tell the truth. I have no agenda … I watch — from 36 years of coaching I see what I see — I say what I say.”
What Greenberg saw this week was No. 18 Kentucky blow a 14-point second-half lead on the road and UK Coach John Calipari talk about his team playing with an “unwarranted arrogance.” He told his producers he had something more to say on the topic.
“These guys have been recruited since they were 13 years old. They’ve been enabled since they were 13 years old. They don’t think. It’s not about Kentucky, it’s about how quick can I get to the league?” Greenberg said Wednesday morning in a “SportsCenter” panel discussion. “It’s all about me, me, me. They don’t know how to play hard. They’re not competitive. They can’t maintain an intensity.”
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One of the Kentucky players who acknowledged seeing the clip disagreed, especially the comments of just trying to make it to the NBA.
“I would say that’s false,” said center Nick Richards. “We’re all right here. We’re just trying to win a national championship. That’s everybody’s main goal. We’ve just got to find common ground, and hopefully get it done.”
Calipari and Greenberg are friends and communicate regularly, including before and after the segment aired.
“He said, ‘I’m going to do something.’ And I said, ‘Be easy. These kids are young,’” Calipari said Friday of his communication with Greenberg. “So when he made statements, ... they need to be addressed. If you watched us, you’d probably have said the same thing.”
In fact, Greenberg on Friday said he often hopes his commentaries will be used as fodder for coaches’ locker rooms.
“I do try to say things that I think that a coach could play back to his team,” he said. “So that he could say ‘you know what? I’m not the only one saying this.’”
Greenberg also declared Wednesday that some freshmen are “spoiled” and bemoaned today’s basketball culture. ESPN colleague Jay Bilas disagreed with that Friday.
“To the extent that somehow freshmen today are different than freshmen years ago — the way they’re different is they’re better,” Bilas said. “These players at an earlier age are better than they’ve ever been. If all you needed was older players to win, then people would only have older players.”
Kentucky, perhaps, suffers in comparison to some of the teams Calipari has had in the past, Bilas said.
“These freshmen here at Kentucky are outstanding players. They’d be outstanding anywhere, wherever they went,” Bilas said. “But I don’t think it takes a genius to figure out that there’s no Anthony Davis on this team. There’s no Karl-Anthony Towns on this team. I don’t think anybody was worried about youth when those guys were playing. And nobody was worried about entitlement when those guys were playing.”
The big advantage these Kentucky players have, Greenberg said, is that nobody is better at taking young talent and forming it into a cohesive team by March than Calipari.
“These kids have been together for four months. It takes time,” Greenberg said. “But if you don’t play hard, if you don’t compete, if you’re not connected, if you don’t have trust, you can only be so good. And ‘only so good’ is not good enough for, I’m sure, John’s expectation, and, I’m sure, everyone else’s expectation.”
‘ESPN College GameDay’
What: The “ESPN College GameDay” crew of Rece Davis, Jay Bilas, Jay Williams and Seth Greenberg will air its show from inside Rupp Arena.
When: Doors open at 9 a.m. The show begins at 11 a.m. (ESPN)
Admission: Free to the morning GameDay event
Florida at No. 18 Kentucky
8:15 p.m. Saturday (ESPN)