John Calipari’s post-game press conference after win over LSU.
Q. Couple seconds to go, were you nervous?
COACH CALIPARI: I don’t know, nervous, but you just, I mean, plays that happened, you’re just sitting there like, what just happened. Ball being thrown away, you know, some of the free throws.
But let me tell you, they executed the last when we were fouling. I’m not one to usually do it, but the way that game was playing, he would have made that three. There ain’t no question he would have banked it and that three would have gone in. So that’s why I decided to do that. But the kids executed, Archie (Goodwin) had a good foul and we rebounded the last one.
All that aside, folks, I was so proud of Alex (Poythress). I can’t begin to tell you. He is basically in his mind, been tortured to play harder, to compete. In other words, it’s like torture what we’re doing to him, just making him run, making him do individuals, pushing him, and for him to go out and make those free throws and come up with those balls and do the things that he did to help us win the game and he smiled. That’s the first time he smiled all year, as he walked off the court, he smiled.
And so I was happy with him and I thought Nerlens (Noel) fought like crazy, too.
Q. There’s a sequence when it looked like you guys might have had six guys almost on the floor and you pulled off right before it happened; what was going on there?
COACH CALIPARI: You could have eight on the floor, but before they hand him the ball, you can only have five. So if the ball is handed in and you’ve got seven guys on the court but I didn’t see all the stuff. Everybody was saying something. I just know when that ball was handed we had five guys on court.
Q. Along with Alex, does assistant coach John Robic get assist MVP; I think he yanked Nerlens off the floor.
COACH CALIPARI: Normally what we do is and it’s not the kids’ fault. But we line up, one, two, three, four, five: Point guard, two guard, three man, four man, five man; on every time out, that’s how we line up.
So if there’s two fives, well, which one of us are in? Okay, or there are two fours or two threes, that’s how we line up. I think we got sloppy in that time out, and I got my staff after the game and said, you need to be responsible for that. So that may have happened, but again he was off the court.
Q. In terms of Alex, could you tell right away, was it something you could see early?
COACH CALIPARI: He’s getting it. All these kids are different. They are not machines. They have all been brought up different. They have all been coached different. They are all different, and our job is to help each one of them reach their potential and challenge them.
You know, you talk about success being a piece of mind knowing you’ve done your best. Today he can walk out of there knowing he did his best. Now that’s win or lose. He did his best. Now there’s some other guys that should not have peace of mind.
So they may look and say, I’ve got to do better, but that means I’ve got to practice better and I’ve got to go harder and I’ve got to do those things. But when you walk off the court and you have peace of mind, you don’t have to worry about winning and losing. Winning and losing takes care of itself.
Q. Under a minute left, Goodwin was not in the game, was there anything to that?
COACH CALIPARI: I don’t even remember. I just I don’t know. He probably wasn’t in because I didn’t have him on I didn’t want him getting fouled, so I just put the better free throw shooters on the court
Q. And on defense, Jarrod Polson instead of Ryan Harrow?
COACH CALIPARI: Just size. And because it worked: Oh, Cal, that was really smart, you fouled.
What if a kid tried to shoot a three from half court and we fouled, and he goes to the line and makes three, on Jarrod; why didn’t you have him in the game? That’s coaching.
Whatever you do, if you win, you’re a genius; if you lose, you’re a goofball.
Q. Alex posted up strong. He also had that fast break through the press. What impression did those kind of plays make on you?
COACH CALIPARI: Well, I just want to see that competitive spirit in him, and that’s what he showed today. Probably played about three or four minutes more than he needed to but we had to have him on the court, because other guys weren’t performing, and he did fine yeah, pulled it out, he did good.
I’m telling you, without him, we don’t win. 20 and 12 out of a freshman, in this league? And again, I’ve watched all five of LSU’s games, and let me tell you, that even Florida had them down but they started pressing Florida. Florida did not do what we did to that press. And they made a game of it, because of it.
LSU is going to win their games. They played how they have to play. They did not press as much as we thought maybe, but because we it’s like Alabama pressed us. They did us a favor by pressing us.
But Johnny (Jones) is doing a heck of a job. Johnny O’Bryant was a bear today. I did not want to double team him. We probably should have. I just chose to say, I don’t want to get those guys making threes, you know, so we didn’t. He got his points and rebounds. He did great. He played well.
