Men's Basketball

UK basketball: Calipari professes love for his job to Tip-Off Luncheon crowd, despite aging rapidly

John Calipari said he felt the Wildcats don't talk to one another enough.
John Calipari said he felt the Wildcats don't talk to one another enough.

LOUISVILLE — Never mind one-and-done. John Calipari suggested Wednesday that as Kentucky coach he should be considered three and not nearly done.

Speaking to UK Basketball's 47th annual Tip-Off Luncheon, Calipari noted the weight of command that comes with being chief executive. And as he enters his fourth year as UK coach, he welcomed more of the same.

"My first press conference, I really looked young," Calipari said as many in the crowd of about 850 chuckled. "Looking back at myself now, it's dog years coaching here. You age by sevens."

That said, Calipari embraced the "all-encompassing" frenzy that accompanies UK basketball.

"I love it," he said. "I love everything about it."

One possible exception: the anti-U of L sentiment that found expression from the podium set up in a downtown Louisville hotel.

After earlier listening to thinly veiled derision directed at U of L and its coach, Rick Pitino, Calipari offered a contrarian view.

"The program in this town, they have a good program, now," the UK coach told the crowd, which sat silent and presumably attentive. "They're one or two (in the pre-season rankings), and deserve it. They're well coached. They play hard.

"It's going to be a war here when we play."

Exhibiting his familiar caution about bad karma, Calipari asked the crowd to abstain from wishing U of L ill. "There's no disrespect from us toward their program," he said. "There isn't. Rick Pitino is a great coach. . . .

"I don't root against them. I tell you don't root against them."

To illustrate the mutual benefit that can come from two or more elite basketball programs in Kentucky, Calipari labeled the UK-U of L game in the Final Four earlier this year as "good for our state, wouldn't you say?"

The crowd reacted with tentative, then restrained applause.

As for the subject that the crowd came to hear, Calipari said this year's UK team will need much more production from sophomore Kyle Wiltjer. "He's going to have to score in double digits, easy," the UK coach said.

Perhaps to prime the pump, Calipari suggested that Wiltjer was much improved and capable of more than last season's averages of 5.0 points and 1.8 rebounds. Wiltjer "could have played 30 minutes a game on anybody else's team in the country," the UK coach said.

Calipari touted UK's success off the court as well as on the court. He noted the team grade-point average of better than 3.0 last season, that nine players had better than a "B" average and that Anthony Davis achieved a 3.7 GPA.

The crowd cheered.

Calipari said the academic success reflected an emphasis of the program to make players "more committed and disciplined academically than you've been in your life.

"That we won't settle for anything else but your best."

Luncheon first

For the first time, UK's Tip-Off Luncheon included an appearance by the women's coach. Matthew Mitchell spoke optimistically of his team's potential. He saluted star A'dia Mathies, a Louisville native who attended Iroquois High School.

Mitchell said he had to leave to get ready for his team's mid-afternoon practice. And in a joking reference to the adulation sure to come Calipari's way later in the program, Mitchell quipped, "I have self-esteem issues."