John Calipari: “I needed to do a better job for these kids”

caliparifinal

ARLINGTON, Tex. — Transcript from post-game press conference after Kentucky’s loss to Connecticut in the NCAA final.

THE MODERATOR: We’re joined by Coach Calipari and student‑athletes Julius Randle and James Young. We’ll start with an opening statement from coach and then take questions for the student‑athletes.

COACH CALIPARI: Well, really, I can’t tell you, even in that lost, I can’t believe what these guys got done together. Talking about a bunch of young kids that just went out there and believed and believed in each other and just kept fighting.

I needed to do a better job for these kids today, because they needed more help in this. You could tell early on they were feeling the game. One of the things we tried some stuff, pick‑and‑roll, obviously it didn’t work. We had to play zone. Tried to get their sweat to dry a little bit, make them less aggressive and it worked and these guys performed. They came back, Let’s stay in the zone, coach.

But late in the game we went at James Young. We tried doing different things, but we didn’t have enough answers for these guys to finish that team. Their guard play was outstanding.

But again we had our chances and that’s all you can ask of your basketball team.

THE MODERATOR: We’ll take questions for the student‑athletes.

Q. To both you guys, obviously this is not the ending you wanted, but how will you remember sort of the magic you guys were able to put together and make this run and just how will you remember this season?

JAMES YOUNG: That we really fought, no matter what, no matter how much we were down. We just kept our heads up and just kept fighting for each other. And we had a couple chances that we had to bring it back and we just kept fighting.

JULIUS RANDLE: Yeah, this group of guys are special. We have been through a lot this season. How we kept fighting and we were able to make this run just says a lot about the guys. I just hate that it ended like this.

Q. Julius, were you hurt in the first half?

JULIUS RANDLE: No. I was fine.

Q. Was there any reason why you would come out of the game at certain points?

COACH CALIPARI: He was tired.

Q. Julius, I’m curious what they did to limit your shots, you only took seven tonight. What did they do defensively to stop you?

JULIUS RANDLE: My shots didn’t matter. When I was penetrating, guys were open on the wing and that’s my job to get them shots if they suck in. So I don’t care about shots.

THE MODERATOR: All right. We’ll excuse you to the locker room and take questions for coach.

Q. John, what did Connecticut do on the boards? You guys had done a good job against everybody on the boards.

COACH CALIPARI: Every 50/50 ball they got. They just had more energy. The only thing that slowed them down is us going into a zone. And you know me well enough, I don’t usually do that. I said we got no choice or we’re going to be down 20.

We hung in there and gave ourselves a chance and make the baskets coming out at half. I thought we were going to win the game.

I come back to, as it wound down and it was a three‑point game, they needed more from me. And you’re talking all freshmen out there. They needed more from me. So I wish I had a couple more answers to create something easier for them.

Late you could say why not foul? Because they didn’t miss any free throws. They weren’t going to miss a free throw. We had three possessions left we were okay, but we were going to have to score and every possession. Those were the dice I rolled. I said that’s what we’re going to try.

Q. I hate to even ask you this in this setting, but we feel like we have to. There was a report that came out, Rex Chapman said before the game that you, it was a done deal that after this win or lose you were going to coach the Lakers. Is that ridiculous?

COACH CALIPARI: The Lakers have a basketball coach. Kentucky has a basketball coach. I got the best job in the country. I’m not going to even dignify that stuff.

Q. 13‑24 from the line. Did free throws cost you the game?

COACH CALIPARI: Well, you could say that, but the way we started the game probably cost us the game. Somebody said, Well, why do you think you started that way? They’re all freshmen. They’re scared to death again. We tried to settle them down and we were rattled early. Then we settled down and started playing.

But I have to give Connecticut credit now because the way they were aggressively picking up the ball, we told our guys, If you don’t play with energy, they’re going to.

We jogged the ball up the court instead of sprinted it. All that stuff played into them being aggressor and we were getting attacked. We did whatever we could to stay in the game.

I hate to tell you this is what we have done the whole tournament, but we made some shots, the other team missed some shots and we ended up winning those games. This is a similar game. Boatright’s big shot, huge shot, like they’re dying and he makes like a step back and we miss an open shot, a couple free throws, we’re not going to win then.

But, again, these kids really fought and tried and what they accomplished, I told them, this was the best group I’ve ever coached as far as really being coachable and wanting to learn. I’ve never coached a team this young. Never. Hope I don’t ever again. I think all these kids are coming back, so we should be good.

Q. I know you just alluded to it, but can you kind of elaborate on Boatright’s defense and maybe how that make it’s difficult for you guys offensively.

COACH CALIPARI: Well, we talked about this. The thing that happens in a game like this, for both teams, you got a day to turn it and try to figure out stuff. I hadn’t watched Connecticut play that much. But what I did see is when he got into the other point guard like he did against Florida and like he did against us, they have a big advantage.