Q. When you’re talking about Alex in the second half, for the first nine minutes, he didn’t get a shot; was that something he wasn’t doing in that time, something they were doing, or what?
COACH CALIPARI: I don’t know. I have to watch the tape. We may have run something to him and they took him away.
So what happens to us is we have six guys, basically, in double figures. Julius (Mays) had nine and Kyle (Wiltjer) had eight, the other guys all had double figures. So that means you have great balance, and he still had 20. I mean, those are the teams that are hard to beat
Q. This is kind of silly, but why did you take the gym shoes off in the second half?
COACH CALIPARI: Just not comfortable wearing them. They were new. By the way, I’m going to sign both shoes and auction them both off for the American Cancer Society. So that will be on the website what’s the website? CoachCal.com. Thank you, Jerry. (Laughter)
Q. When Noel came out with an injury, seemed like Wiltjer really went to the board a couple times really strong.
COACH CALIPARI: He did. Kyle’s playing better. You know, we didn’t make our threes today, and that gave them an advantage, but Kyle, you should see him in practice. If I let you guys all in in practice, you would walk out of there and say, wow, I love watching Kyle practice.
Now, he didn’t always do that. And I asked him, “Why did you change? What happened?”
He said, “I was embarrassed after Vanderbilt and I didn’t want to be that player.” So he’s dunking probably 20 times a practice. He’s flying up and down the court. He’s talking to his teams. He’s having fun. He’s showing leadership.
The one thing I told our guys, the one thing for all of us, the greatest development in our history, is the ability to understand, I can change my attitude, and I can change my habits. And when I do change my attitude and habits, it changes who I am.
We have got some other guys that I’m just, I can’t get them to understand, you’ve got to change your attitude and you’ve got to change your habit. Now, bad attitude doesn’t mean or an attitude doesn’t mean you’re bad and you’re talking back and all that. It may be an attitude toward work; it may be an attitude toward being a teammate; it may be an attitude toward accepting your role, all kind of things.
But when you know, I can change my attitude, and I can change my habits, and that will change who I am and what I’m about; I’m just trying to keep telling these guys, you know, that, and have fun playing. They are playing like they are afraid to lose, and I’m telling them, I’m not afraid to lose. And if you win, who is going to get the credit? They will.
And I already told them, if we lose, who is going to take responsibility? I’ve been here four years now. I will take responsibility. I’m not putting it on a player. So just play. If we lose, it’s on me. If you win, it’s about you. But these guys are young.
What happens is, they make a mistake, do you see their heads go down? And then they go up, give an offensive rebound and a basket. That’s what 18 year olds do. They are so into how they are playing, not what they have to do to the team. It’s not that they are selfish. It’s that their whole life has been that.
So we are working on it, and slowly, we are working on it, and it’s nice to walk out of here with a win. It would have been an ugly L, we gave, just like every other game, we are giving people a chance to beat us.
But we should be gapping the game, but that’s who we are and that means I’ve got to come up with foul this guy before he shoots a three; stuff I don’t like to do, we are going to have to do. Because, again, I’d like to say, some of the games we have coming up, I hope they are close, too, because we have got some tough games coming up.
Q. There’s been a lot of teams at the top of the ranks that have been losing this week. Does this year strike you as more wide open than usual in that any team, regardless of seed, if they get hot, they can do a lot of damage?
COACH CALIPARI: I keep telling everybody, when you watch games, you just say, you know what let’s just get right. We have got to get this thing right. I’m not worried about another team. I don’t care who wins or loses. If I get this team right, we’ll be fine.
We are not right, right now. You saw, I mean, we are still not you’ve got to get out of your own self’s way. You’ve got to get out of your own self’s way, so you can bust through.
In basketball or any sport, it’s not play to play. You have to have amnesia. You miss a shot; amnesia, forget it. You turn it over, amnesia. You can’t let it affect the next three plays. That’s what we’re doing, folks.
And we talk about it; we address it; and we show them: “I got it, I got it.” And next missed next layup, what, head down, jaw back, gave up a three.
“That was your man.”
“I know, but I was picking up the ball and I was trying to go and the bike went and the apple hit me in the head.” (Laughter).
“What? What did you just say?” I mean, that’s it’s like but that’s who we are. We are this young team, and I wish they were moving faster, but I’m so ecstatic for Alex. I’m ecstatic how Nerlens is continuing to grow as a player. Now we have to get some other guys to catch up.
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