John Calipari: “Thought we grew up today”

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Full transcript of John Calipari’s post-game presser after 73-66 win over Louisville.

Q. Yesterday you talked about play like a team, face adversity, how would you say you did on those three counts?

COACH CALIPARI: I thought they did good. Thought we grew up today. It was a very physical game. You know, there were times they were looking for calls and I just said, they are not the game is physical, just play.

It got to 53 53, I got upset because a couple guys started, that looked like were going to lose, and then you’re out, you’re not on the court, I’ve got to take you out. Just play. You know, just finish the game out.

Playing without Julius (Randle), I thought Alex (Poythress) was unbelievable but he’s been doing it in practice. He’s never been like this. And I thought he was great. Julius in the first half was good and Andrew (Harrison) finished the game, did a pretty good job, James (Young) rebounded the ball. Dominique (Hawkins) was good. Dakari (Johnson) was better. Dakari just missed three balls. If he had gotten all three of those balls, I probably played him another ten minutes, he didn’t get any of the three, they were right there, just grab those, but I thought he did a good job.

Again, guys, this is the youngest team I’ve ever coached, ever. I’m learning. Believe me when I tell you, I’ve never coached a team this young and so there’s so many things that we’re doing, trying to figure out, as we go.

But you know, the one thing I want to tell you, please, all this stuff about, you know, doing it this way, doing it another way. This is not two basketball teams. Please, stop. Cal way; there’s no “Cal” way. There’s no “Cal ball.” This is about those players.

Last year, Louisville was better than us and if they had played us again they would have beat our brains in again. Two years ago, we were better than them twice and we were better than them, and we beat them twice. Well, young, old, ugly, pretty, doesn’t matter.

Now, if we play them again, I don’t know if we are good enough to beat them again. I know in this environment we were the better team today but all this stuff about the way he does it, the way they do it, the way this is that’s all, just please stop. Quit wasting your time.

This is about players playing as a team. This team is becoming a good team. We haven’t been all year. Now we’re starting. You know why? Because they knew if they didn’t play together, they had no shot in this game. They had to play and do their job. Still broke down. There were five or six, we walked out of a timeout when we had that ball in front of our bench, we were supposed to be in a line. They decided, well, we can just throw it in. Oh, really. And they threw it in for a layup down the other end. So we have those kind of plays that a young team doesn’t think it’s important in certain areas.

But I thought Andrew in the second half played well, James Young did some good things. Again we didn’t shoot the ball particularly well. Didn’t make our free throws, but neither did they, thank goodness.

Q. What kind of step is it just from a standpoint of, it was going so well for Julius in the first half and not to have him at all in the second and to have so many other guys respond?

COACH CALIPARI: I didn’t even recognize he wasn’t there. I just coached the game. We have enough guys. I thought Dakari was good today. I thought Dominique was good today. Alex was outstanding. Willie (Cauley-Stein) gave great effort and played a lot of minutes. We wanted Willie to do I knew what Willie could do defensively but we want him to be an offensive player, too. He’s got great feet, he’s got great hands. He’s getting better and he’s going to want that ball.

Now we had two guys, now you have him he and Julius and I thought Julius was an absolute beast in the first half, the greatest play for us, we went to post him and they fought like crazy, but they fought like crazy, the ball was thrown out, we threw it back, and then it came back and he re posted again and we threw him the ball in the third when he fought a third time, spun through the middle and made that basket. He grew up.

Normally he would kick the ball out and just stop or go like, this hope the guy would make a 3. I mean, you know and Andrew at the end of the game I thought grew up, did some good things and ran our team.

Did we look more like a basketball team today? We looked like a basketball team. Here is what was on the board today: Look like a team. Play like a team. Fight like a team. That was the keys to the game. There was no, let’s guard your pick and roll. Let’s do it, just the team. We have to be more like a team and they were that today.

Q. You mentioned Andrew there, down the stretch, free throws didn’t go in, but he made one great play, the drive, the spin, pump fakes and another drive, same baseline?

COACH CALIPARI: Got to make those free throws, though, and you notice what he had to do late in the game is make him take it out of bounds. You miss two or three free throws, we are not throwing it to you, and he took it out, threw it to James and James made one of two thank goodness. You miss two, this thing could have got hairy.

Q. On Andrew Harrison making progress.

COACH CALIPARI: He did, but he still has a ways to go. Now, what I liked when the game was on the line and the game was in the balance, he made good plays. How about the pass he makes to Alex? He could have tried to shoot that. That dunk basically put it to 10 and kind of put it out of reach.

Q. Talking about James Young, he had a couple scores, got a rebound, got a steal?

COACH CALIPARI: Yeah, he was good.

