John Calipari: They got our best today
Full transcript from John Calipari’s press conference after win over Tennessee-Martin:
Q: How surprised are you by all this?
JOHN CALIPARI: Some of you that know me well enough, we try to play all kinds of teams that do different things, whether it’s Princeton offense, whether it’s playing fast, whether it’s shooting 30 3’s whether it’s all pick-and-roll. What (Tennessee) Martin plays is zone. They play all kinds of different zones, 2-3’s, 1-3-1’s, 1-2-1’s. Normally they will press different ways.
They went to Mississippi, and I’m just going to tell you now, they had the ball down one three times in the last minute with a chance to beat them at Mississippi. So, they got our best today. And the way we moved the ball – I kind of like coaching against zone, and I want my team to feel like if someone plays the zone, that’s a good thing. Let’s go do this.
Mychal (Mulder) made shots. Malik (Monk), Malik has just gotten better each week. It’s crazy. Now he’s just not shooting 3’s, now he’s running runners to the rim, he’s pulling up, so there was some good stuff there. De’Aaron (Fox) looked a little tired today. I don’t know why. Four turnovers, that’s just not normal for him. He had a bunch of balls pop out of his hands. So these games came at us pretty fast.
Q. You talked about it a little bit already with Malik, but trying to get him to score in some other ways to get to the basket and his use athleticism. Again, a flurry of 12 points in two minutes. What did you like about the way he played today?
JOHN CALIPARI: They’re not just coming down jacking 3’s, but you’ve got to play him because he can make that shot. Again, he goes 2-for-8 from the three and gets 26. What? Some of them are on breakouts, and there was that one spell where we steal, dunk, steal, dunk, steal, dunk, and I mean, that’s who I hope we are. But we outrebounded them, and again, they’re a team that’s been leading the other teams in rebounding. We were good today. I mean, we were, Bam, 15 (points)-12 (rebounds), he should be doing that. That’s what he should be doing.
Q. Are you surprised at all about how unselfish your team is being, you had like 24 assists tonight?
JOHN CALIPARI: No, I’m not. Part of it is they’re all comfortable in their own skin. They’re not competing with another player on the team. We’re competing against the other team. The greatest thing about coaching here, minutes and shots really don’t matter. If you’re a player here, we’ve had guys that took the fifth-most shots be the No. 2 pick, the seventh-most shots, No. 6 pick. So if you’re really concerned about your NBA career, points and rebounds don’t matter. Fight, be able to guard multiple positions, be able to go for 30 (points) on a given night, and so now they play this way. I mean, we have a bunch of unselfish players that are making the extra pass, and it’s great to see.
Q. Coach, Mychal Mulder, 4 for 5 from three tonight, a season average of 60% from behind the arc, which is prolific. I know you mentioned defense or lack thereof is the reason he’s not getting extended minutes. Have you considered softening your position on that considering how well he’s shooting the ball?
JOHN CALIPARI: He played 15 minutes. If he could play 15 to 20 minutes every game for us, I’d be ecstatic. Again, rebounding. He had a couple steals. He played good today. Now I just keep on him. Like I can leave you in there if you’re defending and rebounding. I can leave you in. You don’t have to make every shot. We don’t expect anybody to.
But it was good to see him make those. It was good to see him, you know -- you can’t play timid here. Not here. I mean, you look at them, when I called a timeout, I think we were up five or six. They believed they were good enough to play. Every team we play comes in there and they go nuts. It’s can you sustain it by guarding? Can you get five, seven, eight stops in a row? And if you have a player on the court that breaks down defensively over and over and over, you can never get that run, so he can’t be in. It’s not me being mean. It’s just being truthful.
I’m on Wenyen (Gabriel) right now. Right now, Wenyen, when they grab on the ball on him, they’re straight-line driving. We can’t help a straight-line drive. If you make him go wide of you, we can help you. But when he goes by like that, we’re fouling or he’s making a lay-up. So we have three or four guys that give those plays up that we’re working on. But it’s early. It’s still November.
Q. Do you have any kind of update on what happened with Derek Willis?
JOHN CALIPARI: He sprained his thumb, his right thumb.
Q. Do you anticipate he’ll be out very long?
JOHN CALIPARI: I have no idea. I hope not.
Q. What about Isaiah (Briscoe)?
JOHN CALIPARI: They’re going to do an MRI tonight because they’re surprised it’s still bothering him. So let’s hope it’s clear for his sake.
Q. You mentioned how you like to coach against zones and you want your guys to look forward to playing against zones. Why?
JOHN CALIPARI: The zone ends up that you can scheme. You can still rush it up and try to post. You can make it random, like you’re rushing and then move the ball and drive and post. You don’t have to run stuff. Then in the half court, you can do things to create areas for guys to get a ball and attack, and it’s one-on-one. So you saw that we had De’Aaron in the middle there, we then put Wenyen in the middle. We then attacked from the baseline where we gave it to De’Aaron on the baseline or Malik on the baseline. Those different things, but those aren’t really plays. They’re actions. Then you tell a guy, we’re going to give it to you here, create something for us.
Now the issue for us is now they go into a sagging man-to-man. What will we do then? We’ve had teams do it, and we still, if you can rebound and defend, that doesn’t work either, because you just outrun them before they can sag. You just get faster and they can run back and get in the lane. If you can’t defend, then sagging works.