So one of our things was sprint it up the court so you attack him and he’s not attacking you. We jogged. Let somebody else bring it up and when you catch it, come to a triple threat because now your size matters. He can’t come up in you now. If you’re dribbling, he can.

So we were going to try to do some things and we just kind of got away from it. But I come back to them, I’m just saying this, these guys did everything they could it make this game close. I needed to help them a little bit. One play, I tried to go trap. Told James Young to lead and we fouled.

And, again, they made over free throw. So you got to give them credit. This was as much them, how they played. They were not going to let us take this game from them.

Kevin did a great job by the way. He went small lineup, which really I was happy because I thought that was our best lineup. So it didn’t bother me. But it was smart for them because they played better at that point. They played looser. They played wider. Kevin did a great job.

Q. You guys cut it to one and Napier hit a big three. What did you think of his play and how he impacted things?

COACH CALIPARI: He impacted the game. He’s impacted every game he’s played. I hate to tell you, four years ago when we played him, he had a big impact on that game, maybe more so than we all want to remember. Terrific player. He has a swagger about him And he deserved. He did enough for them to win the game.

He made a play. He made that dagger play. One‑point game he makes that three, if I remember right we missed a three, and they make a three. You think I’m mad at that guy that missed that three? Not at all. The kid made shots this whole run. Missed one. Hey, it happens.

Q. Can you describe the process that you’ll go through with your players as they prepare to make these decisions about the NBA coming up?

COACH CALIPARI: Well, I’ll sit down with each young man individually, probably have their family either with us or on a speaker phone and get them information and say, If I can help you with anything, let me know. Tell me what you want to do, what do I need to do to help you?

I kind of stay out of the decision making. I just get them information. So we’ll see. I have no idea because I haven’t talked to them and none of us have talked about that. We were playing to win the National Championship.

But now that the season’s over, it is about the players. It’s no longer about the program. It’s no longer about the team. It’s about each individual player on this team now. They sacrificed. They surrendered to each other now, for our team and our program and our school. Season’s over. Now it’s about them. And we’ll sit down with each of them and they will make decisions for themselves.

Q. Why was Julius tired two minutes into the game?

COACH CALIPARI: Because he’s a freshman and he was anxious. That was the National Championship in front of 17 zillion people and he ran up and down the court three times and he got winded. It’s normal. He got winded a few other times in the game. Folks, these kids did stuff, I think Aaron was a little winded. Same idea. I was trying to get them to focus on the court, on the lines.

But let me ask you, if were you 18 and you had to be in that kind of environment, and everybody you looked at was 18, how would you do? Oh, you would make every free throw and dunk every ball, especially with Boatright and Napier up under you, or somebody trying to block it, or all of a sudden the thing swings and we may lose. All of a sudden you’re 18 and you got to react to that.

These kids did great. I was so happy we were down four, folks. I was giddy. I was convinced we would win it. There’s no way we should have been down four.

Q. You could argue that you’ve had two national championships that have kind of wilted away at the free‑throw line. I’m wondering if you flashback to that Memphis night in 2008 tonight?

COACH CALIPARI: No.

Q. You won so many close games and have been able to squeeze things out at the end. Was there a part of you that thought, Well, hey, this can’t go on forever?

COACH CALIPARI: No.

Q. Or like you said you believed to the end?

COACH CALIPARI: Until the horn blows, I’m thinking we’re winning this game. If I’m to get my team to believe that, then I have to believe it. I’m telling you, every game I’ve ever coached, we’re winning this game and we’ll figure out a way. It gets close, okay, we’re going to make plays. When we don’t…

We ran out of time. Stuff happens. Next game. The issue with this, unless we’re the 19‑and‑under Olympic team, this thing, there is no next game.

Q. At halftime, it did seem like the other games where you guys sort of had them where you wanted them. So I wondered from your players, what did you see in the locker room at halftime? Was it any different from any other games?

COACH CALIPARI: No, they were fine. We came out, scored. Okay, here we go, it’s on. They beat us to every 50/50 ball. We missed some shots that we needed to make and some free throws.

But these kids aren’t machines. They’re not robots. They’re not computers. I say it again, I wish I had an answer for them later in the game where I could have done something to just click it to where we needed it to go. That three in the corner, if that would have gone, maybe the game changes a little bit, but it didn’t.

So keep coaching. What do we figure out, how do we do it? And obviously I didn’t have the answers for them.

But I’m proud of them, they fought and tried and played a really good team that’s well coached. Kevin’s, you know, he played that team exactly how they had to play to have success. People in Connecticut should be so proud of him as a former athlete there, coming back and winning a national title and doing the things he’s doing. He’s a great guy.

He’s not only a great coach. Believe me when I tell you, we’re telling each other before the game, I love you, he’s telling me I love him, he loves me. I mean, this guy is one of the great guys of all time.

And I hate losing, but I’m happy he won. I hate losing. But I’m happy he won.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, coach.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

Connecticut post-game transcript after victory

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