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JOHN CALIPARI'S THOUGHTS FROM TODAY:
HOW MUCH BETTER DOES WILLIE CAULEY-STEIN LOOK AFTER GETTING HIS KNEE TENDED TO?
“He's got more in the take. He really does. Obviosuly, not only does he make our team better, he makes our practice better. Now you have competitors on that second unit that are really coming after the first unit. It's great stuff to watch and see.”
WILLIE SAID THIS TEAM HAS OVERLOOKED INFERIOR OPPONENTS AT TIMES. HAVE THEY LEARNED THEIR LESSON?
“Who knows? We're better when we think, 'Uh oh, we may get beat, we better play.' The other way is you start playing and they play well and all the sudden the team will make a run and we wilt, wilt at guard, wilt at every position really. But, we're getting better. Our team's improving. Every game's a challenge.
“This is going to be a physical (game). They gut it out, they play hard. Tony has got them playing in a way…They play a great zone. They're man-to-man, and how they play pick-and-rolls. They'll trap the post. They'll put a 2-2-1 press back to a zone. This could be a game where he comes out and says we're playing zone from the tip. And it's a good zone. It's a really good zone. They got speed at guard. (Frankie) Sullivan could score 40 -- I shouldn't even say that, but he could.”
IS THIS A GOOD TEST FOR THAT?
“Yeah, but it was a close game at halftime, then we spaced it out in the second half. This again will be a challenge for us. There's no…You're seeing Texas A&M beat Missouri yesterday. This league…You're seeing Arkansas get beat by 25 by South Carolina, 25, then come back and be up 20-some on Florida. You see Mississippi beat this team by 25 then come back…It's just crazy. We're all the same. So, I'm not worried about anybody else. I didn't see the Indiana score until this morning. Didn't see it. I saw the last couple plays. This is about us getting better. We don't have to worry about what anybody else…Let's just get us better, then we'll see where that takes us.”
WHAT DID YOU SEE IN THE SECOND HALF OF THE FIRST AUBURN GAME THAT YOU WANT TO SEE AGAIN?
“Our guard play, especially Ryan (Harrow), was physical. He was down. He wasn't standing up doing that stuff. He was down and physical, taking contact, making baskets. Kyle Wiltjer in the middle of the zone was a killer. Alex (Poythress) on the baseline of the zone was a killer and made them play man-to-man. So, there were some good things from it.”
CAN WILLIE'S SHORT ABSENCE WITH THE KNEE ISSUE ULTIMATELY END UP BEING A GOOD THING FOR THIS TEAM?
“Kyle and Alex. It gave Jarrod (Polson) a chance to get some quality minutes. Those aren't the issues. The issues, again, what I keep saying: Players on this team are trying to establish who they are, versus 'I know what I am, and I'm going to give this to the team.' It's a natural thing. It's not a selfishness. It's natural. We have to get by that.
“They're going to see tape today of two plays: the kid from Indiana losing the ball and running down and blocking a shot, the kid from Michigan losing the ball and then running down and stopping the basket. Our guy would lose the ball and where would his head go? You all know it. His head would go down and jog back and you lose.
“And again, that is because I’m into how I’m playing more than I’m into how the team’s doing. And it’s natural. I’m not upset. I just keep pointing it out to them. Every time, I point it out, I point it out. Either they begin to accept – and we’re pretty well squared away with how we need guys to play, so it should be in that direction, but you just don’t know. You don’t know.”
JULIUS MAYS SAID THIS TEAM HAS LET GO OF LIVING UP TO LAST YEAR AND SETTLED INTO TRYING TO BE THEIR OWN TEAM. WAS THAT AN ISSUE EARLY IN THE SEASON?
“Yeah, I would say, and probably me as a coach also. You get used to, for seven years, whomping on people. Then you go into a game and it’s touch-and-go the whole game, you gotta coach a little different. You gotta be a little different knowing: Don’t get excited that the game’s closer and you think it’s going to be 20. It ain’t gonna be 20. It’s gonna be four. Now coach the game. So it took me a while to get my feet under me, too. So it’s not just them. It’s all of us.”
HOW IS AUBURN COACH TONY BARBEE, HIS FORMER PLAYER AND ASSISTANT, IS DIFFERENT FROM YOU?
“He’s about 6-6, imposing figure. He’s his own man. I’m going to tell you what I do. Giving away secrets here. When we’re getting ready to play a team, this is how I prepare for the game; this shows you the respect I have for him: I watch our game with them the last time – if we played them twice, I’ll watch them twice – then I’ll watch their game against Auburn and I watch what Tony did to guard them and what he did to exploit them. Then I go on to other games. Always. So he’s the guy that – the stuff that happened for us at Mississippi, that was Tony. I called him the night before the game and he convinced me to switch out on that kid (Marshall Henderson) every time. We were on the phone for an hour. I said, ‘Are you sure.’ He said, ‘I’m telling you, watch our tape again.’ So I watched it again and that night, without a practice, that’s what we did. So I have great respect for him as a coach, obviously as a person, as a father, as a husband. I’ve known him since he was 15, 14.”
DO YOU STILL ASSIST HIM?
“Yeah. Well, hopefully we’re assisting each other. I’m calling him at times if he needs my help in anything. I just have the utmost respect for him as a coach. And I know him as a person, too. I know how competitive he is. He wants to win this game. You know, I know, and that’s fine. Let’s go play the game and see what happens. I hate playing friends. I hate playing somebody that I love. Can you imagine? If we lose, I’m going to be sick. If we win, I’m happy and then I look at him and I’m not happy. So I don’t even get to enjoy the game. Either way, I’m going to be sick. That’s why: Get the game over with; Who’s next?”
ANY CONCERN OF LOOKING AHEAD TO FLORIDA?
“Is that the next game? If I don’t know, they (players) probably don’t know. I don’t even know if they know what position we are in the league. Half my staff said, ‘I betcha they don’t even know.’ These guys are oblivious. And again, a lot of it is they’re trying to establish themselves, so the only thing they know is a four-foot circle around their own body. That’s what they live in. They know all that stuff in there, but outside of that, it becomes a little dicey. But I keep saying: It is natural. Michael Jordan took three years before he thought about championships. He tried to establish who he was. So did Magic, so did Bird, so did Kobe. They all did. I have to establish who I am as a player; Now let me worry about being a champion; Let me worry about getting that ‘ship. These guys, that’s what we’re trying to address and break through.”
WHAT'S THE DIFFICULTY OF NEEDING THREE YEARS WHEN YOU TYPICALLY ONLY HAVE ONE?
“I told it sometimes takes long. We don't just have one. I told them this thing may not be a year. It may be two, it may be three, it may be four. It doesn't matter. It's gonna be what it is. It's addressed. Some guys will continue to fight. In other words, 'I'm not giving in. I'm not surrendering.' But what happens is, they stand out. You see it. Everybody sees it. And so we're just going to continue to coach and push them and try to continue to get better and try to teach life lessons. I mean, every night we're going through different things to talk about different lessons. I'm not watching game tape with them. None. The staff is doing that. I don't want them to see me in a basketball sense right now. I'm just teaching life skills. That's all. How to deal with this, how to deal with adversity. What does it mean to love? Tell me what it means to love. We got a lot of stuff. These kids are 18 and 19 and their whole life has been in that four-foot space right there. Like I told my staff, 'Write this stuff down, because if it works, let's make sure we remember what the heck we did.' 'Cause this is all new for me now.”
HOW DIFFERENT IS IT FOR YOU TO NOT WATCH FILM WITH THE TEAM?
“I've never done it before. I'm doing stuff this year – from heart monitors to – we're just doing stuff. I'm doing anything I can to try to tweak, to try to get them to take that jump. But they all have to take it. We got a couple that are not right now.”
DO YOU READ BOOKS, TALK TO A PSYCHOLOGIST, ETC.?
“I read books all the time. I do it all. I talk to (Bob) Rotella, I talk to Ken Blanchard. I'm reading three books a day. I'm taking stuff from everything I'm reading. Praying in the morning. Hard. Just for strength to keep going for these kids, because they deserve to feel the joy of doing something unique. And it doesn't matter where you are right now. Where do you want to be? What are you willing to accept you are so may change? We got guys that won't accept right now. 'I really want that!' What are you willing to do? 'I'm not willing to do anything. I just want it.' Well, then you must go play the lottery, because that's the only way you're going to win something with not doing anything. What are you willing to give up? What are you willing to sacrifice? This is all life lessons that I'm trying to teach. That's all it is right now. I'm going to go in the room, and I got three lessons I'm going to give them before practice, and it's not basketball. I'm doing it before every practice…. . And if I feel it in the evening, I get in my car and I meet them in the Lodge and we pull out books and we start reading. I'm just doing life skills. That's what this team needs.
“It was great seeing John Wall. How much you talk to Eric (Bledsoe)? 'Three, four times a week.' How much you talk to DeMarcus (Cousins)? 'Great. He and I talk all the time.' Those guys loved each other. What about last year's team? They loved each other. What about the year (before)? They loved each other. See, if you love – and truly love – that means it's more about the other guy than you. Then you have discipline. The reason you have discipline is, you're playing for him because you love him and you got his back. It's a hard thing now. Ready? Four-foot circle. It's not been about that. That's where we're trying to get them. I said, 'When you feel that joy, which you control, it's by being grateful. By letting people know you appreciate what they're about and who they are.' When you're making things about everybody else, you become joyful. When it's solely in that four-foot circle, when it doesn't go right, watch this one. You ever see this? (Lowers head.) We got a couple guys we're trying to get 'em out of that four-foot circle.”
Cal is transcending just coaching right now. Incredible stuff in that last response.
For those in here who think he is not a good coach: Coach Cal is transcending Xs and Os and into uncharted waters. Other great coaches have addressed their players' mental and emotional attitudes, but not with the time pressures that Cal faces.
Agreed. Just another reason that I love having him on our side.
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