Sidelines with John Clay

Q&A: John Calipari’s comments after Kentucky’s win over Georgia

UK transcript from Kentucky coach John Calipari’s press conference after 90-81 win over Georgia:

Q. At the end of regulation, before they called timeout, you had Isaiah out on the court and Malik was going to throw the ball in and you switched it at the timeout. Talk about that. And then in the overtime, did Malik come over to you and call the lob play to Bam?

COACH CALIPARI: No, he called -- look, just, I’m trying to empower this team, even with De’Aaron Fox out. So, if they come over and say to me, “Coach, run this,” I always run it. It’s their team. If that’s what you want to run, we’ll run it. What happened on the play out of bounds, we had -- the way they were playing that zone, we were going to step Malik in after he threw it in, but I figured they saw it, called a timeout, and then we just put them on the court and had Isaiah who is a great passer, and we had a timeout. It’s something we put in. We had never run that before. And even though he guarded it great, they just made a tough shot.

The kid (Monk) had 30 in the second half, I mean, come on. We barely could get out of the gym. I don’t know how we won, to be honest. One, they played well. We went zone, and I’ve got to give credit to Tony Barbee, I’m not a zone coach. I don’t like zone, and for two days we’ve been playing zone.

We had to do it because we needed to get back to being sharp against it, but we also were playing big lineups with Wenyen (Gabriel) or Derek (Willis) at the three. So we just played zone for two days. So when Tony coached it and I just cringed and saw every --

Look, when we play zone, every shot they shoot is a three and it goes in. And when they play us zone, we can’t make any shots. I don’t understand that, but that’s how it is.

Q. What did you think it looked like? I know you said you cringed, but they started 8-of-9 and then went 3-for-13 to finish the half. Not all credit to the zone, but what did you think about it?

COACH CALIPARI: Look, how much have we played zone since I’ve been here? That game, probably, in total, is how many times I’ve played zone. So when the screw-ups we had, well, we’re not a zone team, but we’re going to have to play some zone. I don’t know if De’Aaron will be ready for Friday. He may not. Sacha (Killeya-Jones) also had to leave, so they’re out. Mychal (Mulder)’s out. I’m thinking about getting out.

So, you know, what I liked was Isaiah Briscoe’s leadership. You know, he made some plays that I said, why would you do that? But I thought Dom (Hawkins) getting that charge, that lay-up he made, he missed some shots, but he did those. That was big. I thought Wenyen did great stuff on the backboard rebounding and second shots, and Derek didn’t make shots, but I thought he fought. He rebounded some balls. Then Bam (Adebayo) just got in foul trouble again.

I thought Tai Wynyard was good today. The one thing you get with Tai, he’s going to mix it up. He’s going to be physical. He’s going to push on people. The problem is he pushed on the one where we made the three and hadn’t even shot the ball and he’s pushing the guy out of bounds. But we need that on this team. We need a little more toughness.

Then I talked toughness in the last couple huddles. That means make your free throws. You can’t miss 0 for 2. You can’t do a foot kicker. That’s not tough. And the kid listened, and all of a sudden the last part, he’s making free throws, he’s taking tough shots. I mean, toughness isn’t just pushing people. It’s making tough plays (with) four minutes to go, three minutes to go.

Their inside people hurt us. I thought (Yante) Maten was what, 25 points. (Derek) Ogbeide, he’s a double-double. That hurt us. He had a double-double, and partly because we went smaller. We were trying to go Bam on him. And (J.J.) Frazier played good, again. I mean, five assists, 23 points. You know, 3-for-4 from the three-point line, made big baskets.

I mean, Georgia, this is, as much it’s it is like, wow, you know, you understand. You watched the game. We were down 14, and we were lucky to be in a tie ballgame playing a zone that we never play. Come on. So I give my hat’s off to Mark (Fox). They came in and did a heck of a job, and our kid goes crazy in the second half. Goes for 30.

Q. Why did you start big to start the game? How much do you think going smaller helped?

COACH CALIPARI: Well, what did you think? How did that start go? It wasn’t really good, was it? So obviously that won’t be how we start. We’ll just have to figure it out. I mean, we’re going to Florida this weekend. You cannot play them zone because they’ve got too many three-point shooters. They’ve got like three on the floor. So you can throw a zone a little bit, but if you’re thinking you’re going to go in there and play zone and win on the road, you won’t believe this. It’s (ESPN College) GameDay too down there. Would you expect anything different? I mean, so, we’ve got a tough road ahead of us.

Q. Just curious, you lost two in a row. You go down 12-0, you’re missing some key personnel. I wonder how coming back tonight might go toward empowering the team? If we might look back a month from now and say, maybe tonight was the night?