Q. Is that the kind of plays you’re looking to make when he’s not shooting well?

COACH CALIPARI: Yeah, and what I’m telling you, Dominique went in and made two or three plays just by hustle next to the goal. Now, why aren’t my 6 6 guards doing that? He’s in there, just fighting like crazy, and it’s a great lesson for us. You know, because if we can get our whole team playing that way, we become pretty good.

Q. On James Young’s perseverance.

COACH CALIPARI: Yeah, he had some breakdowns, but like I said, he fought. We ran or grinded out stuff and he got that pass on the wing made that 3, that was a big play, because they were making a run back at us. They make a 3, he comes out and he makes that 3, oh, big time play.

Q. I think Rick (Pitino) said that Julius benefits most from the new foul rules because he just lowers his head and goes towards the rims. How do you think Julius dealt with contact tonight?

COACH CALIPARI: It’s kind of like Shaq when he played, well, he’s so big, he should be able to take some of this, like the whack on the arms. Oh, he’s strong enough to hold on to the ball, grabs his elbow, so what. So he doesn’t benefit what you think.

Now, again, what helped us today is we could switch our bigs on to their guards, and I don’t know if anybody has been able to do that to him. That affected them. But you know again, I’ll say this, Dakari did pretty good when he was in there. So they are good. Let me just say this, they are really good.

What we our whole focus was, they have to turn you over to get those runs, and we have to be a good in the press attack and negate the press, and I thought we negated the press, and then you have to guard them in the pick and roll; if you guard them in the pick and roll, you’ve got a chance. And if you cannot negate the press and they are getting steals and dunks and 3s and all that, you are not going to beat them. They are going to beat you by 25. That’s what we tried to do, and I thought the guys did a pretty good job of it.

Q. This isn’t the first time Julius has had the cramps; is there something going on, because the first half he played so hard?

COACH CALIPARI: I don’t know. Three bags of IV and the Doc was squeezing it in. Try to get him in, because I was saying, get him back squeeze it (laughter).

Q. You talk about Alex, you were plus 20 when he was in the game, what was he doing well, because the numbers are not spectacular, but what was he doing well?

COACH CALIPARI: When he was in the game, he gave us one more defender, he gave us one more rebounder, he gave us one more guy who could switch on pick and rolls; and he was fighting them around the goal, so they were not getting any easy baskets and he’s playing within himself.

You know, the drive, where it I would like him to take a couple more jumpers, a couple one dribble pull ups into the lane. But he’s only now becoming comfortable playing at a high pace, high rate, with unbelievable intensity and sustaining it, first time in his life, so he’s just getting used to it.

But I really believe he’s going to get better and better, because he’s now, no excuse, he’s buying in, he knows he has to do it.

Q. How important is this win, if at all, heading into the extended break, and what do you hope to accomplish?

COACH CALIPARI: We’re practicing tomorrow so, I don’t know if it had any effect to that, but I am giving them off the rest of today until six o’clock tomorrow. So they are going to get 24 hours off.

We’ll be going three times a day until we play again. We’ve got to become a team. We have so many things we’ve got to work on.

And one of the things I told them prior to the game, what prepared us for this game was playing Michigan State, playing Providence, playing Boise (State), playing Baylor, playing North Carolina on the road, playing Belmont. That prepared us for this game. And so as much as I hate to say, every game I’m coaching is like a war, this team needed that.

Q. It seemed like you guys did a better job of containing their drives in the second half. Was there any sort of adjustment you made you talked about your pick and roll defense?

COACH CALIPARI: That, and we had to get back. If you don’t get back, they are just going right through you. You know, again, they you’re talking about a team that’s worthy of their ranking, are not going to lose many games this year, are well coached. They know what they have to do to win. You know, the tapes I watched, they turn people over. They just didn’t turn us over today which was good.

Again, with a young team like this to be able to withstand it is pretty good stuff for us.

Q. How do you caution against this becoming fool’s gold that a young team doesn’t think that whatever ails them is fixed?

COACH CALIPARI: Well, we were 3 for 14 from the 3 point line and we shot 53 percent from the free throw line, and we gave them a chance when we were up ten to still come back and beat us on some of the stuff we did. We have a long way to go. They know where they were, and believe me, I have nine, ten days with them right now, and they are going to know we have one choice and that’s get better. We have to get better.

Anything else? Happy New Year. The crowd was great. Crowd was here an hour before the game these people are crazy. Here an hour game, pushing an hour, hey give me my 16 inches, move the other way, I mean, it was crazy. I mean, it’s nut. But it’s great and I’m hoping they enjoyed it, they enjoyed the growth of this young team and just get away from all that well, these guys are young put the team together. And that’s what we should be enjoying right now. Thanks.

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