Calipari transcript: “I’m not worried about first place”

Full transcript of John Calipari’s post-game press conference after win over Auburn.

Opening statement.

JOHN CALIPARI: Let me first say, Tony Barbee came in with an unbelievable game plan. Tony is not a good coach, he is a great coach. To beat Alabama down there with that environment, you’re talking about across the country; attendance is going down except at Auburn. They’re selling out games. Their students are engaged. It’s incredible.

The game plan he put together today was let’s be physical and then we’re going to change defenses because they’re a young team. So I don’t know if you noticed because we don’t have many basketball bennies in here that really understand the game. They were going man to zone on the same possession, and zone to man on the same possession. That’s what he was doing. It slowed us down, it confused us a little bit.

But he is one of the best in the country, and he came in, and I’m telling you what I do every game: If Auburn they haven’t played Florida so I’m disappointed about that, but I would watch our games against that team and then I’d watch Auburn’s game, and I want to see his game plan. His game plan against Mississippi is what won us that Mississippi game. And so but like I said, we’re so happy with Jarrod Polson, so happy with Willie Cauley(-Stein), and it was nothing but energy. That’s all it is. Just come out and ball. Quit worrying about how you’re playing for yourself, worry about our team and just bring energy.

And so that’s what we’ve been harping on, and it’s just we’re going to have to keep subbing guys out. You’re out. If you don’t have enough energy, let somebody else play.

Q. You just talked I think this week about needing to learn to play through the physical, much like last year’s team. Was this the perfect game for that, your guys getting roughed up, some antics happened out there but for the most part keep their cool?

JOHN CALIPARI: Yeah, again, we didn’t turn them over enough; we don’t have enough pressure on the ball; we’re getting hung up on too many screens, ball screens and down screens; we’re stopping way too much; and then they played really physical, and I told the guys after, we fought through. But look, we’ve got to have I said this last week and I’ll say it again. When guys are trying to establish who they are, you can tell. Instead of a shot is for our team, this is a team shot, not my shot, I’m supposed to take this and I missed it. So what, the team missed, not I missed. That’s what we’ve got to break through, and it’s just going to continue to take time.

When we break through, you’ll know it. You’ll say, oh, my gosh, he got them, he finally convinced them to quit playing for themselves and just be a team player.

We have five, six guys in double figures, so you’re not shooting 30 times anyway. You’re shooting 12, 13 times; if you make them, great; if you miss them, do some other things, rebound the ball. But you’re shooting them for us. It’s a team of what we’re doing. But Willie was really good, boy. Whoa.

Q. Would you say the turning point of the game was when Kyle Wiltjer hit the three pointer to shoot the game out from single digits 9 12?

JOHN CALIPARI: I don’t know. I never thought we were going to get away from them because we kept breaking down defensively. We had to change how we played pick and roll in the second half on (Frankie) Sullivan. Sullivan was coming off the pick and roll making easy shots, so we had to play it different, which we did, and again, a game that we we don’t block the shots that we normally do, but it’s like I said, at the end of the day, it’s a win and I’ll move on. Someone says, well, now you’re playing for first place. Are you crazy? We’ve got Florida twice, we’ve got Missouri here, we’ve got to go to Arkansas, we’ve got to go to Georgia, we’ve got to go to Tennessee. What? We’re just trying to get better. I’m not worried about first place, second place, fifth place. No, just get better. Play for us, get out of your own self’s way so you can now not feel the weight of the world on you, and that’s where we’re zeroing in on right now.

Q. On Tony Barbee’s plan for Nerlens Noel.

JOHN CALIPARI: Well, he did two things to Nerlens: One, he trapped and I could not get our guys to space right. So he went and said they didn’t lead big to big, which is what they normally do. Tony changed it. They left off of guards. They basically said we’re not playing Ryan (Harrow). So they left Ryan’s man, and that’s who went and trapped.

And then on defense, what we did was they took a lot of threes, and the other thing they were doing was they were spacing the court and getting him out on the court at times. So he did a good job.

There’ll be people watching this game and prepare for us off this game.

Q. You mentioned Jarrod and Willie briefly and the energy that they brought. Did that change the complexion of the team and maybe put a spark in your guys?

JOHN CALIPARI: Yeah. But see, here’s my issue. If you’re sitting there watching the game and you see what they do and what it does, wouldn’t it inspire you to do something, or do you say, well, that’s fine, but I’m not going to do that? Wouldn’t it inspire you to say, I see what it does to the game, I can do this? But what happens is it’s really hard to play that way, and it’s physical, and you’ve got to be tougher. You’re going to get bumped some.

And that’s where we’re trying to get to.

Q. With Jarrod and Julius Mays stepping up lately, how does that affect Archie Goodwin’s role in your game plan?

JOHN CALIPARI: Well, Archie was struggling a little bit and I didn’t start him in the second half. But again, I’m trying to get Archie to zone in on his team, what he’s got to do for his team and get out of how he’s playing because then you can’t make a shot, you’re afraid to make a play because you’re afraid you are going to screw up, versus I’m playing for the team, I know what the team needs me to do, they need me to drive. I need to come to jump stops for the team so I don’t jump over. If I miss some shots, it’s okay, they need me to be aggressive and score.

But if you’re thinking about how you look, how it makes you look, it’s hard. And again, this is we’re teaching life skills. Last night we had Derek Anderson come in and speak to the team for a few minutes, and we went over the book we’re reading right now, a couple chapters of that book. But then I read Derek’s book last night, the new book he has out that’s coming out, and I’m going to tell you what, unbelievable. So at shoot around today I was reading portions of his book to my team, which are just life skills, life lessons, and that’s what this team needs more than anything else.