COACH CALIPARI: Well, the thing I told them after, the teams that I really enjoyed coaching will shoot 35 percent and still win a game because they’ll grind it, because they’re tough mentally. They’re tough. They’ll come up with balls physically. They’re not going to turn it over late. They’re going to make all the plays they have to make late to win.

This team, for the first time this year, did it. We did it. And again, the execution, there were a couple breakdowns. Dom a couple times, Wenyen and I said, ‘Hey, man, we’re going to this way to finish it out.’ But the reality of it is, guys played pretty good.

Q. How did you think Briscoe played, and kind of feeding off the other question, on 50-50 balls and fighting for those kinds of balls?

COACH CALIPARI: Better, better today. I will tell you, he had six turnovers. What I’m saying, and what was bothering me, you guys know if you watch us, one more is a big term for us. If you’re open, you’re screaming it, one more. We put him in the middle of the zone so you can scream one more and he can find you. We had no one speaking, so now he’s going like I must be open to the rim because no one’s open.

But putting him in the middle, putting him in some pick-and-rolls, I was happy that making free throws, he missed a couple. But, you know, he was getting fouled going to the rim, and we just said, let’s put him in ball screens. Let’s get him to the rim. Let’s spread this court out. People didn’t want to leave Malik.

What we did for Malik is we just put him on the baseline and said we’re going to find you. You make shots, make plays, so that’s how we did the second half and stuck with it until they went man-to-man, and then we did some other stuff. But it was pretty good.

Q. Just to clarify, I think you said Sacha had to leave.

COACH CALIPARI: He’s also sick. He’s also sick. So he got sick prior to the game. The other kid (De’Aaron) got sick yesterday. You know, this flu that’s going around, we’re trying to sanitize and do some stuff to make sure it doesn’t go through the whole team.

Q. In this last stretch of games, how much have you missed somebody like Mychal Mulder, and can you give us some information on what he might be back?

COACH CALIPARI: He’s out there. He went on the treadmill today, which I watched him. But I’d have to talk to the trainers and stuff, so I don’t really know. But my guess would be inside of ten days, maybe a week. And obviously, he’s one more weapon for us. You know, we ended up playing six guys, and then I threw Tai and Isaac (Humphries) in there a little bit. And then Bam gets in foul trouble and then I was playing six guys. Think about that. That’s why Isaiah played 45 minutes and Malik played 44.

But what I told them today, when I was at UMass I had two guards that I played 39 minutes a game. They played 39 minutes, and we pressured. They knew not to foul. Don’t foul. I can’t leave you in the game if you go body to body or stop playing or go reach in. They just were disciplined enough, Edgar Padilla, Carmelo Travieso, look it up. Jerry will look it up. 39 minutes a game they played. And I’m saying to these guys, as long as you don’t foul, I can leave you in games.

Q. Did you trap the post more than you normally do? Was that a foul thing? Because it seemed to be productive.

COACH CALIPARI: We tried, but we trapped out on the court a couple times, that gave the basket open. We let them out of a trap on the baseline, Bam did, and he went baseline and walked and then got fouled and made one. But he got outside of us.

I thought they did a good job late of making it hard for him because Maten’s one of the best guys in our league. He’s physical, his jump hook and now he’s added a three-point shot to his game, so you’ve got to play him out on the court now.

But their other big kid, Derek he was good too now. He jump hooked us, and played and cut where he should have. And he’s the one that got 13 rebounds. He was pretty good.

Q. You talked a little bit about Isaiah’s leadership, and it looked like he was more vocal tonight, but it also to me looked like maybe more guys were listening to him also after that start. Just your thoughts on that?

COACH CALIPARI: Well, I told him a couple times, if you don’t tell these guys, I will, and I don’t want to do it. I want to coach less and have you do more. I want to do less, you guys do more. And I can’t do it because you can’t just let guys do their thing. You’ve got to tell them. The guy’s not doing what we’re asking. You tell him. Make him listen.

We went in the zone and he was on guys because we told him exactly where to slide and the guy stayed low and gave up the three, and he went over and ran right up to him and said, hey, man, now that’s good for me because it’s less that I have to do.

I want to be a cheerleader. I’m like having to coach every possession. It’s really hard. I’d rather sit there like last year and watch Tyler (Ulis) move people around. I mean, I’m trying to tell them, each game it’s got to be more about them and less about me, and I’ve got to try to be as positive as I can. There are sometimes you just can’t. I don’t care what you say, just there’s no way, but I’m trying.

It’s now February, I’ve got to be more positive. Is it? It’s February.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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