UK Men's Basketball

Calipari: 'This team's upside is enormous'

Kentucky Coach John Calipari, center, said he's getting just "50-60 percent" of his players' potential.
Kentucky Coach John Calipari, center, said he's getting just "50-60 percent" of his players' potential.

From tipoff to final buzzer, Cussin' Cal yells. He cajoles. He demands.

On a Southeastern Conference teleconference Monday, Kentucky Coach John Calipari explained why he gets so animated during all games, but most notably last week when television cameras caught him cursing freshman Terrence Jones.

"This team's upside is enormous because individual players are playing 50-60 percent of what they're capable of doing," the UK coach said. "... I don't think any team in America has got more upside."

That's why Calipari turns into Yosemite Sam. The seemingly hair-trigger temper is an attempt to put that unused 40-50 percent into Kentucky basketball's engine.

"You've got to let them know what's acceptable," Calipari said. "If you accept mediocrity, you're going to get (mediocrity) every single time. If you demand a lot, you'll get a lot."

Without specifically addressing the well-chronicled profane scolding he gave Jones late in the Alabama game last week, Calipari spoke of the affection he has for the freshman.

When asked whether Jones was coachable, Calipari said, "Oh, he's a great kid. There are times I just look at him, and I go, 'I love you, you know.'

"And he goes, 'I know, and I love you, too.' "

So for inquiring minds that want to know, the two get along just fine. Calipari just says Jones should be playing better.

"He doesn't play with the kind of desire and fight he needs to the whole game," the UK coach said. "When he does play that way, people look at him and say, 'Wow!' My job is to get him to play that way all the time and have that mentality. It's very hard.

"(It is) much easier to try to shoot threes or make a fabulous play and have them say, 'Wow!' versus to go in there and grind it and get a tough rebound and dunk on somebody and get a post-up where they have to double-team you and you make a pass. To make an easy play on offense. To defend and stunt and talk. That stuff is all hard."

Jones pleased Calipari with a wow-producing play at South Carolina. As replayed several times on ESPN's SportsCenter, he dribbled downcourt, paused for a moment and then drove to a dunk over Sam Muldrow, the SEC's runaway leader in blocks.

"If you want to take it at someone and dunk on them, have at it," Calipari said. "Do it 27 times a game. I'm OK with that."

Calipari said he wants Jones to play with that kind of assertiveness (think Notre Dame game) all the time.

"Here's my point," the UK coach said of the posterizing of Muldrow. "If you can do that, why don't you do it all the time?"

Mimicking the answer he apparently hears or anticipates, Calipari said in a player's voice:

"Well, it's hard. Nobody does it all time."

Like any good coach, Calipari has an answer at the ready.

"Oh yes, they do," he said. "The special guys do do it all the time.

"He's the greatest kid. He really is. But he slips. He has game slippage. He reverts."

Calipari emphasized that Jones is hardly alone in needing to play better or more consistently.

For instance, Darius Miller played one of the most productive games of his career at South Carolina but came up short in the estimation of impossible-to-please Cal.

"I don't think Darius is scratching (the surface of) where he needs to be," the UK coach said.

That echoed his post-game comments in Columbia, where Calipari noted Miller's four turnovers, balls jerked from his possession and the coach's good-is-not-good-enough approach.

"At the end of the day, I want everything," Calipari said. "... Today, he looked like one of the best players in our league, wouldn't you say? That's what I think he is."

DeAndre Liggins must improve offensively. Doron Lamb must play more passionately. Brandon Knight must run the team more efficiently.

"I told them before the last game that ... I believe in some players probably more than they believe in themselves," Calipari said. "And at some point, you have to trust in yourself and you've got to work and put yourself in position where you can be special. And don't be afraid of that."

Given his freshman-oriented team, Calipari noted that seamless domination might be beyond the Cats.

"There's going to be ups and downs of young kids," he said. "I'm going to have to be more patient than I like to be."

Late-game focus

Noting the late-game failures in losses at Georgia and Alabama, plus in the victory at South Carolina, Calipari said the Cats will work on improving execution down the stretch of possession-by-possession competitions.

"We're going to be in a lot of close games," he said, "... and we've got to be able to play in those games."

Calipari acknowledged the "sloppy" play late at South Carolina.

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