His story is a great story. “God Never Blinks” is the book that I told you I’d tell you about, and it’s not it’s spiritual but it’s not spiritual like the whole thing is spiritual, it’s lessons, 50 lessons.

Q. Just following up on Archie, you had to find offense with him on the bench for extended periods in foul trouble. Could that pay dividends down the road?

JOHN CALIPARI: We were fine without him. It’s good for him to see it, too. But he’ll be fine. He works hard. He’s the first one in, the last one out, and he comes at night and he wants to do well. Putting way too much pressure on him because he’s worried about how he’s playing. But this is he’s 18 years old. He’s supposed to do some of this stuff.

Q. I think most people like to see pretty plays like Alex Poythress’ behind the back pass and Willie lays it in. But from your point of view, a gritty, tough kind of game, how appealing is that?

JOHN CALIPARI: I just don’t want to get anybody hurt. That was my whole thing the whole game, and you know the whole game if you’re listening to me, I’m saying, don’t foul, do not foul, don’t foul. So if they’re listening to me, they’re not fouling.

Now, when I see this physical play and it’s I mentioned this a couple weeks ago, I thought it was getting better, but there’s if a hand goes on a guy or a body check or a hip versus the press, like you’re being pressed and the guy hips you, those should all be fouls. I don’t care, they should all be fouls, but they’re not and that’s okay, so you play through it and you figure out how to play. If a guy body checks you with his chest, you drive and he goes like that, that’s a foul. That’s just as bad as that.

I mean, I’ve been saying it, and maybe I say I’m maybe being a little self serving, I always have a young team that they’re trying to beat up. But if I had a big team and a physical team, maybe I’d say let them play, what are you talking about, big baby.

Q. There’s a lot of talk now about physical play and scoring being down and what can be done about it. What can be done about it?

JOHN CALIPARI: Call the fouls. Call the fouls. Call them all. 60, 70, call them all. Call them on us.

Q. Is there a correlation between the physical play being allowed and the lower scores?

JOHN CALIPARI: Yeah, when you get body checked and you miss a one footer when your team misses 17 one footers, unless they totally stink, they probably got body checked. Well, we’re not calling that, his hands are up. It’s still a foul. It’s a foul. I keep saying you shouldn’t this shouldn’t be about who wins in the weight room, this is about movement and spacing and that kind of stuff. But it’s where it’s going, and it’ll take time to change. I mean, people have to get together and say if you put this on a guy, it’s a foul. If you hip check a guy in transition or it’s body to body in transition, it’s a foul.

Q. On Jarrod Polson.

JOHN CALIPARI: He was great. He’s just energy. All I need is energy, and you’ll say then, well, why aren’t the other guys playing with that kind of energy and toughness. Aren’t they watching? You know what I’m saying? But again, Jarrod is just doing whatever the team needs him to do. Other guys are worried about how they’re playing. They’re not selfish guys I come back to this. This isn’t selfish, it’s human nature to establish yourself first before you worry about anybody else. You’re trying to get your family right before you start thinking about all the charitable things you can do. It’s human nature. It’s what they’re going through. They’re trying to establish who they are, and I’m trying to tell them you can’t do this here, you’ve got to make it about your team. When you make life about everybody else instead of yourself, life becomes easier. If your whole life is trying to satisfy yourself or life is hard. Every morning you’re up and it’s anxiety, but if every time you wake up, it’s about everybody else in your life, it’s not about you, life is easy. Guess what, as a basketball player, it’s exactly the same. If you make it about you, it’s impossible because you’re out there against five of those other guys. If you make it about everybody else and not yourself and they’re doing the same, you’ve always got four guys having your back on the court. You can play easily and play hard. They’re not getting it. It starts with my point guard, Archie; Alex is still learning it. They’re not getting it.

Now, we’re fine. We’re getting better. Are we getting better? Yeah, we’re getting better. We’re winning games, we’re getting better, all that stuff. But to break through what I want them to feel, joy, the only way you have joy is if it’s about everybody else. You’re grateful to them for having your back and you’re complimentary all the time to everybody else. You just brought joy to your life.

I’m trying to help them understand what joy is, and the last part of joy is a group of us come together and do something special, and we’re just hugging each other because we knew we did it together and everybody’s part was important. And that joy that my other teams have felt, unless they change, they’re not going to feel that joy. We may win and we may go and do some special things. You’ll never feel that joy. You won’t. That’s my challenge. It’s all about life skills with this team.

Q. All your point guards have been a little bit different, but have you ever had one that maybe lacked that killer instinct?

JOHN CALIPARI: No, if Ryan he can play that way, but he chooses a lot of times not to play that way. When he plays that way, he’s as good as any point guard in the country. You look around and tell me who’s better. There are a couple guys. But it’s a physicalness, it’s an energy level, it’s an aggressiveness, a winning attitude, talking to his team, touching his team. He can do that, but it’s difficult. It’s easier to not play that hard, to back up, to back off people, to not pressure. It’s easier.

But he’s learning, and I think he wants to do well. Like I said, I’m not giving up on anybody on this team. I’m not changing; I’m going to continue down the path, we’re going to continue with life skills, we’re going to continue talking. The same way I’m talking to you I talk to them, and now it’s like everybody knows where I’m trying to go and what I’m trying to do with this team. We do it; we’re going to have some real fun. We don’t do it; every game is going to be a grind. I just hope we still win them anyway. But they’ll be grinds.

Q. On Ryan Harrow’s experience prior to this year.

JOHN CALIPARI: Well, he didn’t at NC State and he sat out last year. This is all new to him. Playing here, it’s not easy. You’re under scrutiny, you’re supposed to win every game you play, you’re supposed to be way better than the other team. You’re supposed to be way better than the other player. So it’s not easy here. I think he’s doing fine, but we all want him to be better, and we know it’s better. Now he’s just going to have to go out and do it.

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