Coach's view: Motivation or truth?

Bennie Seltzer apparently wasn't impressed. The Samford coach turned to his team early in the Bulldogs' loss to Kentucky and blurted out his assessment of Kentucky's team, unaware that local television reporters and videographers could hear him.

Samford coach Bennie Seltzer says Kentucky is good, but perhaps not as good as recent seasons (Matt McCarty/TCP)

“This is the worst Kentucky team I've ever seen,” Seltzer was quoted as saying, according to WKYT's Steve Moss.

The comment immediately exploded on Twitter, which came at roughly the same time Kentucky stampeded Samford during a first half that saw the Cats take a 31-point lead. Ultimately, the Cats hit cruise control after halftime and coasted to a win that had coach John Calipari chewing on his lip, but Seltzer's comments were the talk of his postgame press conference.

“I think I said, they're not that good,” Seltzer said. “I can't remember what else I said. There were a lot of things I said about this team. It was all motivation to (my team) to know, hey, they're human, just like you. So there is no need to go out there and be afraid. There's 24,000 in the stands but not one of them can play defense.

“They're still not as good as some of their other teams though.”

Eight games into the 2012-13 season that's where Kentucky stands, unable to escape the shadow of last season's national championship squad despite being nowhere near the same outfit. The Cats' three defeats are more than the entire 2011-12 season and only time in Calipari's four-year tenure they've reached that total before early January.

It hasn't been the smoothest of rides for the Cats thus far.

“I think they’re all trying to find their way,” Calipari said. “But this is going to be a process. I’m comfortable with what I have to do. I’m not rattled in any way. I’m not ‘Oh my God, we lost a couple games!’ This is not football. We’re not out of the national title hunt. We’re not out of anything.

“All we have to do is get right. But I’m just going to tell you: I don’t have a magic wand. I’ve said it before. It’s not like, ‘Well, all his teams get better.’ All my teams get better because they fall in love with that gym, and then they have a will to win and they have a competitive spirit.”

The interesting thing about Seltzer's comments is that they were accurate, to a point. No, this Kentucky team isn't anywhere near the program's worst ever - “I haven't seen all the Kentucky teams but I can't imagine there weren't a few that were worse than us, “Calipari cracked. - but at this juncture of the season it's clearly the one Calipari must do the most work with out of the four he's had in Lexington.

“I got one call from a friend, ‘You know, your teams always have a sense of urgency. This team doesn’t,’” Calipari said. “Like, it’s just OK to go out here and play basketball. There’s no desperation, sense of urgency, toughness, diving. And you know what? We’re going to have to do it in practice. If they’re not playing that way, I’m going to tell you. I’ve got a great group of kids. I really do. They’re young and they’re not as skilled as you’d like them to be, but they’re nice; they’re going to do what we ask them to do.”

Asked to give his assessment as to why this Kentucky team wasn't as good as some others Seltzer used the same logic some Kentucky fans have pointed to thus far, which isn't altogether wrong.

“There's no John Wall, there's no Eric Bledsoe, there's no DeMarcus Cousins,” Seltzer said. “Those guys were high high caliber. That's not to say these kids aren't good. I don't want you guys to that out of context, I was talking to my team. I know we're here in the Wildcat nation and everybody is, I know you guys love Kentucky, I understand that, but I was motivating my team.

“It wasn't, 'Hey, this team can't play.' It had nothing to do with Kentucky, I was trying to motivate my team. I guess as a new coach I have to be careful of all these ears around, especially at Kentucky. They're a good team. They're a very good basketball team, quote me on that.”

Perhaps just not as good as what Kentucky has become accustomed to the past few years, at least not in early December.

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