And let me say this, I tell my team this. If a team says the way we can beat them is sagging and give them jump shots. Then just we’ll go to church the night before and hope they don’t make those jump shots. That’s what sagging is. Basically you’re telling your team we can’t play them, so let’s just give them shots and hope they miss, and close your eyes and hope they don’t make them. But that’s another way of playing.
Q. What’s it say when you play without Isaiah and Dom (Hawkins) has nine assists for you tonight?
JOHN CALIPARI: Well, it’s good for Isaiah to see. You’ve got to compete. The issue became we needed Isaiah because De’Aaron got a little tired and I left him in tired. But Dom right now I think has 18 assists to two turnovers for the season right now. I think it’s 18-3, like a ridiculous number.
Dom is so much better. As a player, confident, Derek Willis is so much better, Wenyen, Sacha (Killeya-Jones), they’ve all gotten better. We’ve got to get Sacha -- here’s the hard thing, when you’re not out there enough, it’s hard. And Bam deserves to be out there because he defends and he rebounds. If the guy in front of you can really, really guard and defend, it’s hard to say just give me time. Well, whose time? You’ve got to take minutes from somebody. So to not play them as much is hard for them. Whether it’s Isaac, whether it’s Sacha. Then if you try to play both, neither one gets enough time.
But I like what Sacha did shooting the ball, it shows his skill. They’ve got to fight though. These games come down to competitiveness and fight. You’ve got to come up with balls. You’ve got to stay in a stance.
Like I said, I like the direction of the team. But now we’ve got to, you know, go on a trip and we’ve got to play in the Bahamas because our fans like to make trips, so we’ll play in the Bahamas. Go have a vacation with us down there, and spend three days in the Bahamas.
Q. You guys are the first UK team since ’47-’48 to win the first six by 21 or more. What should we make of that?
JOHN CALIPARI: Since when?
JOHN CALIPARI: This may be the fabulous nine. I don’t think it matters. Some of it is who you played. You know, here’s what we have now. You have an Arizona State, you have UCLA, you have Valpo who has an NBA, 6’9”, 250-pound center. Then you go, is it North Carolina-Louisville? Or is it Louisville-North Carolina? Something like that. And wait a minute, you still have Kansas. So our run of games is going to be coming now, and it’s how I believe we have to schedule.
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When you’re talking about a new team every year, you cannot come out of the gate and play three or four really hard games. It’s not fair to the kids. Well, our fans want to do it. Go on vacation without us. We don’t need to go on with you. Just go. And if you want us to go in the summer, we’ll go somewhere in the summer and you can come with us there. You’ve just got to be fair to these kids. You can’t just say we want to all go here. Then go. You don’t have to watch us. Why do I have to go with you?
Q. You kind of answered my question, but is it a good time now, as you mentioned, the schedule kind of kicks it up a notch. Are they ready for that yet?
JOHN CALIPARI: I don’t know. We’ll see. But we pushed it back as far as we could. Now it’s OK, it’s on. But we played Michigan State and they beat Wichita today. But they were as young as us. Now we’re going to be playing -- and this team was a veteran team today. They had juniors and seniors and they played zone, so there was a lot of good stuff. Now all these games coming up, veteran teams. Maybe a young guy sprinkled in, but guys that have played on there for the last two to three years.
I mean, I looked at Carolina, wow, they are really good. Like they are really good. They can play fast and they can play in the half court. Again, I only watched about seven, eight minutes of the game and I started sweating, so I had to turn it off. I mean, they’re really good. Kansas’ guards are really good. Louisville’s playing hard and scoring and doing stuff. We just, you know, Arizona State, I mean, come on. They’re not afraid of us. We’re going down there to play. So we’ve got a tough road. Valpo, I’m telling you, we’re going to play a kid that you need to come to the game to watch this kid play. He’s that good. So tough road ahead.
Q. You talked earlier about playing position-less basketball. Does this team personify that more than any of your other teams you’ve coached?
JOHN CALIPARI: Well, you can say that, because you’re watching Bam guard guards and saying, oh, my gosh, this guy’s guarding a point guard and the guy can’t get by him and then he blocks it. Oh, my gosh, that’s what position-less is. You can all guard every position. Guys are skilled enough to pass.
You look at every guy on my team, they can all pass. There’s not a guy that you say that guy has no skill. They’re all skilled, big. You had to love Sacha making shots because then you say oh, my gosh, he’s 6’10” and he can shoot.
The issue for us, they get antsy at times, and what I love about Malik right now –he went from being an antsy player to being a comfortable player on the court. So he’s still playing fast, but he’s never out of control. Wouldn’t you say? He’s now starting to drive the ball and shoot runners. It just takes time. You’ve got to keep talking about it. Keep stopping them in practice. No, no, no. Then when he does it right, you’ve got to stop and affirm that’s what we want right there. Like today, I just told him he was really good today. Like, holy cow. Like, OK.
Now, OK, how do we just keep building? And it’s the same with De’Aaron, he just does so many other things. Last year when Tyler (Ulis) wasn’t making shots, we really relied on him to have to make shots. Like if he didn’t, we didn’t have enough other guys that could make shots. Now De’Aaron could miss a bunch of shots and start getting comfortable shooting and we’re still fine. You’ve got a bunch of other guys that can make shots that we did not have a year ago.
Q. So you like your team?
JOHN CALIPARI: I love this team.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports