Kentucky’s John Calipari changes his coaching methods as a season progresses. Early this season — with yet another young team — he focused on teambuilding and chemistry. Then, sensing that his team just wasn’t physical enough, he harped on the squad’s toughness for a few weeks. After Kentucky out-toughed a Tennessee team bent on banging inside with the Cats, Calipari changed focus again. With a trip to Georgia on UK’s agenda, he began to say that his team might need a loss in order to prevent overconfidence. His team responded by thumping the Dawgs in Athens and then continuing to roll off victory after victory.
Now Calipari’s morphing again. He’s going from picker of nits to cheerleader, a lesson he learned from his mentor Larry Brown:
“Fresh legs and fresh minds… I’m coaching their minds right now…
His thing is you’ve got to be their cheerleader at the end. That’s his thing to me all the time. You’re not changing them now. They are what they are. Cheer them on.”
Since arriving in Lexington, Calipari has rejuvenated Kentucky basketball. He’s also rehabbed his own reputation.
While at Memphis, Coach Cal had a reputation for being a strong collector of talent and a so-so bench coach. In Lexington, he’s certainly collected talent. For the third-straight year, however, he’s also gotten NBA-ready, young stars to do two things most coaches coax from them — set aside their egos for the good of the team and play defense.
There will always be those who think of the NCAA problems that befell Calipari’s UMass and Memphis programs whenever the coach’s name is mentioned. But for those willing to get past that — the NCAA never specifically accused the coach of wrongdoing — Calipari has surely improved his image as a floor coach — or at least as a team “manager” — since arriving in the Bluegrass State.